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   MISSION STATEMENT

“The Tom Lea Institute was created to engender an appreciation of the art, character, and legacy of Tom Lea.  It is committed to educating students and the public about Tom Lea’s relevance to history, art, and literature.  Through  curricula, public programs, exhibits, and publications, the Institute shares Lea’s legacy in order to inspire present and future generations.”

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2024 Board of directors

Officers:

 

Joe Lea Jr., CHAIR, Austin

Tania Schwartz, CHAIR-ELECT, El Paso

Cecilia Hager, SECRETARY, Fredericksburg

Stephen "Steve" Feinberg, FINANCE, Santa Fe, NM

James H. Polk, Finance, FINANCE, Santa Fe, NM

 

Directors:

Myra Crownover, Austin

Allan Gilmer, El Paso

Sarah Pope Laucirica, El Paso 

Catherine Lea Weeks, Houston

Charles "Pete" Leavell, Denver, Colorado

Trudy Lewis, Odessa

Adair Margo, FOUNDER, El Paso

Vidal Martinez, 

Patricia "Isha" Rogers Santamaria, El Paso

Laura Schwartz Smith, El Paso

Leola Westbrook Lawrence, El Paso

Raymond White, Austin

 

HONORARy:

Laura Bush, Dallas

Micki Costello, Fredericksburg, VA

Bill Kiely*, Spicewood

James D. Lea*, Houston

meet the board

Officers:

JOE LEA, JR. (Chairman) a graduate of the University of Texas Law School, is an Austin trial lawyer and arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association.  He has practiced law for over 54 years, his early years spent in El Paso where he was raised.  Joe’s granddad, a frontier defense lawyer known as “Chief Rain in the Face” - tears being his chief weapon.  He  was mayor of El Paso from 1915-17 during the Mexican Revolution when Pancho Villa threatened to kill the presidente municipal and kidnap his two sons.  That’s why Joe’s dad and his uncle Tom walked to Lamar Elementary School with a policeman, who slept on a cot in the foyer of their home at night. Mayor Lea had collections of Casas Grandes pots and guns in his study.  Joe inherited his granddad’s gun collection, including Benito Juarez’s Colt dueling pistols and the rifle with silencer belonging to the assassin hired by Pancho Villa.   Joe is married to Carol Furr Lea and they have three married daughters and six grandchildren. 

TANIA SCHWARTZ (Chair-Elect) ) is Vice President of The Mesa Group and a Trustee of the Schwartz Foundation.  She is on the Board of Directors for the Texas Cultural Trust and has served as President of Texas Women for the Arts.  Born into a bi-cultural family in El Paso, Tania has a passion for learning through the arts and encouraging young people to achieve their personal best.  She was inducted into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and El Paso Women of Impact in 2023.  Tania lives in El Paso and Newport Beach with her husband, Scott, and has two sons, Max and Sam.  Three generations of the Schwartz family were close friends and Tom Lea collectors.  Her mother-in-law, Susan Amstater Schwartz, recorded a video for the Tom Lea Institute that recalls her visits to the Lea home and Tom’s visits to their stable preparing for his portrait of Susan’s Morgan Mare, her favorite work of art.   Tania curated a private showing of her family’s Tom Lea collection of art and books in her upper valley home for the Tom Lea Giving Circle in 2023.

CECILIA HAGER (Secretary) is a San Antonio native who spent her formative years on South Texas ranches in Brooks and Zavala counties with familial ties to King Ranch.  She is also a pilot, voracious reader, and talented mixed media artist known for art cube tables made in homage to subjects as diverse as Mexican cinema, Texas coastal scenes, wildlife, and Tom Lea’s Brave Bulls. Using mosaic, glitter, trim and other embellishments, she brings subjects off the printed page and into the world of furnishings.  She holds a B.A. in Communications from Trinity University and has served on the boards of the Uvalde Arts Council, Hill Country CASA, Kerrville Public School Foundation, Texas Public Radio, and South Texas Cattle Women.  Cecilia was instrumental in the production of the Tom Lea Institute’s Uncommon Valor curriculum made with the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg.  She is married to George Hager and between them they have five children and eight grandchildren.

STEPHEN 'STEVE' FEINBERG (Finance) ) is Chairman and CEO of Dorsar Investment Co., a diversified investment company with interests in real estate, agriculture, and private equity.  Born in Chicago, Steve was raised in El Paso where his grandfather settled in 1910 after migrating from the Pale of Settlement of the Russian Empire.  Izzy Feinberg started in the junk business and prospered during the Mexican Revolution and the growth of Fort Bliss due to the demand for metals and iron.  The family business expanded to El Paso Iron and Metal, El Paso Pipe & Supply, and Border Steel in 1960, diversifying into real estate and investments.   In portraying El Paso personalities in his novel, The Wonderful Country, Tom Lea depended on the extraordinary history of his Jewish friends in developing his character, Ludwig Sterner.    Steve collects Tom Lea’s art and is the founder of El Paso’s Kids Excell, which teaches children excellence through dance.   He is married to Susan L. Foote and has homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico and El Paso.   He has two sons and four grandchildren.

