Gov. Perry inducts 9 into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame

Gov. Perry inducts 9 into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame
Posted on: May 6, 2014 | By Lauren McGaughy

First Lady Anita Perry, Secretary of State Nandita Berry and Houston-area state Rep. Senfronia Thompson were just three of the honorees Gov. Rick Perry inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

The biennial awards were handed out to nine women in a ceremony held in Texas State Senate Chambers. The inductees, chosen for the leadership they exhibited in everything from business and health advocacy to community and public service, will be featured in the state’s Hall of Fame permanent exhibit at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. The names of more than 100 notable women have been added to the list since it was established in 1984 under then-Gov. Mark White.

During his keynote address, Perry said the successes of these women are all the greater for having been made in the face of often overwhelming societal barriers. He said the Hall of Fame is a place for the state’s greatest, many of whom were “non-conformists.” “Yes Senfronia, I’m looking at you,” Perry joked, referring to Thompson, the longest-serving woman and African-American in the Texas Legislature.

After the ceremony, Thompson said her greatest achievement has been standing up for Texas citizens who can’t afford lobbyists, whom she calls the “little dogs.” When asked about her long career – she was first voted in in 1972 and has been re-elected 21 times – she said serving in the state Legislature is more than just a job to her. “It’s not work to me. It’s something I fell in love with.” Thompson arguably received the loudest standing ovation of the inductees Tuesday, the video presentation of her life and leadership ending with her proclaiming indigent and uneducated Texans are “not asking for a handout. They’re asking to be lifted up.”

Newly-minted Secretary of State Nandita Berry also was honored for her accomplishments in the business and legal fields. During his speech, Perry specifically touched on Berry and her path – from her arrival in the U.S. 25 years ago with less than $200 in her pocket, to her naturalization, thriving legal career working for Fortune 500 companies and international law firms and, finally, her appointment as Texas’ first Secretary of State of Indian descent in January.

Perry also honored his wife, Anita, with a leadership award. During her video presentation, Anita Perry noted her long career as a nurse and her efforts to promote economic development, child immunization and anti-domestic violence programs during her years as First Lady of Texas. Gov. Perry also thanked his wife for saying yes to his marriage proposal, more than 16 years after they first started dating.

The recipients are chosen from nominations submitted and reviewed by a panel of judges. Past honorees include former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, basketball star Sheryl Swoops, astronaut Sally Ride, George W. Bush counselor and ex-U.S. State Department Undersecretary Karen Hughes and Ann Richards, Texas’ most recent female governor.

Below is a full list of the 2014 inductees to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame:

- Nandita Berry (Business Award): Texas Secretary of State, the first of Indian descent, appointed Jan. 7, 2014; former counsel at Locke Lorde LLP in Houston. – Lillie Biggins (Health Award): President of the non-profit medical center Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Chair of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board of Directors.

- Joanne Herring (Community Service Award): Houston-area socialite, businesswoman, philanthropist and cultural ambassador; active in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a key driver in U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson’s efforts to convince Congress to support Afghan fighters against the Soviet incursion.

- Ret. Col. Kim Olson (Military Award): President and CEO of Grace Under Fire, a nonprofit serving female veterans; retired Air Force colonel and one of the first female military pilots to command an operational flying squadron; after serving on the Joint Staff and under the Secretary of Defense, she became the Director of Human Resources for the Dallas Independent School District. Also served in Texas State Guard as IT and personnel systems head.

- Anita Perry (Leadership Award): longest-serving First Lady of Texas; former nurse and current advocate for Texas economic development, childhood immunizations, breast cancer awareness, and anti-domestic violence and sexual assault programs; founded the Texas Conference of Women in 2000.

- Dr. Ann Stuart (Education Award): Chancellor and President of Texas Woman’s University; has grown university enrollment 85 percent under her tenure, which began in 1999; supporter of programs benefiting animals and natural spaces, like the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and Dallas Zoo.

- State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (Public Service Award): longest-serving woman and African-American in the state Legislature; Houston attorney; author of anti-hate crime and human trafficking legislation and laws creating a minimum wage and state drug courts; former public school teacher.

- Deborah Tucker (Community Service Award): Founder of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence; former school teacher and founder of the Austin Center for Battered Women, the nation’s first shelter for abused women and their children.

- Carolyn Wright (Public Service Award): Chief Justice for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals; first African-American head of a Texas intermediate court of appeal and first black woman to win a multi-county election in the Lone Star State; civil, family and criminal judge with 30 years experience; Houston-born recipient of the Yellow Rose of Texas award for community service.