Texas Governor Appoints Advisory Board to ‘Emergency Item’ University Research Initiative

AP File Photo/Eric Gay

Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed nine members to the new Governor’s University Research Initiative Advisory Board on Thursday. The initiative was one of his higher education emergency items listed during the last legislative session. It was also one of gubernatorial candidate Abbott’s campaign promises.

The appointees to the University Research Initiative advisory board are Jacquie Baly, Cindy Conroy, Antonio Falcon, John Goodman, Wendy Gramm, James Huffines, J. Michael Lewis, Michael Plank, and Sam Susser. They have been appointed with terms to expire at the pleasure of the Governor. Abbott designated James Huffines as presiding officer.

These appointments follow the passage of SB 632 and HB 26 which jointly implement the higher education research emergency item by eliminating the Emergency Technology Fund (ETF). The initiative utilizes a portion of the ETF’s unexpended balance to provide matching funds to help state colleges and universities recruit prestigious, nationally-recognized researchers to their faculty.

Abbott believes the initiative will advance the state’s higher education system to unprecedented levels and “fuel future growth for generations to come.” A statement from the Governor’s office noted that the nine appointees will make recommendations for the approval and denial of grant proposals.

A news release from the Governor’s office lists comprehensive resume details on each appointee. Below are highlights:

Jacquie Baly (Sugar Land) is president and chief executive officer for BalyProjects, a former member of the Sugar Land City Council, and former adjunct professor at the University of Houston.  She is also the Public Policy Director for the National Association of Women Business Owners Board and PAC Board member of the Houston Contractors Association.

Cindy Conroy (El Paso) is first executive assistant and charitable giving coordinator at WestStar Bank. She serves on the board of directors of El Paso Drive-a-Meal and the Pioneer Association of El Paso. Conroy has 12 years of academic administration and grant management experience with The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Antonio Falcon (Rio Grande City) is medical director of Family Health Center, L.L.P. and a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, American Academy of Family Practice, Texas Academy of Family Practice, Texas Medical Foundation, Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society, and the Health and Human Services Council.

John Goodman (Frisco) is founder and executive chairman of Family ER + Urgent Care Centers, plus a board member, co-founder, former executive chairman, and former chief executive officer of Goodman Networks. Also, he serves as a volunteer for Foodstep Uganda and Serving His Children Uganda, and is a YMCA volunteer youth basketball coach.

Wendy Gramm (Helotes) is chairman of the Texas Public Policy Foundation Board of Directors and a former senior scholar at the George Mason University Mercatus Center, where she founded the Regulatory Studies Program. Some other credits include U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission chair under Presidents Reagan and Bush, Sr., Texas A&M University System Board of Regents former member, and Independent Women’s Forum emeritae director.

James Huffines (Dallas) is president and chief operations officer of PlainsCapital Corporation and serves on the Hilltop Holdings, PlainsCapital Bank, and PrimeLending boards of directors. He is partner and board member of the Andrew Harper Travel Publications, Inc. and vice chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council.  Some of his other affiliations include the Dallas Citizens Council Board of Directors, Dallas Regional Board of Advisors, Texas Lyceum Advisory Council, and the Texas Philosophical Society. Huffines serves on University of Texas committees and boards including the Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee, Development Board of Directors, Foundation Board of Directors, William P. Clements Center Board of Directors, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Foundation Advisory Board, Nomination Committee, and Executive Committee.

Michael Lewis (Dallas) is a private investor and the general partner of Coronado Resources, Olympia Royalty, and Wellspring Royalties. A member of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Financial Executives Institute, Texas Tech Investment Advisory Committee and the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, Lewis serves on the board of directors of the State Fair of Texas, Texas Tech Foundation, and the West Dallas Community School.

Michael Plank (Houston) is chairman and chief executive officer of The Plank Companies, Inc. and three affiliated companies; National Property Holdings, Rail Logix and Speed Shore Corporation. He is a member of the World Presidents’ Organization, past president of the Children’s Museum of Houston and a board member of the YMCA of Greater Houston.

Sam L. Susser (Corpus Christi) is president of Susser Holdings II, L.P. and previously served as chairman of Sunoco, L.P. and Stripes, L.L.C. He co-chairs the UT Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for the Study for Energy, Law and Business, is a trustee of The Texas State Aquarium, and a trustee and chairman of the Driscoll Foundation. Other affiliations include the Texas Business Hall of Fame, World Presidents’ Organization, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi College of Business Advisory Council, University of Texas McCombs School of Business Advisory Board, and the UT Schusterman Center for Judaic Studies Advisory Board.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.