What caused all the excitement at Austin nonprofit pitch fest

I would have given each group $100,000. No, make that $1 million.

At the LBJ Auditorium, reps from each of seven nonprofits made their cases for three minutes at Philanthropitch, then followed up with three minutes of answers to questions from six judges, all successful entrepreneurs.

Chelsea Elliott of the Half Helen Foundation and Kevin Iraheta of the Global Good Fund at Philanthropitch Austin. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

That’s it. No stacks of paperwork. No hours of pleasing donors.

Just pure, compact rhetorical power. And oh yes, a good cause. And a plan that includes growth and internal sustainability. This is how the celebrity judges split up the money:

– Half Helen Foundation: $64,100
– Thinkery: $38,210
– Code2College: $35,553
– College Forward: $18,913
– Generation Citizen: $11,722
– VentureLab: $7,052

But wait, there’s more.

“There was this amazing moment in the judges’ deliberation room where Kendra Scott asked if she could announce two internship placements for Code2College (which coaches nontraditional students to code) and the answer was obviously, YES!” reports Dan Graham, CEO of BuildASign.com cofounder of Notley, the group behind Philanthropitch, which has spread across the country and to the U.K.. “Immediately Gay Gaddis from T3, Jag Bath from Favor and Mellie Price from the Dell Medical School also committed to two internships each!”

CODE2COLLEGE: How to make any student ready for tech career.

On stage, as the the winners received big checks, Lisa Graham announced “Oh and Mr. Stephenson, we have another announcement for you” and proceeded to announce all the internships, which give Code2College added credibility and sustainability.

“As Lisa was finishing, Matt Stephenson (founder of Code2College) began running around hugging the judges and that’s when a woman starting sprinting up the aisle,” Dan recalls. “It was Amy Averett with Alamo Drafthouse announcing that they, too, were committing to two internships! That’s a total of 10 internships.”

 I love Austin.

See who in Austin are AU40 Awards finalists

One of Austin’s most coveted honors, the Austin Under 40 Awards, are back, and we’ve got the names of the 2018 finalists.

Gordon Moore and Heather McKissick at the 2014 Austin Under 40 Awards. Contributed by Jonathan Garza

The AU40 Awards are a joint effort of two veteran volunteer groups, Young Women’s Alliance and the Young Men’s Business League. They honor notable community figures and rising stars in 16 career fields.

RELATED: Matt Curtis sings the praises of the AU40 Awards.

The 2018 AU40 Gala will be held at the JW Marriott on May 19. The money raised benefits the YWA Foundation and the Austin Sunshine Camps.

RELATED: Sunshine Camps shine.

I suspect that some of these finalists will be running our city some day.


