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Questions for City Treasures

27 May 2014 7:46 PM
Questions for City Treasures

Since it was founded in 1836 near the banks of Buffalo Bayou, Houston has always attracted a vast talent pool of scientists, artists, philanthropists and entrepreneurs. The Bayou City has steadily - and rapidly - grown over the last 178 years, thanks in large part to its massive port, railroad, oil and medical industries, not to mention NASA's Johnson Space Center, home of the famed Mission Control Center.

Over the last several decades, Houston's growth has reached a zenith. America's fourth-largest city has become an international melting pot, a hub for the visual and performing arts, a veritable culinary destination and a global center for commerce with a thriving economy that has remained stable even in recent times of national recession.

In the following pages, we profile five extraordinary individuals who have helped Houston achieve its lofty status - and five others who are continuing to help push the city even further into the stratosphere.

Jim Hackett, Executive Chairman of the Board of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
What have you seen change the most in Houston?
Since we moved here for the first time in 1980, progress has been across the board. Most notable visually is the incredible boom in highways and toll roads, which have nearly made The Woodlands and Katy parts of the city for commuting purposes. Also, the multiple skylines that now exist in the Energy Corridor, along 290 and the toll road, and The Woodlands have been added to those that existed in 1980 in downtown, the Galleria, Greenway Plaza, and Greenspoint areas. Add the new buildings in the Texas Medical Center and places like the Rice University Campus, and these are a proxy for progress and growth in our great city.

What makes Houston unique?
It's definitely the people and the focus on the energy and medical sectors. While there are so many professions that are important to Houston, none stand out like these two (now that NASA is being constrained). Houston has a can-do attitude and even its multi-generational families accept outsiders … as long as they commit to doing civic work. Houston places a great emphasis on merit and philanthropy (or service). Add to this the incredible diversity of ethnic, national, and religious identities and you have a truly cosmopolitan city that has wonderful restaurants, great performing arts, a fabulous system of parks, wonderful museums, etc. No one in Houston thinks they are smarter than anyone else, but we are willing to outwork them. The truth is that Houston has an incredible breadth and depth of intellectual talent, but we hide it as best we can.

How has living in Houston changed your life?
It allowed me to pursue a technical profession in energy—and there isn't anything more worthy, or intellectually stimulating, than finding competitively priced energy for the world. Houston also reinforced the family values we wanted for our children by exhibiting daily examples of respect for others, hard work, and, as appropriate, free expressions of their faith. Houston has also allowed us to engage in meaningful civic and charitable work with institutions like the Baylor College of Medicine, the Houston Grand Opera, Rice University, and the Menninger Institute, to name a few.

What's your stomping ground?
We love to go to new restaurants, but Damian's, Tony's, RDG, and Teala's are old favorites that we love. Also, Memorial Park for riding and running. I love The Galleria, but it is a daunting thought to go there with the traffic and crowds.

What sets Houston apart from other major metropolitan markets?
For one, it is growing. For another, it is friendlier. While it is missing the water or topography that might exist in NY, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, it has a lot of the other amenities, including better employment opportunities than in most of those cities.

Denton Cooley, Founder and Surgeon-in-chief of the Texas Heart Institute; Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital; Consultant in Cardiovascular Surgery at Texas Children's Hospital; Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
What have you seen change the most in Houston?
It has been a rewarding experience for me to see the gradual development and finally explosive enlargement of the medical institutions which comprise the Texas Medical Center. Houston has enjoyed many topographical features, but among them the discovery of oil in the area beginning with Spindle Top, later with the Conroe oil field and the East Texas oil fields. Houston has become a center for the oil and chemical industries replacing its importance in the days when agriculture dominated the area. I believe the success of our city depends largely upon the spirit that has been developed almost to a level of patriotism. Houstonians have all taken pride in the development of what is now the fourth largest city in the United States.

