Newsflash

RDA Tour explores Houston's six original neighborhoods

 

Though the ward system in Houston was abandoned in 1906, the six neighborhoods retain strong senses of place and provide residents a tangible link, through architecture, to history and identity. 
 
The Rice Design Alliance Spring 2015 Architecture Tour, afterWARDS: An Architecture Tour of Houston’s Wards and Beyond, features houses that both stand out from and speak back to the original character of the six wards, emphasizing the past out of which Houston continues to evolve and expand.
 
Chaired by Joe Meppelink and Brett Zamore, afterWARDS will take place on Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12, from 1 to 6 p.m. The tour features the following houses and the architects who designed them:
 
• 734 Tulane Street, Shade Development, built in 2008; 
• 317 Sampson Street, Janusz Design, built in 2015;
• 2102 Francis Street, Brett Zamore Design, built in 2014; 
• 1217 Robin Street, Rodrigo Tovar, built in 2014;
• 1515 Woodhead Street, pb elemental design, built in 2013; 
• 1507 Chestnut Street, kinneymorrow architecture, built in 2015; 
• 714 and 716 Sabine Street, Gottleib Eisele, built in 1872 and Murphy Mears, built in 2014; and
• 205 St. Charles Street, CONTENT, built in 2014.
 
RDA has organized tours every year since 1975 to help Houstonians experience firsthand the most interesting works of architecture and landscape and interior design in the city. 
 
Tours are open only to RDA members, but RDA membership is open to the public. RDA memberships begin at $45 and can be purchased during the tour at designated ticket-buying locations or in advance online at www.ricedesignalliance.org and in person at the RDA office at Rice University. 
 
Memberships purchased at the Student or Individual Level include one complimentary ticket; memberships purchased at the Household Level and above include two.
Ticket prices for current members and their guests are $25, and $15 for Student and Senior Level members.
 
For more information, visit www.ricedesignalliance.org/.

Leadership Style of Oveta Culp Hobby

Born in Killeen in 1905, Oveta Culp’s small Texas town beginnings belied what would be her legacy: to become the first woman appointed a colonel in the United States Army, the second woman appointed to a U.S. presidential cabinet and a mover-and-shaker who helped make Houston great. 

The Power of One’s Word
In 1910, when the Women’s Christian Temperance League came to her Sunday school classroom asking the children to sign a pledge for temperance in exchange for a white ribbon, Oveta refused. When word got back to her grandmother, Oveta received a whipping. Her grandmother then asked why she didn’t sign the pledge. 
“Because I didn’t know what temperance meant, and I didn’t want to give my word on something for which I didn’t know what I was promising,” the five-year-old told her grandmother. 
 
Years later, Oveta told a slightly different version of the story. “While it’s true I didn’t know what temperance meant at the time, I wasn’t sure it  wasn’t something I might not want to do when I grew up.”
 
She was so noted for her integrity that when then U.S. Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson introduced her to the Congress at the hearing to approve her cabinet appointment as Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, he said, “Texans are not always in agreement on everything. But there’s one thing there’s no disagreement on—that’s Oveta. She’s the type of woman you’d like to have for a daughter or a sister…or the trustee of your estate.” 
 
Giving Women a Chance
In 1942, Oveta was appointed the Director of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and made a US Army Colonel. “As a staunch supporter of civil rights, Oveta campaigned to make sure that not only were black women represented in the WAAC, but that they were also invited to be part of the first class of Corps officers. She wanted to be sure that even though the women were segregated according to race (something over which she had no control due to Army regulations), the black women would have qualified officers of their own race as leaders.” 
 
Congress wanted to give pregnant female soldiers dishonorable discharges for “pregnancy without permission” (being unmarried). Oveta went before the august body and said, “If you’re going to give pregnant female soldiers dishonorable discharges, you also have to give the male soldiers who fathered illegitimate children dishonorable discharges with the same loss of rights and pay.” Congress changed their tune, and the women received medical treatment and honorable discharges, instead. 
 
When Kay Bailey graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1963, no Houston firm would hire a woman lawyer. On a whim, Kay Bailey stopped by KPRC-TV, owned at the time by The Houston Post, which was in turn owned by Oveta and her husband, the former Governor William P. Hobby. Even though Kay Bailey had no journalism experience, and there wasn’t a job opening at the time, the station manager called Oveta because “no one with a law degree had ever applied for a job at KPRC before.” 
 