JAMES H. (JAMIE) POLK (Finance) was active in the real estate investment business in El Paso and Santa Fe with the ArchstoneSmith Trust and Security Capital Group.  Through his parent’s close friendship with Tom Lea, he has been an admirer and collector of his works for years and owns the portrait Tom made of his father – four-star general James H. Polk,  Commander of US Army Europe (1967-71) and one of the last senior army commanders to serve in the horse cavalry.  Tom, who reserved the pleasure of portraiture for himself, asked to draw his friend upon retirement while he still had the eyes of a warrior.   Jamie’s past board affiliations include the Lee Moor Children’s Home in El Paso, New Mexico Nature Conservancy and St. John’s College in Santa Fe and Annapolis.  He received an engineering degree from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the University of Virginia.  He lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Mary, and enjoys spending time with family in Austin and Denver.  He and Mary have two daughters and two grandchildren. 

Directors:

 

MYRA CROWNOVER, is a fifth generation Texan with deep family history in ranching, oil and gas, and public service.  She earned her BA from SMU and her MA from Texas A&M at the same time her husband, Ronny, earned his DVM.  After settling in Denton, they raised four sons while Myra was active in church, served on non-profit boards, and managed the family drilling company.  After 30 years of marriage, Ronny was elected State Representative but died of leukemia his first term.  Myra ran for the position, serving six terms on the Appropriations Committee and being appointed to the House/Senate Conference Committee responsible for writing the state budget .  She also chaired the Public Health Committee and Vice Chair of Energy Resources before retiring in 2017.    Myra and her husband Terral Smith joined the Tom Lea Institute delegation to Brussels in 2019 at the invitation of Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison and she has traveled the Tom Lea Trail in Chihuahua.  She and Terral have 5 children and 15 grandchildren between them.

 

ALLEN GILMER, is a native of El Paso whose interests range from geophysics to filmmaking.  With an earth science degree from Rice and Master’s in geology from UTEP, he was a geophysicist before becoming co-founder and CEO/Chairman of  Drillinginfo ( later Enervus), which provided subscription-based data, analysis, intelligence and other services to the oil and gas sector, growing into the world’s largest SaaS (Software as a Service) corporation serving energy markets.  With movies a major part of his life growing up, Allen and his wife, Riki, founded the production company Tiki Tane Pictures with their  first feature film, Death in Texas, released in 2021.   It premiered at El Paso’s Plaza Theater where the films made from Tom Lea’s novels, The Brave Bulls (1951) starring Mel Ferrer and The Wonderful Country (1959) starring Robert Mitchum had their world premieres.  Having enjoyed success themselves, Allen and Riki invest in helping others fulfill their potential.  They’ve also helped preserve the legacy of Tom Lea, becoming the Juan Maria Ponce de Leon members of the Society of XII Travelers in honor of Allen’s dad, Jerry Gilmer.

 

SARAH POPE LAUCIRICA, (Giving Circleis originally from Johnson City, Tennessee. Her undergraduate studies in Art and Design at SMU were followed by studies in Interior Architecture at the Art Institute of Atlanta and a Masters in Construction Engineering from East Tennessee State University.  From her initial experience as a congressional staff writer and ABC News Anchor, Sarah’s path ultimately led her to engineering roles with IBM internationally and the TechnipFMC (oil and gas) in Houston where she met her husband Rudy.  They moved to El Paso when he became Chair of Pathology for the Providence Hospital System and Sarah feels fortunate to have discovered Tom Lea, whose art and writings have helped shape her love of the Borderlands region.  She’s shared Tom Lea programs with new friends, even timing a birthday celebration to coincide with the launching of the Tom Lea Trail at the Bush Presidential Library in Dallas.  Sarah is a partner in a design-construction company in El Paso.

CHARLES "PETE" LEAVALL, is CEO of 4UR Ranch Inc. in Creede, Colorado - a luxury guest ranch where his parents, Charles and Shirley Leavell, spent many days fishing with Tom and Sarah Lea and where Tom drew a beautiful map of the property.  Pete went to Stanford University and subsequently served as an artillery officer in the 3rd Armored Division before being discharged with the rank of Captain.  In 1974 he produced an award-winning documentary of the Grand Prix Racing Circuit that was accepted at the Cannes Film Festival.  He retired as CEO of Renaissance Entertainment Corp in 2007, and founded the Leavell Management Group, which acquired, developed, and managed real estate ventures including the 4UR Ranch.  He’s served on the boards of the Denver International Film Festival, Colorado Conservation Trust as Chairman, The Alliance for Choice in Education as Chairman and as a Trustee of Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs. He and his artist wife, Lindsey, have two grown children and two grandchildren.

