J.D. Perez is the head of retail and visual merchandising for Hugo Boss in Mexico and has more than 16 years of retail experience in the United States and Latin American market. He currently manages all retail strategies, performs the buy for each season, oversees store operations, and leads the visual merchandising team. He manages more than 150 employees while ensuring profitable results in the Mexican market. In 2005, J.D. received a dual bachelor’s degree from Texas State University in business administration and management and in computer information systems, with an emphasis in the Latin American markets. While an undergraduate, he was a member of Lambda Theta Phi Latino Fraternity. He also has been a member of the McCoy College Institute for Global Business Advisory Board since 2015, and assisted with Texas State President Denise Trauth's visit to Mexico City in June 2017.
Location: San Antonio
Patricia Ruiz-Healy holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Art History from UTSA. She is the author of the recently published book, “Mathias Goeritz,” the subject of her dissertation.
The owner and director of Ruiz-Healy Art, founded in 2004, Patricia has curated 99 exhibitions and published 37 exhibitions catalogues. She has commissioned writers such as Dan Cameron, John Phillip Santos, and other scholars to write essays for the artist’s catalogue exhibits. As an art historian herself, she understands the importance of documentation and of furthering scholarship. Patricia has represented the work of Graciela Iturbide in Texas since 2006.
Patricia was born on her family ranch in northern México and has lived in London, México City, and Miami. San Antonio has been home for more than two decades. She now divides her time between San Antonio and New York City, where she recently opened a Ruiz-Healy Art branch.
John Spong, a staff writer for Texas Monthly since 2002, was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 for his story celebrating Texas dance halls, “Step Right Up,” and has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism – in 2007 for “The Good Book and the Bad Book,” and in 2010 for “Holding Garmsir.” He is the author of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove (UT Press), and his magazine stories have been collected in Best Food Writing 2012 (Da Capo Press), The Best American Sports Writing 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Literary Austin (TCU Press), and Rio Grande (UT Press). He holds a bachelor of arts and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from The University of Texas at Austin. John and his wife, Julie Blakeslee, have two sons, Willie Mo and Leon.
Location: San Marcos
Cathy Supple earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in English education at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, New York. She taught high school English in Willsboro, New York, and was a feature writer and photographer for the North Country Catholic newspaper. In her avocation as a singer and guitarist with her late husband, Jerry, Cathy organized Plattsburgh music festivals and country dances. She served on numerous San Marcos community boards until 2002. Her avocation now is duplicate bridge.
Location: San Antonio
Dr. Carmen Tafolla is a poet, storyteller, performance artist, motivational speaker, and university professor – loved throughout the world for her moving performances and poetry readings. The author of more than 30 books, her work appears internationally in high school and university textbooks, newspapers, journals and magazines, and elementary school readers. Carmen was named Poet Laureate of Texas in 2015, and she is the immediate past president of the Texas Institute of Letters. Carmen also served from 2012-2014 as the first Poet Laureate of San Antonio and presented at more than 300 schools, universities, professional conferences, and community arts centers in her two-year tenure. She has received numerous awards, including the Americas Award, five International Latino Book Awards, two Tomas Rivera Book Awards, three ALA Notable Books, a Charlotte Zolotow Award, the Art of Peace Award, and Top Ten Books for Babies. She has been recognized by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies for work which “gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”
Vanessa Cortez Tanner is a Rio Grande Valley native and first-generation college graduate. Presently, she is chief of staff to Texas State Representative Scott Sanford. As Chief of Staff, Vanessa oversees the Representative's legislative agenda, advises him on policy and political issues, handles media relations, and manages the office's daily operations and staff. Her previous experience includes serving as a committee director in the Texas Senate and managing political campaigns for local and statewide races.
While at Texas State University, Vanessa was involved in numerous student organizations and in 2013 was elected to represent 36,000-plus students as student body president. She remains involved with the university as a member of the Leadership Council, Bobcat Club Council, and Alumni Association, and is a former president of the Austin Alumni Chapter. She graduated in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and public relations and was the recipient of the LBJ Outstanding Senior Award. Vanessa is married to fellow Texas State alumnus, Cameron Tanner.
Location: San Marcos
Raised on a small family farm in Goliad, Cody Taylor is a first-generation college graduate who received his undergraduate degree in International Studies from Texas State University in 2009. He owns the longstanding Austin restaurant, Café Josie, and is co-owner of Industry, a popular eatery that opened in San Marcos in 2018. Cody is a self-taught drummer and has been in three different bands that have played small venues throughout Austin, a SXSW showcase, the Rockport Wine and Food Festival, and the Scott Taylor Band Crawfish Festival. Cody gives back to his community in traditional ways by donating goods and services to non-profit fundraisers, such as the Empty Bowl Food Project in Austin, but his true service to society is patiently mentoring and inspiring his young employees to be the very best they can be and to strive for excellence in all that they do, both personally and professionally. “As one of my mentors once shared with me,” Cody said, “a good leader doesn’t always lead from the front. Sometimes you lead from the side, the middle, and also the back. This is one of my guiding philosophies as I continue my life and career journey.”