What makes Houston unique?
I have always felt fortunate and grateful that my parents chose Houston for their home. This occurred more than a decade before my birth in 1920. The chosen area for Houston resulted from the Battle of San Jacinto which occurred only about 6 or 8 miles from the original battle. The Allen brothers chose this area for their speculation of a new city and laid out the streets in an orderly fashion. This is in contrast to most of the large cities in Texas. The area was very agreeable and had the confluence of several bayous into the Buffalo Bayou which soon provided the city to have an inland seaport. This is a characteristic of all the queen cities on the planet.

How has living in Houston changed your life?
I was blessed like other youngsters in having available well-controlled and planned educational facilities, public schools, and later two major universities now known as Rice University and the University of Houston. I availed myself of the public school system and attended Montrose Elementary, Sidney Lanier Junior High and San Jacinto High School. From there I matriculated at The University of Texas in Austin. My medical education began at The University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, but after two years I transferred to Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore. While there I had the fortunate experience of becoming involved in the earliest days of cardiac surgery. From Baltimore I spent a year in London, England completing my training. In 1951, I returned to Houston where the Texas Medical Center was in its earliest days.

What's your stomping ground?
One of the things I enjoy doing when with my children and especially my grandchildren is to drive around the outskirts of Houston and point out areas well within the old city limits where I went hunting many times with my brother where we could shoot doves, rabbits, ducks and geese. These areas are now covered with beautiful homes, streets, curbs and sidewalks. I am just amazed at the growth of the city and the beauty of most of these new areas.

What sets the Houston medical industry apart from other major metropolitan markets?
The spirit of Houston has always been progressive. The earliest founders of the city were ambitious for the future. They were civic minded, philanthropic individuals whose spirit has continued on through the present time. In the early days of cardiac surgery, I developed a program of open heart surgery which opened a new era in the development of the medical center. This culminated in my having chartered the Texas Heart Institute to identify the hospitals at St. Luke's Episcopal and Texas Children's Hospitals as a center for heart disease.

Jan Duncan, Philanthropist
What have you seen change the most in Houston?
I grew up in New Orleans and came to Houston thirty years ago. Since then, the city has experienced tremendous growth, not only in size but also in business and diversity. As a result, Houston is becoming increasingly attractive to people from all walks of life, especially young professionals and entrepreneurs. This past year, there was a lot of positive press about our city's economic and cultural development. I remember seeing an article this summer about how Houston is a place where people can come to "dream big and succeed," and I think that's very true. It is my hope that Houston will continue to thrive and be recognized as a wonderful place to call home.

What makes Houston unique?
Houston has the unique ability to merge its seemingly divergent characteristics into a very satisfying balance. Our city is cosmopolitan and yet down-to-earth, culturally rich but unpretentious, sprawling and diverse but close-knit and united. We have a thriving job market, an internationally-acclaimed medical center, a vibrant creative arts scene, outstanding universities, and many opportunities for people to find their niche. For those who aren't familiar with our city, the word "Houston" might evoke images of concrete and traffic, not to mention sweltering summers. Admittedly, we have our fair share of these things! But we also have beautiful green parks and lovely, mild winters. And we are a very welcoming and eclectic community filled with kind, innovative, hard-working people who choose to cultivate and share their gifts here.

How has living in Houston changed your life?
Everything changed when I came to Houston because it was here that I met Dan. One day, I was a second grade school teacher at Kinkaid; the next, I was married to an incredibly caring, humble, hard-working, devoted, generous, and faithful man—a man who grew more loving with every year that passed. Being Dan's wife and partner for twenty years taught me so much about the power of giving and the importance of sharing my attention, energy, support and resources with others, especially those most in need. We both felt called to help alleviate suffering, and we were thankful to have the opportunity to do so. We knew that God had blessed us and would hold us accountable for how we used His gifts. Since my husband's death in 2010, my prayer has been that God will help me to carry on this legacy of service with gratitude and an open heart. Dan was truly the love of my life, and I will never stop thanking God for our life together. It was a great blessing to be his wife, his partner, and his best friend.