TRUDY LEWIS is a retired public-school teacher.  She spent 39 years teaching AP U.S. and European history as well as International Baccalaureate history of the Americas in Waco, Midland, and Odessa.  While teaching in Odessa, she regularly took students to visit Tom Lea’s 1940 Stampede mural in the post office, sharing the cowboy poem Little Joe the Wrangler that motivated it.  Her teaching had such an impact that one student later composed a musical piece inspired by Stampede.   In 2014, she presented at a Smithsonian American Art Museum conference on Tom Lea’s New Deal murals, helping forge an historic agreement between the US Postal Service and Odessa Council for the Arts and the Humanities to restore and care for Stampede.  The mural had been severely damaged after being moved from the original post office into a modern low-ceilinged building opened 24 hours a day.  For the first time, the U.S. Postal Service allowed a community to restore federal property and move the mural into a safe environment at the Ellen Noel Museum.  Trudy is married to former Texas legislator and TXDOT chairman, Tryon Lewis, now a federal judge.  

ADAIR MARGO (Founder) owned Adair Margo Gallery in El Paso, exhibiting 400 artists from 12 countries.  She became devoted to Tom Lea and founded the Tom Lea Institute in 2009.   She has authored or contributed to seven books, including the award-winning Tom Lea, An Oral History and Tom Lea’s World War II.  Adair chaired the Texas Commission on the Arts and served on Humanities Texas and the Texas Higher Education Boards before being appointed chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities during the two-term presidency of George W. Bush.  She also served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO.  She received the US Presidential Citizens Medal and the Mexican Aguila Azteca for her work in cultural diplomacy.  A former First Lady of El Paso, she earned her B.A. in Art History from Vanderbilt; studied Renaissance art with Syracuse in Florence, Italy; and completed her M.A. in Art History from New Mexico State University.   She is married to former Texas legislator Dee Margo, has two children and five grandchildren. 

VIDAL MARTINEZ, began his career as a federal prosecutor in Houston in 1978 after graduating from UT Austin and University of Houston Law School.   He’s been in private practice since 1981 specializing in business transactions and dispute resolution, mainly in Latin America.  For 7 years he ranked #1 in Texas Lawyer as the state’s “Go To” international attorney and later served as Chair of the Texas State Bar.   He also serves on the board of Houston Methodist Hospital and was a Port of Houston Commissioner.  Raised in El Paso with family roots in Chihuahua, Vidal speaks fluent Spanish.  His father, Mike Martinez, was a classmate of Tom Lea’s youngest brother, Dick, and later of Tom and Sarah Lea’s son, Jim.  Mike spent time in the Lea household where he heard stories of Pancho Villa putting a price on Mayor Lea’s head.   Having fled Chihuahua during the Mexican Revolution, his family saw its destructive impact from both sides of the border.  Vidal was appointed to the University of Houston Board of Regents and serves on the Chancellor’s Council of UT Austin.  He is married to Debbie Martinez.  They have two children and three grandchildren.  

PATRICIA "ISHA" ROGERS SANTAMARIA, is an El Paso native committed to acquiring and restoring historic properties with her husband, Steve Santamaria.  Their company, Saint Rogers – a combination of both Isha’s and Steve’s last names- has injected life into the old Southwestern Railroad and Freight Depot near downtown, and the Saint Rogers apartments on Stanton Street where Tom and Sarah Lea lived after they married in 1938 and where a Tom Lea Airbnb exists for visitors and those traveling the Tom Lea Trail.  Isha was the first person to fly the trail after the Texas Legislature recognized it in 2017, visiting the Bush Presidential Library and Hall of State in Dallas, UT Medical Branch in Galveston, and Baylor University and the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco.  Isha and Steve are also working to beautify Murchison Park at the southernmost point of Mount Franklin, which Tom Lea commemorated in his illustrated poem, Old Mount Franklin.  Isha and Steve have three grown children and one grandchild.

