Saturday, February 28, 2015

Very Smart Gals – San Antonio Salon

Last Thursday, February 26 the Very Smart Gals Salon branched out to San Antonio, where (pictured l-r top) Michele Glaze, Melanie Ridings Cazier, Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, Jolene Noelke Moore (l-r seated) Annie Montgomery Labatt, Katherine Moore McAllen, and our youngest member Georgiana McAllen, rendezvoused at Silo 1604.

Silo 1604 was selected after a rigorous pre-event bar-hopping recon trip the hubby and I made, and which included the Hotel Havana Ocho Bar (Liz Lambert’s cool San Antonio subsidiary) and a too brief swing by Bliss (gotta go back there). I settled on Silo 1604 because it included the salon sine qua non - semi-private room (loud enough to be exciting, quiet enough to talk), round table (essential for communal conversation), and a classy setting with fab food.

First to arrive was Michele Glaze, Director of Community Advancement for USAA. If Michele’s name sounds familiar its probably because before moving to San Antonio a year ago, Michele was the Dell Strategic Giving and Employee Engagement Manager (formerly Executive Director, Dell Foundation), and had been with Dell for 17 years, and Motorola before that. I enjoyed the story of her roots in Rockne, a small community outside of Bastrop (her great, great, great grandfather founded the community), and I couldn’t help but notice how her face lit up and her eyes sparkled when she talked about her faith, her two sons, and her husband, who interestingly, is a college-level baseball umpire! Michele also shared a little know fact (at least to me anyway) about San Antonio’s philanthropic climate, which she described as very faith-center and particularly sincere, community-wide. Did you know that San Antonio has virtually no homeless population? Because they are kept out of sight? I asked Michele. "No," she responded. "Because they are cared for."

Next to arrive was my beautiful and Very Smart daughter Jolene Noelke Moore, who, in her exquisitely soft cashmere coat, felt like the embodiment of love when I hugged her. Jolene glows from an exceptional sense of inner serenity that everyone seems to notice, and which I have seen in her since she was just a child. Now that Jolene’s three adorable children (our grandchildren) are all in school, she has been playing competitive tennis, 3-4 days a week with the San Antonio Country Club women’s tennis team. When not playing tennis, Jolene volunteers at her children’s schools, St. Mary’s Hall and The Winston School. After years of research into helping her daughter diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, Jolene has also become a knowledgeable and impassioned advocate for education for children who learn differently. It is difficult for me to be impartial about my daughter, but I have to say that she is the best of her father and me, and our good genes couldn’t have been passed down in a finer vessel than Jolene.

If you’ve met Melanie Ridings Cazier, formerly Program Officer, and now board member of the inimitable Austin-based Topfer Family Foundation, and the Coordinator of the San Antonio Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation, you’ll understand my description of her arrival at the VSG Salon as a “game-changer!” Melanie’s dynamism creates its own climate so we were immediately swept up in her funny and fun little universe. Melanie, who all within a year’s time, got married, had a baby, moved to San Antonio, and changed jobs, radiated such a positive attitude. I enjoyed hearing how much she loves San Antonio and the people of San Antonio, who she spoke of with palpable endearment. Before leaving us (Austin), Melanie was involved in the Breakthrough Austin Community Leadership Council, and held several positions on the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, including co-chairing its Gala. She is a Leadership Austin alumnaand received the "Austin 40 Under 40 Community Service and Non-Profit Award."

I wish I’d known Melanie and Michele better when they were living in Austin – which just goes to show - when you snooze you loose! So get out there and meet those Very Smart Gals. But back to San Antonio!

When I drove to San Antonio to meet with Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, Executive Director of the San Antonio Children’s Museum for the fist time (they were looking for a grant writer), I was intrigued by the fact that they are building a new $47,000,000 children’s museum, The Do Seum.  But what really captured my attention about Vanessa, and my interest in working with her, was during our interview when I said I would provide details about donor prospects to assist her board in cultivations. Instead of just sitting there listening to my spiel, she quickly retorted with, “Like what?” This simple question not only invited me to present my deeper skills, it also signaled that I was dealing with a deep thinker and that excited me and I knew it was the beginning of a “beautiful friendship.” Vanessa has a MPP from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and her background with Teach for America, and working against educational inequality at The New Teacher Project, primed her to shake up early education in San Antonio, and that is exactly what she is doing. 

Annie Montgomery Lebatt, Assistant Professor of Art History, The University of Texas at San Antonio, is apparently all the rage in the San Antonio arts community as her lectures at the San Antonio Museum of Art are standing room only and her classes at UTSA are highly rated. Annie struck me as someone who is inordinately quiet until presented with an opportunity to talk about their passion – which in Annie’s case is Byzantine art, and in which she has a doctorate from Yale. Annie is a recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize, which is awarded by the American Academy in Rome each year to emerging artists and scholars who “represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities.” In spite of the many honors and degrees achieved by Annie, when I asked what was her “15 minutes of fame,” which I asked everyone there that night, she replied that she didn’t think she had yet achieved her 15 minutes – the true sign of an overachiever.  I thought that response was super! Annie actually came to the VSG San Antonio to help invitee Katherine with her little daughter, Georgiana, but what a bonus for us! Annie is certainly a Very Smart Gal.

Last, but certainly not least is my “daughter-in-law” Katherine Moore McAllen. I call Katherine my daughter-in-law simply because I adore her, but really, she’s my daughter’s sister-in-law (Jolene’s husband’s sister). When asked about her 15 minutes of fame, Katie said it had to be when her then 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son walked across the stage with her at Harvard, when she received her PhD in art history. She said that Harvard even had tiny little diplomas for her children, which I thought was such a beautiful acknowledgement of the amazing accomplishment of getting a PhD as a mother of small children. Katherine, a San Antonio native, now lives in south Texas with her husband and three children, but maintains her ties to San Antonio through family, friendships and philanthropic involvements. Katherine serves on the Advisory Board of the San Antonio Museum of Art and has been a guest lecturer at Austin’s Blanton Museum.

Although logic and experience dictate that there are Very Smart Gals in every city, and in fact on virtually every corner, convening the VSG of San Antonio, or at least a sampling of them, was an exceptionally rewarding experience for me, and I believe an enjoyable one for everyone there.

Come on Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Miami and Chicago Very Smart Gals! Let’s go!


  1. That sounds like an exceptionally fun afternoon with some truly smart gals.

    I would love to throw my hat in the ring for your Houston visit; it would be an honor to meet the VSG's in my new city. Keep me posted about when you are headed this way. We truly must catch up!

    1. Sara - There will be a Houston VSG Salon, and I promise you will be there!