What's your stomping ground?
My favorite "stomping ground" is anywhere I am in the company of loving, encouraging, good-hearted people. When you are with a cherished friend or family member, your favorite restaurant could be a cluttered kitchen, and your favorite venue could be a car where you share a good conversation. That being said, if the car happens to drive to Carrabba's or Tony's, I won't be upset!

What sets Houston apart from other major metropolitan markets?
We live in the fourth-largest city in the country, but it doesn't feel like it. Houston has a distinctly small-town feel, and people are always stopping to smile, to visit, to affirm, and to be friendly. Unlike some other cities, Houston is not cliquish. It doesn't matter where you came from or how long your family has lived here. What matters is your heart: whether you are living for more than just yourself, and whether you are eager to love and serve others. In my experience, I have found that Houston is a deeply generous community of individuals and families who care about others and go out of their way to help each other succeed. And I think this spirit of generosity is why people are coming to Houston and staying in Houston. There are hundreds of world-class physicians, researchers, and scientists at the Texas Medical Center who could easily work anywhere they wanted—but they choose to be in Houston. Brilliant young chefs are opening celebrated restaurants and drawing crowds from all over the country—yet they are here in Houston, not New York City or Los Angeles. Our city has so much to offer people who are willing to work hard, be kind, and care for others. If that describes you, then you will be embraced here.

Tony Vallone, Owner of Tony's
What have you seen change the most in Houston?
Many things come to mind, but the food scene the most. We are a great and demanding food city with diversity and depth - a city of food entrepreneurs.

What makes Houston unique?
Again, we are a can-do city of arts and opportunity… an open city where going the extra mile pays off . We also happen to have the best economy in the country: diverse architecture, low cost of living, largest and most renown medical center in the world, second largest port, the nation's leader in exports, new jobs and housing sales are only a few of the reasons our economy continues to flourish at an amazing pace. And that's not even mentioning the world-class arts and frequent fun street festivals.

How has living in Houston changed your life?
Houston has been very good to me. It's a city that I can be proud of and whatever one wants is readily available and doable here. It has provided the cosmopolitan culinary canvas for me to create and perform.

What's your stomping ground?
I am at the restaurant most of the time, which I love. It's impossible to operate fine dining at any level without a crafting, caring, choreographing, restaurateur at the helm and on premise. When I do eat out - which is not often - I like China Gardens and Maria Selma restaurants; otherwise I like to stay home, which is rare, and spend time with my family.

What sets the Houston restaurant scene apart from other major metropolitan markets?
The high quality of diverse, ethnic cuisines and a friendly, willing attitude to please.

Bob McNair, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Houston Texans
What have you seen change the most in Houston?
My wife and I have lived here since 1960, so certainly a lot has changed. The Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and, of course, the Houston Texans didn't even exist when we first came here. The city has grown quite a bit in the last 50 years, especially in the last couple of decades. It's really become a melting pot of people from all over the country and all over the world, and I think we've seen the economy diversify a great deal from where it used to be so dependent on the energy and medical industries.

What makes Houston unique?
Houston has a can-do attitude that most cities don't have. I think that really plays a big role in our city's thriving economy, especially within such a prosperous business climate that we have here. We're a city full of hard workers, risk-takers, entrepreneurs and loyal and adventurous spirits. I also think Houston probably has some of the friendliest people of any major city. We've got everything you'd want in a major metropolitan area, and we've got wonderful people and Texas hospitality to boot.

How has living in Houston changed your life?
It gave me an opportunity to build a successful business that changed the quality of my life. My wife and I were born and raised in South Carolina, but we're proud to call ourselves Houstonians. We've had the great pleasure of raising our children and grandchildren here, and we've had a number of great institutions we've been fortunate to be involved with like Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, the Houston Grand Opera and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It's really become a part of the fabric of who I am.