Architecture, and Design

Ada Corral

Adam Nyer

Matthew Hoglund

Megan Lasch

Patrice Rios

Arts, Media and Entertainment

Cassandra King Polidori

David Messier

Livia Pope

Taylor Ellison

Terry Pierre-Mitchell

Civics, Government and Public Affairs

Dana Harris

David Edmonson

Jo Cassandra Cuevas

Virginia Cumberbatch

Yvette Ruiz

Culinary Arts, Events and Hospitality

C.K. Chin

Cassie LaMere

Fallon Gaskamp-Allison

John Antonelli

Kendall Antonelli

Energy, Mobility and Transportation

Jennifer Duthie

Kelly Daniel

Mica Vehik

Phillip Lay

Suzanne King

Innovation and Start-up

Adam Lyons

Caroline Freedman

R.C. Rondero de Mosier

Stephanie Hansen

Whitney Wolfe Herd

Financial and Insurance Services

Donald Park

Eric Hare

Jeff Socha

Kerri Swope

Lindsey Leaverton

Journalism, Marketing and Public Relations

BA Snyder

Hema Muller

Jamie Chandlee

Jessica Scanlon

Kristie Gonzales


Adam Nagorski

Courtney Dickey

Jaren Lindauer

Lauren Schoenbaum

Sujata Ajmera

Medicine and Healthcare

David Shackelford

John Fought

Richard Bottner

Sarah Saxon

Vinit Varu MD

Nonprofit Service

Derrick Lesnau

Kandace Vallejo

Mary Van Haneghan

Meme Styles

Raquel Valdez

Real Estate

Blair Nelson

Emily Chenevert

Laura Brady

Lizzy Jarvis

Wade Giles

Sports, Wellness and Fitness

Alex Earle

Carly Pollack

Chi Chi Randolph

Marc Tucci

Robin Emmerich


Joah Spearman

Michael Manning

Sara Ines-Calderon

Shruti Anand

Tricia Katz

Youth and Education

Anneliese Tanner

Ashley Alaniz-Moyer

Jennifer Garcia

Lucas Janda

Sean Duffy

Mentor of the Year

Fayruz Benyousef

Kali’ Rourke

Laura Sovine

Matt Swinney

Toya Bell


Memorial set for Austin LGBT activist Ceci Gratias

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign Austin honored LGBT activist and organizer Cecilia “Ceci” Lourdes Bulaong Gratias with the Bettie Naylor Visibility Award at its annual gala.

On Sunday, Gratias died.

Ceci Gratis in January. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

A memorial will be held at Austin City Hall Plaza at 4 p.m., Nov. 12. Details about a Ceci Gratias Legacy Project will be revealed by Mayor Steve Adler and City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, for whom she most recently tended constituent services in District 6.

After the memorial, to commemorate Gratias’ work with early Austin Pride Parades, admirers will process from the plaza to Congress Avenue then to West Fourth Street to Oilcan Harry’s club for a celebration of her life. Guests are encouraged with wear purple, her favorite color.

As detailed in our profile of Gratias, she served as an aide to former Mayor Pro Tem Gus Garcia, who encouraged her to volunteer for groups such as Out Youth and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She also served as the business group’s first full-time president and CEO.

Later this month, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will salute her life and legacy at its annual National Dinner Awards.

During our interview in a cafe at the Domain Northside, Gratias, who grew up in The Philippines, remained unreservedly open and upbeat, even though she had recently broken up with her partner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.


Best parties for this rapturous Austin weather

What could go better with this glorious late October weather than unfettered socializing with fellow Austinites?

Oct. 26-Nov. 3: Austin Film Festival. Various locations.

Oct. 26: Fall Fundraiser for Pease Park Conservancy. Ella Hotel.

Oct. 26: Future Luncheon for Austin Ed Fund. Fairmont Hotel.

Oct. 26: Amazon in Austin for Rainforest Partnership. 800 Congress Ave.

Oct. 27: Tito’s Prize Winner Zack Ingram show reception. Big Medium Gallery.

Oct. 27: Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon for TAMACC. Four Seasons Hotel.

Oct. 28: Spooktacular. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Oct. 28: Bulltober Fest. Rodeo Austin HQ, 9100 Decker Lake Road.

Oct. 28: Viva La Vida for Day of the Dead. Mexic-Arte Museum.

Oct. 28: Eye Ball for Rude Mechs. Springdale Station.

Oct. 28: Austin Central Library Grand Opening. 710 West Cesar Chavez St.

Oct. 28: Zach Costume Bash. Bobbi Pavilion.

Oct. 28: Austin Sunshine Camps Carnival. Zilker Lodge & Pavilion.

Oct. 28: Barbecue on the Pedernales for Friends of the LBJ National Historical Park. LBJ Ranch

Oct. 29: All ATX for HAAM, SIMS, Black Fret and Austin Music Foundation. Auditorium Shores.

Oct. 29: Empty Bowls Project. Dripping Springs Ranch Park and Event Center.

Oct. 30: Andy Roddick Foundation Gala. ACL Live.


We bow before these Austin honorees including Maria Cisne Farahani

The world honors Austinites. We report.