Oveta told the station manager to hire Kay Bailey because “having her television station put the first woman on broadcast news was right up her alley.”  
 
Thirty years later, in 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison became the first female U.S. Senator elected from Texas.
 
Oveta applied the lessons she learned in the Army to her civilian life, keeping a rigid, structured schedule as she attended to both business and domestic duties. A 1953 Time magazine article, Lady in Command, described her in part:
 
“…she moved with the poise and confidence of a successful business executive...At home in Houston, she issues household instructions to her domestic staff at weekly meetings. A fitful sleeper, she keeps a notebook on her bedside table, makes frequent midnight notes on her ‘planned life.’ Her office appointments are lined up on a conveyor-belt schedule. Her double-handled calfskin bag, which she carries everywhere, is a special efficiency container which she designed for her business papers, her purse, and a Book of Common Prayer.”
 
Debra L. Winegarten is the author of “Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist.” She resides in Austin and is available for presentations on Oveta Culp Hobby. (www.sociosights.com)

Houston businesses confront workforce challenges

 

The recession of 2008 didn’t hit Houston as hard as it hit the rest of the country. Houston felt it later and pulled out of it earlier. Even the dip in revenue didn’t drop as low as it did in other areas, said Sue Burnett, founder and president of Burnett Specialists, Texas’ largest employee-owned staffing and placement firm.
 
Today, the region’s economy is chugging along as strong as ever, carried by a robust energy sector and brawny healthcare industry.
 
“The health of the Houston economy is excellent,” said Burnett, who started Burnett Specialists in 1974. “Texas is leading the way and has been for a while. Even during the recession, we were number one for job creation.”
 
The oil and gas industry drives much of Houston’s economy, Burnett said. It has an effect on every other industry in the city.
 
Burnett is placing a lot of administrative assistants, clerical specialists and human resources professionals in the engineering, accounting and legal sectors.
 
“We’re in a great job market,” Burnett said. “Unemployment is low. The stock market is at a record high. We’re seeing a lot of people moving to Houston because they want to take advantage of the strong economy, great housing market and low cost of living. That’s good for our local economy because those people buy houses, food and cars, or rent apartments, and that strengthens our economy even more.”
 
But, it’s not all roses, Burnett said. Houston’s unemployment is a low 6.2 percent, but there is still a segment of residents who are unemployed – and a segment of jobs that companies can’t fill.
 
Unfortunately, the unemployed don’t possess the necessary skills for the jobs that are going unfilled. And, if Houston doesn’t address that issue, it could spell trouble for the region’s future.
 
“There are a lot of people looking for a job, and a lot of openings. Unfortunately, sometimes the pool of applicants just doesn’t match the pool of openings,” Burnett said.
 
“As communities around the world rebuild their economies, many face a paradox: too many unemployed workers on the one hand and a large numbers of unfilled jobs on the other,” said Gina Luna of J.P. Morgan Chase and vice chair of the board of the Greater Houston Partnership.
 
Luna continued, “Like many cities around the world, Houston does not train enough skilled workers to fill jobs that are readily available. The result? The skills gap impacts everyone. If we can’t fill these jobs, it slows our economic growth. And it has a hugely negative impact on people who are unable to compete for good-paying jobs that will support themselves and their families.”
In that way, too – in dealing with the new, “global knowledge economy” of the 21st century – Houston is leading the country. 
 
The changing workforce
This is a result of the shift in America’s workforce that places more emphasis on a post-high school education from the bottom to the top, according to Stephen Klineberg of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.
The Greater Houston Partnership expects the Houston area to create nearly 300,000 jobs – such as welders, electricians and medical technicians – in the next five years that will require specific training — training that will necessitate at least one year of post-high school education.
 
And, becoming qualified for higher-end jobs requires even more education than ever, Klineberg said.
 
“There’s an epic transportation of the American workforce, especially here in Houston,” he said. That transformation is from a workforce manned by privileged white folks born in the years after World War II to today’s under-20 crowd, the vast majority of whom are poor, undereducated Hispanics and blacks.
 
“So, that’s a powerful question: will this next generation have the skills to get the jobs in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century?” Klineberg said. “That’s the great question mark of Houston and especially of Texas and, in fact, all of the United States.
 
“Not everybody has to go to college, but everybody has to get a year or two [of additional education] after high school. There are no decent jobs anymore for people with a high school degree or less.”
 
Houston’s response
But, these challenges are known. And, Houston is responding.
 
