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2022 Oral History Honorees

Below are summaries of the people interviewed by AHCA's Oral History Committee.

Joe Bryson describes moving to Austin from Corpus Christi in the 1960s to attend the University of Texas and opening Inner Sanctum Records, the wildly popular independent record store that he operated near The Drag throughout the evolving music scene of the 1970s and early 1980s. Joe discusses his career moves into videography, media, and real estate, buoyed by his deep love for Austin and the many friendships that have made living here so special.

Former Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir recounts her graduation from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, her election to county office in 1986, and her nearly forty years serving the citizens of Travis County. Invited by the United Nations to assist with significant elections in London, South Africa, Bangladesh, and other locales, Dana shares the challenges and rewards of her career and her dedication to philanthropic causes in Austin.

Susan Engelking is the Executive Director of the Institute for Community MicroMobility, which consults with cities on low-cost urban mobility solutions. She is the author of Tiny Transit: Cut Carbon Emissions in Your City Before It's Too Late. Susan served on the three long-range economic development plans for Austin during the 1990s–2000s. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from UT and a master’ s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Photographer Robert Godwin discusses growing up in an Air Force family, his education at UT, and his early days working for the Austin Citizen. Tapped to photograph philanthropic, social, and cultural events throughout Austin, followed by a role at the St. David’s Foundation, Robert established an enduring career and developed a deep appreciation for the dedicated people and organizations that have contributed so much to the city.

Native Austinite Monica Guzmán discusses growing up in northwest Austin and overcoming challenges to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at St. Edward’s University and Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio. Realizing at an early age that she was interested in serving her community, Monica became a community organizer on housing affordability and other issues, and she currently serves as Policy Director at local non-profit GO! Austin/VAMOS! Austin.

Carol Hatfield traces her family’s roots to the settlers who received land grants in Stephen F. Austin’s first colony. She tells heart-warming stories of being the oldest in a family of seven girls, spending parts of her childhood in Mexico City, Washington, D.C., and other locales, and studying journalism at UT. Carol established and edited UT’s Discovery Magazine, a magazine dedicated to publicizing UT faculty research.

Biruta Celmins Kearl (deceased) was born in Italy to parents who were refugees in the wake of World War II, and her family eventually settled in San Antonio. Biruta discusses her degrees from UT in art history and library science, her subsequent career with the Central Texas Library System, and her role as Director of the Austin History Center, where she shared her passion and expertise to enrich the AHC’s outreach and collections.

Community leader Harish Kotecha recounts his childhood in Uganda, earning his engineering degree at the University of London, and coming to the United States after dictator Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda. After retiring from a successful career at IBM, Harish founded Hindu Charities for America (dba Education and Careers for America) to provide scholarships and other support to economically disadvantaged children to give back to the community.

Musician Paul Leary recounts convincing his parents to buy him guitar when he was in elementary school in San Antonio and the thrill of performing for his fellow students. After graduating from Trinity University, Paul briefly considered becoming a stockbroker but embarked instead on a legendary run as lead guitarist for the Butthole Surfers, a rock band with punk, Dada, and other influences that left an indelible imprint on the national and international music scenes.

Glen Maxey discusses growing up in Baytown, his early forays into politics as a teen, and becoming a teacher in Navasota after earning degrees at Sam Houston State University. Glen was involved in HIV/AIDS activism in the 1980s and served as executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby prior to his many legislative successes, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Fifth-generation Austinite Emma Lea Mayton shares stories of her childhood growing up in Austin, being in the Longhorn Band, and her many years as an arts educator. Honored as a “Daily Point of Light” by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Emma Lea has served the community through her role on the Board of Governors for Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms and in leadership positions with her local faith community.

Fifth-generation Austinite Forrest Preece recounts his idyllic post-World War II childhood in the Rosedale neighborhood, his early interest in writing, his years in the Longhorn Band, and the fateful day in 1966 when he and some friends had a close call during the UT Tower mass shooting by Charles Whitman. Forrest forged successful careers in advertising and writing and has been a longtime supporter of the Austin arts and literary scenes and UT women’s athletics.

As the daughter of Texas’s longest-serving lieutenant governor, MariBen Ramsey shares stories of living in the State Capitol as a young child, her fun but competitive school years, and earning accounting and law degrees at UT. After a stint with major corporate law firms, MariBen found her calling in leadership roles with the Austin Community Foundation, the National Junior League, and many other philanthropic and community service organizations.

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez discusses having her world opened up to new people when she came to UT from the small town of Devine, Texas, in the 1970s. Maggie wrote for The Daily Texan and other local media outlets while earning her degree in journalism, and she earned graduate degrees and pursued a successful journalism career prior to founding the Voces Oral History Project as a professor at UT.

Former Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza describes overcoming challenges to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UT and Antioch College in the 1970s and her early career with a non-profit assisting minorities and women with job placement. Prior to becoming District Clerk, Amalia served as Travis County’s Director of Voter Registration, and she has served in leadership roles with a number of non-profit and community service organizations.

Brothers Harvey and Howard Ware grew up in Louisiana and ran track at Kansas State and Texas Southern Universities, respectively. They founded the Austin Striders Track and Field Club in 1978, which focuses on providing opportunities for young people to compete through discipline and dedication. The club has seen many of its athletes compete at the collegiate level. The brothers also coached at Huston-Tillotson University and have continued to serve their community through their love of track and field.

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