Maria Farahani and her niece, Fargol Farahani, at Fara Cafe in the Austin Bergstrom International Airport in 2007. Mark Matson for American-Statesman

Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. presented Maria Cisne Farahani its Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal. Born in Nicaragua, Farahani attended the University of Texas and later settled in Austin with her family. She founded Fara Coffee’s philanthropic arm, the Fara Foundation, which operates clinics among the coffee workers in her home country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott honored longtime community volunteerEvelyn Reininger, with the Yellow Rose of Texas Award for her dedication to the betterment of our state. Reininger, 89, was the first female engine manager at Bergstrom Air Force Base. She also worked alongside Lady Bird Johnson, Gov. Ann Richards and journalist Liz Carpenter on the Federal Women’s Program. After retiring, she worked on day care for need kids and teaching adults to read. We learned that she’s also more than a bit history-minded.

Impact Austin just gave out $403,000 in its latest raft of high-impact grants. Their new community parters for the giving group of more than 400 women deal with homeless youth, refugees, school-age kids, first-time mothers and families of incarcerated adults. Receiving $80,600 each were the Safe Alliance, the Contemporary Austin, Any Baby Can, Interfaith Action of Central Texas and Seedling Foundation. Acting executive director Lisa Apfelberg reminded folks that Impact Austin has given out more than $6 million since 2003.

Comings and goings: Erin Wiegert is the new development associate and major gifts officer for the Austin Symphony. … The collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros is giving 83 works of Spanish Colonial art to the Blanton Museum of Art.


All hail SaulPaul and the other 2017 AU40 Awards winners!

We couldn’t make the Austin Under 40 Awards ceremony this year, but we can sure follow up on our advance story with a list of winners and a hearty cheer.

RELATED: Matt Curtis sings the praises of the Austin Under 40 Awards.

Austinite of the Year
SaulPaul, Musician with a Message, ReRoute Music Group

WAG Photo SaulPaul 4.14(1)
SaulPaul is the AU40 Austinite of the Year. Contributed

Arts, Media, and Entertainment
SaulPaul, Musician with a Message, ReRoute Music Group

Culinary Arts and Hospitality
Mason H. Ayer, Chief Executive Officer, Kerbey Lane Cafe

Community Service and Nonprofit
Amy E. Mills, Chief Executive Officer, Emancipet

RELATED: Amy Mills takes Emancipet’s animal mission national.

Engineering, Architecture, and Design
Daniel Goodman Carl, Regional Director, BSA LifeStructures

Entrepreneurship and Startup
Matt Stanley, Founder, President and CEO of Sundance Memory Care

Financial and Insurance Services
Rich Coffey, Founder, Coffey Advisory Group, LLC

Government and Public Affairs
Rudolph K. Metayer, Litigator, Chamberlain | McHaney

Milam F Newby, Managing Partner – Austin, Vinson & Elkins LLP

Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations
Maria Orozova, Founder + President, The MOD Studio

Medicine, Healthcare, and Life Sciences
Lauren Chauret, Partner & Director of Operations, PTV Healthcare Capital

Mentor of the Year
Ann Jerome, Executive Director, American Heart Association

Real Estate
Mark Strub,  überAGENT® + owner of STRÜB RESIDENTIAL

Sports, Wellness, and Fitness
Rashanna Moss, Owner- Pure Barre Austin

Technology and Sciences
Jeffrey Palermo, CEO, Clear Measure, Inc.

Youth and Education
Larkin Tackett, Executive Director, IDEA Public Schools, Austin

UPDATE: Left off of AU40’s original official list was:

Engineering, Energy, Mobility and Systems Sciences
Becky Hollis Diffen, Attorney, McGuireWoods



Find out why Evan Smith and Gerald Daugherty were at 9 Core Values for First Tee of Greater Austin

We visit the 9 Core Values luncheon for First Tee of Greater Austin for three core reasons.

Cachele and Steve Spinn at 9 Core Values Luncheon for First Tee of Greater Austin.

First, to learn more about First Tee of Greater Austin, which teaches character while training kids to play golf. Since 1997, more then 10 million youths have gone through the original program, which partners with LPGA, the Masters Tournament, PGA of America, the PGA Tour and USGA.