An effort is being made communitywide to reach out to youngsters to let them know that if they go to a community college, they can get the training for a middle-skill job making $60,000 to $70,000 a year.
 
The Greater Houston Partnership recently created UpSkill Houston, a comprehensive, industry-led approach to bridge the gap and fill jobs in middle-skills occupations. The Partnership has said 41 percent of all jobs in our area are considered middle-skills positions.
 
UpSkill Houston is a blueprint for leaders from the business community, educational institutions and social service organizations to build a quality workforce.
 
“For a problem as big and complex as the skills gap, no one company or even one industry can go it alone,” Luna said. “We need all the stakeholders – business, educators, government and the non-profit sector – to work together to solve this issue. While it’s an industry-led approach, UpSkill Houston brings all of these groups to the table so we can work together and build a quality workforce.”
 
Luna added, “The Gulf Coast is in the midst of an energy infrastructure construction boom, positioning our region for immense growth. UpSkill Houston is our strategic plan to make the most of this opportunity for our region, our city and its people.”
 
Some businesses are taking the initiative, as well, by setting up college programs for prospects, filling their ranks with qualified employees trained for the specific jobs they need.
 
Because early education is so important to developing a skilled workforce, the Partnership has also created Early Matters, a broad-based coalition of business, civic, education, non-profit organizations and volunteers working together to raise awareness about the importance of high-quality early education and to make a strong case for increased investment in pre-k programs.
 
“People understand this now,” Klineberg said. “Things are happening that would not have happened five or 10 years ago. And, equally true, not nearly enough is happening.”
 
Still more to do
“If we don’t turn around the terrible educational deficits in the Latino and African-American communities, we’re in trouble,” Klineberg warns. 
 
And, the jury is out on just how to do that and how effective we’re being at it. But, there is still a window of opportunity to fix the problem.
 
“If Houston’s black and Latino young people are unprepared to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century,” Klineberg said, “it is hard to envision a prosperous future for Houston.”
 
 

Two moms take positive steps to combat bullying

 

Long-time friends Sarah Fisher and Trish Morille, both marketing professionals, have known each other since their children were babies. So, it seemed only natural that the two would turn to each other to find a solution when their children began facing some tough bullying issues at school. 
 
“We cried a lot together and searched for ways we could help each other and help our kids,” Morille said. “We really struggled with why this was happening, and we didn't want to raise victims.”
 
As writers, they began to collaborate on scripts that would help their children respond to difficult situations. But, it wasn't until the spring of 2010 — when someone else's child tried to commit suicide after weeks of bullying — that the two decided they had to do more. 
 
The story about the eight-year-old who tried to jump off a second-floor balcony after having his pants pulled down at Blackshear Elementary brought the seriousness and the pervasiveness of the problem to the forefront. 
 
“At the time, there was already a national discussion going on about bullying,” Fisher said. “The stars aligned right when we, as moms, decided to take action.”
 
“It’s sad families and schools didn’t have the language or the understanding to really lock arms and help the kids,” she added. “We just felt there was an opportunity to get people to come together and to understand why these things happen. Why is it always a reaction to a tragedy that gets people talking? We should be able to get ahead of these things.”
 
A discussion among parents and educators gathered for coffee at Fisher’s house got the ball rolling and, soon after, +Works (Positive Works) was born. The organization they created is described as “a parent-driven, grassroots, non-profit organization serving as a catalyst for positive community change on bullying and other trending issues keeping adults and kids in our neighborhoods up at night.”
 
One of the first steps, Morille said, is to stop the blame game and look within to ensure parents are setting a positive example for their own children within their own homes, making a conscious effort to not gossip or speak ill of others. This model extended to the carpool, Fisher said, where they quickly spoke up to curtail any gossip between kids. 
“This is a positive car,” Fisher said, is the message they offered. “In this car, we’re not going to gossip. Here’s the good news: we’re not going to talk about you when you’re not here either.”
 
Morille and Fisher wrote a whitepaper together and Fisher, a graphic designer, created a bumper sticker encouraging others to speak up against bullying. 
 
“We believe, if you have the words, you have the courage to speak up,” Fisher said about the scripts offered to help children stand up for themselves and others. One script they offer is short and simple, but consists of four very strong words to defuse a bullying situation: “This is not okay.”
 
“When one person speaks up, the dynamic changes,” Morille added. “Everything can change. Then, other people have the courage to believe they can affect change.”
 