LAURA SCHWARTZ  SMITH, is an El Paso native who tells stories and explores cultures through the lens of a Leica camera.  A graduate of Tulane University in Mass Communications and Fine Art Photography, she’s worked for over 30 years traveling the world photographing food and travel for national magazines and cookbooks. At Saveur magazine, she broke from common practice of photographing styled dishes under studio lights, approaching food as a reporter instead - quickly and in natural light.  Two cookbooks Laurie photographed were by culinary legend Zarela Martinez, who started in El Paso.  Recently Laurie has documented migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, bearing witness to the  humanitarian crises.  Exhibitions include “Border Wall, Landscape, Architectonics, Human Crisis,” at University of Colorado School of Architecture and Planning,  and “Mapping Perspectives” at Houston’s Throughline Collective.  Both sets of Laurie’s grandparents were friends of Tom and Sarah Lea, her grandfather, four-star general James H. Polk, the subject of a portrait.  Laurie is married to Bobby Smith and they have two children, Jamie and Elizabeth (Zibby).

CATHERINE LEA WEEKS is the granddaughter of Tom and Sarah Lea - the daughter of James Dighton Lea.   A native of Houston, Catherine grew up visiting her grandparents in El Paso, remembering holidays at their home on the sunrise side of Mount Franklin, surrounded by her grandfather’s library and paintings.  His beautiful “Sarah in the Summertime” painted of her grandmother after WWII hung in the living room and today hangs in her Houston home.  Catherine grew up with many stories including those of her father playing chess with the Chinese chef when “The Brave Bulls” was being filmed in Hollywood.  Catherine received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Houston and for 22 years she has worked in the oil and gas industry for Shell Oil Products US, Shell Trading and Phillips66.   She is a founding member of the Tom Lea Institute and has been instrumental in its effectiveness, permitting a licensing agreement for her grandfather’s art.  Catherine has three grown sons – Curtis, Thomas and Stephen Faldyn- and two grandsons, Wayton Faldyn and Jaxon Scholze.    

LEOLA WESTBROOK   brings her expertise from the entertainment industry as a television executive producer. With 20 years experience in the Docu-Series/Reality genre, her work has aired on a variety of networks, including Bravo, Lifetime, BET, A&E, the CW, TLC, MTV, VH1, Oxygen, E! Entertainment, USA Network, and HBO Max. Leola was part of the team that produced a 2008 Media Award nominated TV show, Shirts & Skins, and played a key role as Producer on MTV’s Making His Band. Her versatility matches her creativity working across a wide range of genres including reality, sports, documentary, drama, romance, adventure, action, and game show. Currently she’s the Executive Producer/Showrunner for Queens Court and The Real Housewives of Dubai. A transplant from Los Angeles married to pediatric surgeon John Lawrence, Leola says her entertainment friends always want to know what the New Now Next is. She tells them without hesitation it’s El Paso. She’s pleased to be a part of a dynamic organization perpetuating the legacy of Tom Lea, El Paso’s creative native son.

Honorary:

LAURA BUSH is one of the most beloved and admired American First Ladies.  An educator at heart, she has championed key issues in education, health care, and human rights.  She  has traveled to more than 76 countries, including two historic solo trips to Afghanistan and she chairs the Woman’s Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.  When First Lady of Texas, she founded the Texas Book Festival, honoring Tom Lea in El Paso at her first Book Festival on the Road event.  She shared Tom Lea’s quote about living “on the sunrise side of the mountain” with her husband and chose his “Rio Grande” painting on loan from the El Paso Museum of Art for the Oval Office.  She holds a degree in education from SMU and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas.  She and President Bush are the parents of twin daughters and have four grandchildren.

MICKI COSTELLO, was born in Vallejo, California but spent a lifetime on the move, first as the daughter of an Air Force pilot and then as an Army wife.  When her husband, Lieutenant General Jack Costello, commanded Fort Bliss in El Paso, the couple became well acquainted with the life and work of Tom Lea.  Micki later worked in the Army Family Liaison Office in the Pentagon while operating a small art business in Clifton, Virginia before moving to Dallas where her paintings were featured in local galleries.  She holds B.A. in Art and Performance from UT Dallas and served as the second Chairman of the Board for the Tom Lea Institute, literally getting it off the ground.   Micki was also  instrumental in organizing a Tom Lea WWII conference at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2014.  

WILLIAM 'BILL' KIELY * Water centered the life trajectory of El Paso native Bill Kiely - from his childhood playing in irrigation water on his parents’ Vinton farm, to earning his engineering degree from Texas Western College (now UTEP), to soldiering in Vietnam’s rice paddies.  He became a pioneer in deep water submersibles and off-shore terminals for oil supertankers.  Admiring Tom Lea since boyhood, Bill and his wife Ann began collecting his paintings in the 1990’s.  They built a strong friendship and initiated the Tom Lea, Life Magazine and World War II exhibit inaugurated at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg before it travelled to the National World War II Museum.  Bill and Ann are the Big Foot Wallace members of the Society of XII Travelers of the Tom Lea Institute.   

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