Second, to find out more about the sport, which I don’t play or watch. (I do, however, love golf courses and clubhouses.) On this occasion at the Hyatt Regency Austin’s smaller banquet room, we heard avuncular radio personality Ed Clements he interviewed PGA marketing guru Ty M. Votow from the stage. He talked about bringing the game to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro and about the upcoming WGC-Dell Match Play. (Great timing for First Tee!)

Third, to honor outstanding Austinites who, according to an outside panel of judges, exemplify the group’s 9 Core Values. It was gratifying, for instance, to applaud Texas Tribune founder Evan Smith for Integrity and Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty for Honesty. This, despite the current public opinion of the media and politicians.

RELATED: Teresa Granillo followed her heart to Con Mi Madre.

It did not surprise us that Con Mi Madre leader Teresa Granillo would win for Confidence or that Mark Kiester, recently retired from Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, would be honored for Philanthropic Leadership (not one of the values, but a welcome award nonetheless.

RELATED: Mark Kiester grows the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

No one would argue that Sharon Watkins, hospitable owner of Chez Zee eatery and cultural backer, doesn’t deserve the Courtesy Award. Much-admired retired Judge Wilford Flowers aptly won the Judgement Award and Gilbert Tuhabonye, who escaped genocide in his native Burundi to found Gilbert’s Gazelles, was lionized for Perseverance. Former neighbor and much-admired musician Darden Smith was recognized for Responsibility.

Now up until this point in the ceremony, all the honorees had been subjects and sources for this column. Some had been profiled in this space. Yet the final two, Darren K. Roberts (Sportsmanship) and Ann Howard (Respect) are still somewhat new to me. I can sense two more profiles in our near future.


1920-2017: Longtime Austin restaurant supplier Sam Shanblum dies at age 96

Sam Shanblum died after a short illness Sunday morning. He was 96.

The longtime Austin restaurant supplier knew all the old lions of the city’s eatery game, having opened up shop downtown in 1946. He retired in 1985. Among his regular customers were Cisco’s Bakery — his regular twice-a-day hangout — the Nighthawk, El Patio, La Tapatia, Threadgill’s, the Chicken Shack and Fonda San Miguel.

RELATED: Austin couple, once everywhere around town, stay busy into their 90s.

Sam and Bertha Shanblum, taken in the Northwest Austin home in 2016. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Given a chance, he told tremendous tales about Old Austin businesses and characters, such this one about the Hoffbrau, the unreconstructed steak spot on West Sixth Street.

The owners of Hoffbrau habitually took off two weeks each fall to go hunting. Once during this regular break, they brought their iron griddle — where everything was fried — into Sam’s shop to be cleaned.

“We got two or three layers of accumulation off of it,” Sam said. “Later, customers said: ‘Hey, the steaks just don’t taste the same for some reason.’ ‘Yeah, we got the grill cleaned.’”

He is survived by his wife, Bertha Shanblum, who pursued her own long career as an assistant to a University of Texas academic psychologist, Ira Iscoe, as well as by their daughters, Lynda and Laurie.

The elder Shanblums grew up in Fort Worth and their families had immigrated in previous generations from Eastern Europe.

Bertha and Sam Shanblum on their wedding day in 1947.

A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Congregation Beth Israel , 3901 Shoal Creek Drive.

Here’s the obituary.

UPDATE: The original headline for this post contained the wrong death year.

Last look at five fervent Austin parties

Recently, we hung out with two Texas sports legends, heard from Austin business givers, got a bit groovy at the Long Center, took in a fashion show for a worthy cause, and graded area education.