Since 2010, +Works has amassed a roster of 12 local public and private schools that subscribe to their program to reach children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. For as little as $5 per year per student, the organization provides the words, the tools and the visual reminders  to create a more positive learning environment and deal with issues of bullying. 
 
There are also opportunities for local businesses and organizations to join, provide support for the program and partner with +Works for fund-raising and cultural events. Family memberships are also available.
 
The program begins with education for parents, educators and coaches, because there has to be buy-in from the entire education community, the two founders said. They stress that +Works offers a mindset, not a curriculum, to spark discussions about how students want to be treated and how they should treat each other. 
 
The +Works program is now impacting more than 8,000 Houston-area students and their families, and Morille and Fisher agree that metrics are important to ensure their positive tools are working. Regular anonymous surveys of educators, parents and students provide the necessary feedback. 
 
Also, +Talks allow for conversations about trending issues that concern everyone, such as mental health, risky teen and pre-teen behaviors, hyper-competitiveness and the complications of advanced technology. 
 
“When we were all young, we didn’t have a lot of this stuff to deal with it,” Morille said. “Now, with technology –– with the click of a button or a swipe of your finger –– if we allow it, children are exposed to new things. What kind of cultural cocktail are we serving our kids? Do we even understand the ramifications of it all?” 
 
“Our mission has broadened because bullying is such a complicated issue,” she added. 
 

Hermann Park Conservancy celebrates

 

Hermann Park Conservancy celebrates the park’s largest improvement project to date this month with the grand opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion. This spectacular addition will be yet another reason to visit the 445-acre, urban oasis that over six million people enjoy annually.
 
The McGovern Centennial Gardens, designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects with White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture, will completely transform the 15-acre garden center site into a spectacular new attraction for park visitors.
 
It features a Family Garden, Centennial Green, 30’ Garden Mount, Celebration Garden, Rose Garden and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, designed by architect Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson, famed designer of the glass Apple stores worldwide.
 
As visitors explore the gardens, they will see 490+ new trees of over 50 different species, 760 hedge shrubs, 350 new roses in the Rose Garden, 106,875 other shrubs and perennials of 199 varieties, 115 new camellias and 650 new azaleas in the Woodland Garden and so much more.
 
Landscape Designer Doug Hoerr of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects described the changes this way, “The McGovern Centennial Gardens stand alone as a setting for respite, refuge and education and fit into the larger historical footprint of Hermann Park. This civic project provides the citizens of Houston with a memorable place to gather, for education, for beautification, gardening and growing food. The McGovern Centennial Gardens celebrate connecting people to the land.”
 
Jim Patterson of White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture added, “Public gardens are an indispensable part of great cities all over the world. We are so pleased to be part of building a great public garden for this great city.”
 
Presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most popular and historically significant public green spaces. Since its inception, Hermann Park has served as a tranquil refuge from the day-to-day bustle of city life. One hundred years later, the original vision for the park is  finally being realized, thanks to a Master Plan and a $123 million Centennial Capital Campaign conceived and executed by the Hermann Park Conservancy, a public/private partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.  
 
The money raised has gone not only into making McGovern Centennial Gardensand Cherie Flores Pavilion a reality but also into the rebirth of the beautiful Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool, the renovation and expansion of Lake Plaza and Hermann Park Railroad and the restoration of the Parks’s exercise trails along with many other improvements that have transformed the Park into one of the most idyllic public green spaces in the country.
 
“McGovern Centennial Gardens is the culmination of a 100-year vision that is finally getting its due. With the opening of the Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, visitors will be able to experience this incredible new garden space for free, seven days a week,” said Doreen Stoller, executive director of the Hermann Park Conservancy. “We are grateful for the rain. The trees in the park are happy, but our construction progress has been slowed. After our grand opening celebration, we will close the gardens for a few more weeks to complete the heavy work. Gardens are never a finished work, and this one is just getting started.”
 
Stoller explained, “This project is a labor of love, and we are thrilled to be able to present McGovern Centennial Gardens to the City of Houston during Hermann Park’s 100th year.”
 
Though Hermann Park’s Grand Gateway entrance from Mecom Fountain to the Sam Houston Monument will have to wait until 2015 for its unveiling, because of construction delays, Hermann Park Conservancy’s mission to complete the park’s Master Plan is one step away from being realized — after 25 years of fundraising, planning, planting and building one of America’s great municipal green spaces.
 
For more information, please visit www.hermannpark.org/.
 
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