James S. Taylor has an enduring love of and appreciation for Mexico—the result of his upbringing in that country. Born in the Texas panhandle and raised in Tamaulipas, James’ bi-cultural background and bi-national experience have infused his career, personal interests, and community endeavors.
An underlying purpose of James’ multi-faceted career has been to deepen connections and knowledge between the U.S. and Mexico in business, the arts, and politics. He graduated from Texas State University with a degree in international studies and began pursuit of opportunities that help bridge a better understanding of the two neighboring countries.
James is a co-founder of Vianovo, an international strategic advisory consultancy, and of Grupo Compadres, a company that produces and markets SUSTO Mezcal, a new brand of Mexico’s oldest agave spirit.
James is a member of the advisory board of the Texas Book Festival and serves as honorary consul of Spain in Austin, Texas. James and his wife Ingrid have two children, Benjamin and Gabriela.
Andrae Turner is a native Texan from Houston. He is an administrator in the section of Cardiology at Texas Children's Hospital and a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Andrae graduated with a bachelor of healthcare administration from Texas State and master’s degrees in healthcare administration and business administration from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He is an avid Bobcat supporter, serving on the Texas State Development Foundation Board of Trustees, the Texas State Alumni Association Board of Directors (2011-2018), and the Bobcat Club Leadership Council. He has a passion for servant leadership and works with a variety of organizations throughout Houston and Texas.
Reid Wittliff, a partner in the Austin-based law firm, Wittliff Cutter PLLC, is a technology lawyer with a deep understanding of the fast-developing law governing online activity, privacy, and data security. He has represented both fortune 100 companies and small start-ups in technology and intellectual property disputes. As a certified mediator, he also frequently negotiates and drafts software licenses and other technology contracts. Reid’s prior experience includes serving as the founding Division Chief of the Texas Attorney General Office’s Computer Crime Division and as a federal prosecutor responsible for leading computer crime investigations and prosecutions in the Dallas, Texas area. In 2008, Reid founded R3 Digital Forensics, LLC as an independent company to provide digital forensics and e-Discovery services to clients throughout the nation. He holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law.
Sally Wittliff is an Austin attorney with a general practice. Born in New York City, she spent most of her childhood in Washington, D.C. Sally moved to San Antonio during her high school years, and has been in Texas ever since. She is a member of Inns of Court and a fellow of the Texas State Bar and Austin Bar Foundations. She is a former secondary mathematics teacher, chair of the City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission, president of We Care Austin, and board member of many civic organizations, including KLRU Public Television, Safe Place, and the Contemporary Austin. Cofounder with her husband, Bill, of Austin’s Encino Press and The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, Sally is also the business manager of Pangaea, Inc., an Austin film production company, and of Wittliff Properties. Sally and Bill have two grown children and four grandchildren.
Susan Wittliff is Chief Operating Officer of Price Wealth Management, an independent investment advisory firm based in Austin. She is also involved with Texas State University through her service on the university’s Development Foundation Board, having served as chair of the Investment Committee and through her current role as the vice chair of the Development Foundation Board. Prior to her work in financial services, Susan served as a corporate securities attorney and advisor for multiple public and private companies. Susan received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and her J.D. from Southern Methodist University School of Law. Susan is actively engaged in her community, having served in various leadership roles for Communities in Schools – Central Texas, the Heritage Society of Austin, the Nature Conservancy – Texas, the Seton Fund, and Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, as well as for her children’s schools. When given the chance, she loves to escape to the mountains, read a great book, and work at improving her tennis game. Susan is married to Reid Wittliff, and they live in Austin with their two children.
Elyse Yates is the founder and CEO of Influence Opinions. She offers more than two decades of expertise in arenas as diverse as politics, high-tech, public affairs, nonprofits, and entertainment – not to mention clear big picture vision, incredible insight, and strategies that work. She is driven by a natural inquisitiveness and genuine interest in people, media, and messaging. Elyse previously served as a managing director for Public Strategies, Inc. where she built an interactive business unit and a media relations division, managed the marketing and branding of the company, and led teams consulting for a broad spectrum of clients including Perot Systems, the San Antonio Spurs, Schering Plough, Seton Healthcare Family, and Southwest Airlines. Earlier in her career, Elyse was a media relations specialist for IBM, deputy spokesperson for former Governor Ann Richards, and associate director of the Texas Consumer Association. Elyse has volunteered in leadership positions for many years, including serving as past board president for Planned Parenthood of Central Texas. She currently serves on the board for Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) and for The University of Texas School of Natural Science.