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Crystal Ford and Neftalí Partida at History-Making Texans Awards during Texas Independence Day Dinner for Texas History Museum Foundation. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

History-Making Texans Awards for State History Museum Foundation. It’s not every night that you share the room with Nolan Ryan and Earl Campbell. Yet the History-Making Awards ceremony routinely makes history each Texas Independence Day. The dominating pitcher and running back were in good company. We sat with deeply connected businesswoman Diana Zuniga while we heard the accolades and watched the videos for the two athletes whose career trajectories tracked closely the success of teams in Austin, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans. All the hoopla helped fill the coffers of the State History Museum Foundation, which provides a big chunk of change for the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

RELATED: Texas treasures from the Bryan Museum now in Austin.

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Ti Belete and Cat McCauley from KPMG at Austin Gives Luncheon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Gives Luncheon. We’ve watched jewelry-maker Kendra Scott grow her business from Day 1 and she’s always given back. Always. It was gratifying, then, to hear her explain this conscious strategy at a luncheon for Austin Gives, a project of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. For instance, all her stores — more than 50 of them already! I remember when the first one opened! — employ a community outreach leader. And we have some Austin Gives winners to report among charitable companies. Big Hearts: Round Rock Express. Charitable Champions: Hoar Construction. Bold Givers: Keller Williams Realty International. This event nicely complements the earlier Philanthropy Day Luncheon, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I’m sorry to say I missed that essential annual affair in February. Among the honorees on that day: Patsy Woods Martin and Jack MartinPete WinsteadAlamo Drafthouse and Taylor Thompson, a 17-year-old high school student who raised $85,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity home in Austin to honor his late mother.

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Olga Campos and Gigi Bryant at Peace Love Long Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Peace, Love, Long Center. I checked my closets. Groovy is clearly not my thing. For this Sixties-themed party at the Long Center, I pulled out a sports jacket covered in a black-and-navy oversized houndstooth pattern. When I purchased it at a resale shop decades ago, I called it my Dave Steakley jacket, so named for the always natty Zach Theatre director. To tell the truth, it barely registers in his style universe. Other guests — such as very Sargent Pepper Olga Campos and Kevin Benz — went all out. At the head of our table were super-patrons Marc and Carolyn Seriff, who head off to the Big Apple soon to perform as producers of the musical “Anastasia.” Meanwhile, I got to know some charming folks whose lives weave in and out of Austin’s creative economy.

RELATED: Which show won the most nominations at the Long Center’s Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards?

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Amy Lowrey and Eva Strasburger at Celebration of Life Luncheon. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Celebration of Life Luncheon for Seton Breast Care Center. Just slap me in between Mary Herr Tally and Carla McDonald and I’m good for a 150-minute charity luncheon. This silky affair attracts the top socials in town and almost every table at the JW Marriott Hotel was populated with philanthropic leaders eager to make the fight against breast cancer more manageable for Central Texans. This multi-faceted event for the spa-like Seton Breast Care Center starts with a lot of mingling, then some speakers, a brisk Neiman Marcus fashion show, then more speakers, videos and entertainers, all very compelling. In fact, Kendra Scott once again provided some of the most forceful arguments for giving, in this case to purchase a state-of-the-art mammography apparatus that one source told me normally goes for $300,000. The highlight of the lunch for me, however, was hearing about the current lives and concerns of the well-matched Tally and McDonald, who’ve got Zach Theatre and Austin Pets Alive events upcoming as well.

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Mary Jane Burson and Suzie Harriman at League of Women Voters Dinner. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

State of the City Dinner for the League of Women Voters. Nearly 100 years old, the League is a pretty restrained group of good-government types who, no matter their political affiliations, are collectively appalled by recent attempts to make voting more difficult rather than less so. Born out of the suffrage movement, this group knows what it means to be denied the vote in order to preserve an existing order. Yet among the high points of their annual dinner was a madcap auction run by light-hearted Mary Gordon Spence — who offered additional items from her storage — and a comic turn from author Sarah Bird, whose very presence proved an auction item. The most serious moments, however, came from Susan Dawson, a spellbinding speaker from the E3 Alliance, an advocacy group, who, in 20 minutes, broke down the successes and failures of the Austin area educational system. Answering a final question, she came down hard for school choice, but against vouchers.