When you're not at Reliant Stadium, where's your stomping ground in the city?
I love being on one of our many great golf courses. Houston has good golf weather all year round, and there are beautiful courses all over the city.

What sets the professional sports landscape in Houston apart from other major metropolitan cities?
We have the best sports fans in the country, and our football fans are unbelievable. Everybody knows that Texans love their football, from high school on through the professional ranks, and Houstonians are certainly no different. They've embraced our franchise with open arms ever since we brought the NFL back to the city in 2002, even when our record wasn't necessarily very good. Their passion is really just tremendous. We also have a history of world-class stadiums, from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park to Reliant Stadium. It's just another thing that sets our city apart.

UP AND COMERS:
Javier Loya, Chairman and CEO of OTC Global Holdings, LLP
Since Loya co-founded OTC Global Holdings in 2007, the company has become the largest independent commodities broker in the United States. Prior to OTC Global Holdings, Loya was a founding partner and chief executive officer of Choice Energy Group, a leading institutional natural gas and electricity broker, with a customer base consisting of the largest utilities, energy marketers, and financial institutions in the world. The Columbia University grad has also been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Man of the Year, among other prestigious awards.

Robert L. Coleman, OR and Deputy Chair, Vice-Chair of Clinical Research, Ann Rife Cox Chair in Gynecology, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center
A professor of gynecologic oncology and vice-chair of clinical research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Robert Coleman is the nation's leading voice on gynecological cancers and recently published a seminal academic piece on advanced-stage ovarian cancer. A professor of gynecologic oncology, Rob is M.D. Anderson's leading investigator evaluating chemotherapy and surgical strategies for cancers of the ovary, cervix and uterus. He is internationally recognized for his leadership in the field and is about to kick off a first-in-human therapeutics study of systemically delivered small interfering RNAs in patients with solid tumors. Some folks believe that this approach could be a development with an unlimited upside.

Isabel David, National Advertising Director at Modern Luxury Media
From a young age, Isabel David has had a passion for volunteerism. She and her husband Danny enjoy raising their two young boys in a city as vibrant and philanthropic as Houston. Isabel feels fortunate to have served numerous organizations including the Holocaust Museum Houston, Hermann Park Conservancy, Houston Grand Opera, the Menil Collection, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Center for Literacy, Dress for Success Houston, the Alley Theatre and Recipe for Success Foundation. She is a co-chair of this year's Another Great Night in November benefiting the Contemporary Arts Museum, and she and Danny are chairing the 2014 Opera Ball auction.

Chris Shepherd, Chef
Midwest-raised Chef Chris Shepherd left boundary-pushing Catalan restaurant to open Underbelly in March 2012, featuring locally-sourced food inspired by the ethnic diversity of Houston. The Art Institute-alum and former Executive Sous Chef-turned-Sommelier of Brennan's brings his farm-to-table passion to fruition at the new spot, which sources ingredients from the Gulf Coast and surrounding farms and ranches. The in-house butcher shop, which only uses whole animals, supports Shepherd's passion for butchering and charcuterie. The 2013 James Beard Award finalist was also named one of the Top 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine. Underbelly was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit and Esquire and one of the 70 best new restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler.

Jamey Rootes, President of Houston Texans
As president of the Houston Texans, Rootes is responsible for all business functions of the club. Since joining the Texans, Rootes has overseen the team's efforts to secure stadium naming rights and sponsorship, coordinated radio and TV broadcasting relationships, engineered the club's successful ticket and suite sales campaigns, led the creation and launch of the team's identity and developed the team's highly-acclaimed customer service strategy. Under Rootes' leadership, the Texans have earned many distinctions, including numerous "Crystal Awards" for marketing excellence. J.D. Power & Associates recognized the team for providing the best fan experience in the NFL and even featured the Texans as a service success story in their book entitled "Satisfaction." Rootes was selected twice by SportsBusiness Journal as a member of its distinguished "Forty Under 40" list of leading sports executives.