An anchorwoman, entrepreneur, bank founder, prosecutor, cancer researcher, and teen parenting “angel” are the winners of Northside ISD’s highest award announced jointly today by NISD Superintendent Brian T. Woods, Ed.D.. and Northside Education Foundation President Merry K. Raba.
On Sept. 5, 2012, at the Westin La Cantera Resort, 5:30 p.m., six outstanding NISD graduates will be feted as Pillars of Northside’s Foundation, and will serve as character (trait) role models for NISD’s 98,000 students for an entire year.
2012 Pillars are chosen from the 100,000 graduates since the first graduating class in NISD history (1951). Today, Northside is the 4th-largest school system in Texas.To attend the 2012 Pillar Recognition Banquet, tables and individual seats are available for the black tie event from NISD Partnerships Office, 397-8599, or on the web at foundation.nisd.net. Funds raised at the event support NEF’s Classroom Innovation Grants-to-Teachers Program which awarded over $350,000 to 200-plus teachers last year. NEF’s 2012 theme will be “Igniting Innovation – Be the Spark, Light the Flame.”
Pillars represent the six character traits taught to NISD students in grades kindergarten through 12th that are part of the copyrighted Josephson’s Institute Character Counts Program. In addition to speaking at the 9/5 Pillar Banquet, honorees will visit campuses, talk to students, and be depicted on posters displayed in over 6,000 NISD classrooms throughout the 2012-2013 School Year.
According to NISD Guidance and Counseling Director Dr. Deborah Healy, “The Pillar Program is a perfect opportunity to recognize outstanding NISD graduates, and has also become the foundation of NISD’s character education program. It is a powerful experience when students actually meet the people whose traits of responsibility, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, respect, and citizenship make them successful people who may have attended the same schools, sat at the same desks.”
Pillars of Character
Uma Pemmaraju, ’76 Pillar of Responsibility
From New York City where she lives with her 13-year-old daughter, journalist Uma Pemmaraju is a news anchor and host for the Fox News Channel. For the Washington, D.C.-based show, “America’s News Headquarters,” she interviews key power players in the world of politics and business. For the series “Secrets of Success,” she highlights famous Americans who have overcome incredible odds (e.g. Buzz Aldrin, Carly Simon, Donald Trump, and Whoopie Goldberg). Her family immigrated from India to San Antonio where she attended Sunset Hills (now Colby Glass) and Pat Neff Middle School. She graduated from Holmes High School and earned a political science degree from Trinity University which included a year at American University and work as editor of the Trintonian. Early career moves included S.A. Express News, KENS-TV, and the NBC and CBS affiliates in Boston where she was named Best Anchor by Boston Magazine. Pemmaraju has won a number of Emmys and taught journalism ethics at Harvard.
Wade Cleary, ’88, Pillar of Trustworthiness
Entrepreneur/School Foundation Leader
In the “top 40 under 40” of San Antonio Business Journal at age 32, managing principal of Cleary Zimmermann Engineers Wade Cleary is currently working on the new San Antonio Federal Courthouse. Besides his father - an electrical engineer - and mother who was a mechanical engineer, Cleary cites his Clark High School physics teacher as an inspiration. He moved to San Antonio from Pleasanton when he was a freshman joining the football team “where I learned a lot about teamwork” and graduated from Texas A&M University. As a mechanical engineer at Marmon Mok Architects, he quickly became the firm’s youngest partner. Cleary Zimmermann Engineers, founded in 2006, is among the nation’s 100-largest MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) firms and has been named one of the “best places to work in S.A.” two years in a row. Cleary is Chairman of the Small Business Council of the North S.A. Chamber, and President-elect of NEF, co-sponsor of the Pillar program.
Eric G. Burns, ’90, Pillar of Caring
One of twelve prosecutors in the Prosecution Division of the City Attorney’s office, Eric G. Burns represents Code Enforcement, specializes in public nuisances, and is a key member of DART Inspections (Dangerous Assessment Response Team). Important to his career is negotiation, a skill he now teaches young African American men in the Brothers Helping Brothers program at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Eric attended Boone Elementary, Hobby Middle School, and Clark High School in NISD. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from St. Edwards University and then was accepted to Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston. Burns was an associate with Adami Goldman and Shuffield, then in-house counsel for the Texas Dental Board, before being hired by the City of San Antonio in 2006. A high school soccer player, he returned regularly to Clark to play in alumni games. His daughters attend Wanke Elementary and he coaches his daughter’s soccer team.
Monica Velasquez McIlwain, ’89, Pillar of Respect
Teen Parent Nonprofit Founder
Inspired to help others, Monica Velasquez McIlwain founded the Texas non-profit for single teen moms, TYME to Empower (Teaching Young Mothers to Excel) in 2006. She leads the Board of Directors of the Texas organization which encourages pregnant or new teen parents to finish. She attended Hobby and Rudder Middle Schools. McIlwain also attended Clark High School, lettered in Cross Country, and belonged to several on-campus clubs. She graduated on time in spite of her own pregnancy at age 17. She credits her experience with giving her impetus to start TYME to Empower, explaining that women “can accomplish their lifelong goals even with unanticipated responsibilities.” The organization provides donations of car seats, clothing, and much more. She earned a BA in Psychology from University of Incarnate Word and a Masters in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix by age 33. She has 3 children and 4 grandchildren, 2 of which she deems “honorary.”
Giancarlo “John” Ortega, ’96 Pillar of Fairness
Bank Founder/Youth Volunteer
Giancarlo Ortega came to San Antonio with his family at age four from Panama City, Panama, and by 2008 had founded Houston Business Bank, with $31 million in assets as its President and CEO, one of four new charters awarded by the Texas that year and one of the last nationally-approved by the FCID. Ortega has over 12 years’ experience in banking including JP Morgan Chase. Upon graduation from Taft High School where he played football four years, he attended Northern State University in South Dakota on a football scholarship until transferring to Baylor University to earn a finance degree. Highlights included an exchange semester at Hong Kong Baptist University and internship with Gov. George W. Bush. Time with family has replaced Ortega’s marathon running now that he and his wife have a child age 2 and twins age 3. His Bank’s mission includes mentoring middle schools students in Houston where he is was featured among the “top 40 under 40” by Houston Business Journal.
Dr. Martha Pritchett Mims,’74, Pillar of Citizenship
Biology Professor/Cancer Researcher
Fascination with math and science led Dr. Martha Pritchett Mims to pursue dual careers in medicine and research. Mims, who began her schooling in NISD at Sul Ross Middle School when her family moved to San Antonio, is now Associate Professor and Hematology/Oncology Section Chief at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. With a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rice University and MD from Baylor, Dr. Mims helped start clinical trials at Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center. She currently conducts research in lymphoma and prostate cancer, supervises residents and sees patients at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston as well other sites staffed by Baylor Medicine. A consummate volunteer, she cared for hurricane refugees who fled to the Houston Astrodome from New Orleans during Katrina. She is an Elder in St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church and active volunteer for Women of Vision, a Christian charity dedicated to raising money for women in children in underdeveloped countries (such as El Salvador).
Northside Education Foundation (Email)
6632 Bandera Road, Bldg. A
San Antonio, Texas 78238
(210)397-8599, fax (210)706-8846