New editor Tim Taliaferro charts the next Texas Monthly chapter

Recently, Tim Taliaferro, editor of the Alacalde, the magazine of Texas Exes, was named by Texas Monthly’s owner, Paul Hobby, as that magazine’s new editor.

RELATED: Alcalde editor Tim Taliaferro is a generalist’s generalist

We asked him a few questions about TM’s future.

Tim Taliaferro, formerly of Alcalde magazine, has been named editor in chief of Texas Monthly.

American-Statesman: What’s the next chapter for the magazine? Are we going to see any big changes soon?

Tim Taliaferro: The next chapter of Texas Monthly will be about replicating the magic the print magazine has long been able to conjure but now spreading it across all media and at live events. It will still be the fearless, irreverent, surprising and unmissable chronicler of the Texas and Texans that it has been for four decades. You’re just going to be able to engage with it more frequently and in more places.

Will the digital presence for TM morph? What part does it play in the future of the publication?

It will morph, and it is central to the publication’s future. I think it is safe to say that the previous owner was slow to respond to the rise of digital publishing, and as a result Texas Monthly is a bit behind digitally. We intend to quickly catch up to the digital norm, then go screaming right up to and begin pushing against the digital frontier. There are tremendous opportunities to support the deeply reported long form Texas Monthly is known for, use location-based tools to augment the travel and food coverage, make better use of the archive, and expand into video, podcasts, and virtual reality.

Despite your award-winning work at the Alcalde and your other training and experiences, you are young at 33 to run a major magazine. Thoughts?

I heard the same concern when I took over the Alcalde at age 26. Like anything else, the proof will be in the pudding.

Does this signal that TM will target new audiences, perhaps younger audiences?

Any business that wants to persist must think about appealing to its current customers and attracting future ones. We are as focused on that as any other forward-looking enterprise.

Do you plan to move TM beyond its traditional topics and personalities? What about more inclusion?

Texas Monthly must represent the people of Texas, and the contributors bearing the Texas Monthly imprimatur must span the social, geographic and political landscape of the state. It can’t be all Austin folks; nor can it be only urban voices. That said, it’s admittedly more art than science. We don’t intend to have any rigid quota system. And I would argue that the magazine does a pretty good job of soliciting a wide range of voices from across the state. All else considered, I’ll take a more interesting voice over a less interesting one, and a more credible reporter than a less reliable one.

 At the Alcalde, you notably did not swerve away from controversy. More of the same at TM?

I wouldn’t say that I intend to seek controversy for controversy’s sake. I’m not a shock artist. That said, we will go where enterprising journalism takes us. Sometimes that will be toward issues that are controversial. Safe doesn’t serve our readers.

What strategy will TM adopt to fake news in a post-truth era? How can fact-based media thrive in this environment?

The antidote to fake news is credibility. Texas Monthly has it in spades, and it must protect that credibility at all costs. Many news organizations are using this moment when people aren’t sure what is real and what isn’t to reassert their value. And the results have been heartening.

You interned at TM. What’s different about its culture and position in the state now?

I interned there 12 years ago, when Evan Smith was editor. At his direction, I spent my summer calling around the state collecting recommendations for the best high school football coaches as part of feature story. I was amazed how, whenever I would mention Texas Monthly, people would take the call. That was true then, and it is still true now. Texans know and love Texas Monthly. It is an institution.

TM has always hired some of the best writers in the state. How do you plan to keep them in your stable?

By turning them loose on projects they care about, and by supporting their work with modern digital tools that enrich the storytelling and the reading experience. Then expand the size of the audience, and improve the level of engagement with readers. Texas Monthly is known for writing that leaps off the page. That’s not going to change.

What’s Job No. 1 for you as the new editor in chief?

Job No. 1 is to articulate the vision and empower the team. We are incredibly lucky to have new ownership, who care about this vital Texas institution and are committed to making it succeed, as well as the best team of writers in editors in the state. Now it’s just time to get down to writing the next chapter of the Texas Monthly story. It’s one you won’t want to miss.