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The Influentials

Texas has long been a place that attracts people who want to make a difference. It doesn’t matter who your parents are or how little money you have, if you possess a great idea and want to achieve great things, the Lone Star state welcomes you with no questions asked.

In this editorial series, CultureMap highlights those individuals who impact Houston in a big way. These leaders help shape our city with new — and often bold — ideas. Some are powerful household names; others fly under the radar and work tirelessly behind the scenes without recognition.

With the sheer force of persuasion and determination, the Houston Influentials are molding the economy, enhancing the culture and creating a blueprint for the 21st century — making our hometown a better place to live.


Nerd Power: Houston mayor opens up on closet cleaning, sci-fi love and Bill Clinton lessons

By Clifford Pugh

Jan 12th, 2014 at 10:36 AM

"Nerd" is a word that Mayor Annise Parker considers a badge of honor. During an interview, she proudly ticks off her self-described "nerd credentials" —  she likes to read (vampire and ...


Beyoncé might be her dream role, but chatty career keeps TV personality on top

By Shelby Hodge

Dec 22nd, 2013 at 2:40 PM

From the University of Texas School of Journalism to a stint in New York with the Lifetime network to television talk shows in Houston, Deborah Duncan enjoys her chatty career ...


Transplanted New York designer determined to make Houston a true fashion center

By Clifford Pugh

Nov 13th, 2013 at 12:54 PM

A family emergency brought David Peck to Houston four years ago, but from a business perspective, it's the best thing that happened to him. Peck has crafted a burgeoning ...


From cosmetics diva to private equity investor, this Astros partner shares roadmap to success

By Shelby Hodge

Oct 18th, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Janet Gurwitch might have left behind her hometown in Mississippi and her classmates at the University of Alabama some years ago, but she retains enough Southern graces combined with an ...


Houston Symphony's top gun reveals secrets to staying relevant and what makes him cry

By Clifford Pugh

Sep 17th, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Houston Symphony executive director and CEO Mark Hanson has been a busy man since arriving in the Bayou City three years ago. As the symphony celebrates its 100th anniversary, Hanson ...


Sustainability director leads Houston to a green future and all that jazz

By Shelby Hodge

Aug 6th, 2013 at 12:30 PM

You won't find many city employees more jazzed about their jobs or more committed to the mission than Laura Spanjian, Mayor Annise Parker's director of sustainability. When she ...


The Astrodome Judge opens up on enemies, social media critics, a king and his future

By Shelby Hodge

Jul 11th, 2013 at 3:58 PM

No question, it was Hurricane Ike and his commanding role as director of the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management that earned Harris County Judge Ed Emmett ...


University of Houston's rock star president reveals all: Top challenge, favorite restaurant and a closet secret

By Shelby Hodge

Jun 20th, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Since arriving at the helm of the University of Houston System as chancellor and as UH president in 2008, Renu Khator has been steadily transforming the university and enhancing the ...


Houston Grand Opera's leader is a bike nut, leaf-blower hating, Ethel Merman lover

By Shelby Hodge

May 28th, 2013 at 11:05 AM

As he approaches his 50th birthday, life is sweet for Houston Grand Opera artistic and music director Patrick Summers. He will spend most of the summer on the shores of ...


As fashion icon, BFF with Elton John and international swan, this lady is Houston's best ambassador

By Shelby Hodge

May 13th, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Just home from New York where she attended the Princess Grace Foundation board meeting as a founding trustee, she was able to catch a performance of Tristan & Isolde at Houston ...


Houston arts pioneer shoots straight on gallery growth, a happy marriage and closeted gay Republicans

By Shelby Hodge

Apr 17th, 2013 at 7:04 AM

When Hiram Butler opened his gallery in 1984, there was no Menil Collection, there were only three curators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (today there are a dozen ...


This rare homecoming queen/attorney is a rock star at Rice University

By Shelby Hodge

Mar 19th, 2013 at 7:06 AM

It's almost impossible to walk across the Rice University campus with Y. Ping Sun, wife of Rice president David Leebron, without her being stopped by admiring students and faculty ...


Barack Obama's friend is getting things done in H-Town with strong business moves and Harvard pluck

By Shelby Hodge

Mar 4th, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Little more than two weeks ago, Tony Chase was on the golf course in Florida with his close friend President Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane ...


Dynamo of community service leads the charge for a better Houston

By Shelby Hodge

Feb 19th, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Could there be anyone more community-oriented than Phoebe Tudor? A mother of three, she currently serves on 13 boards or advisory boards. Since 2009, she has chaired or co-chaired with ...


A power player in designer threads: New Houston Port Commission leader channels Margaret Thatcher

By Shelby Hodge

Jan 28th, 2013 at 12:20 PM

We dare say that Janiece Longoria is the first chairman of the Houston Port Commission to be sworn in wearing a suit by Valentino. After all, she is the first ...

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