Communication Achievement Award Winners
What is this award?
The Austin Toastmasters founders set high standards for commitment, protocol and excellence. That foundation remains strong today as illustrated by our lively meetings, our strong, vibrant membership and the impressive honors we have earned.
In 1982, we awarded our first Communication Achievement Award to local news anchor Neil Spelce, beginning a tradition that has now reached 36 years. Professionalism, commitment to excellence and, above all, a welcoming and nurturing environment are what make us The Greatest Toastmasters Club in the Known Universe!
Each recipient is honored at our annual banquet in June where we get the honor and pleasure of hearing them speak in front of a large audience.
Our 2016 Banquet honored the legendary Bob Cole, who dazzled us with his humor and charmed us as he spread his wisdom to the gathered masses.
Past Communication Achievement Award Winners
Neil Spelce - 1982
More than an observer,Neal Spelce has been a participant in the city’s civic and business life. Since 1979 he’s published the Neal Spelce Austin Letter that, he says, gives him a chance to ruminate on what’s going on in the city and to stay plugged in. Every week he’s written 1,500 words and never busted a deadline.
Ron Mullen - 1983
Ron Mullen CLU, ChFC has been in the insurance and financial services business since 1964. He began building a branch of the Principal Financial Group in the Central Texas area in 1966 and retired after 34 years. He is now a principal in the firm of Small Employer Benefits L.P. This firm has been using HB897 to help small companies form coalitions and reduce their health premiums. Through the Austin Chamber of Commerce, small businesses have saved over $380,000 on health premiums. Forty-four Chambers of Commerce now have working agreements with his firm, to promote this concept to their members.
Ann Richards - 1984
Ann Richards was an American politician and the 45th Governor of Texas. A Democrat, she first came to national attention as the state treasurer of Texas, when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Richards served as the 45th Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995 and was defeated for re-election in 1994 by George W. Bush. Richards was the second female governor of Texas, and was frequently noted in the media for her outspoken feminism and her one-liners
Jim Hightower - 1985
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and New York Times best-selling author, Jim Hightower has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
Barbara Jordan - 1986
Barbara Jordan was a lawyer, educator, an American politician, and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American female elected to the United States House of Representatives, the first known lesbian elected to the United States Congress (though this was not known to the public during her tenure), and the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. She was a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1978 to 1980. On her death, she became the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.
Jody Conradt - 1987
Jody Conradt is a retired women's basketball coach. She was the head coach for the women's team at University of Texas at Austin (UT). Her coaching career spanned 38 years, with the last 31 years at UT from 1976 to 2007. She also served concurrently as the UT women's athletic director from 1992 to 2001. During her tenure at UT, she achieved several notable personal and team milestones in collegiate basketball. At retirement, she had tallied 900 career victories,
Gonzalo Barrientos - 1988
Gonzalo Barrientos is a former Democratic member of the Texas Senate representing the 14th District from 1985 to 2007. He was also a member of the Texas House of Representatives from Austin from 1975 to 1985.
Wally Pryor - 1989
Wally Pryor was the “Voice of the Longhorns,” whose smooth, deadpan style became synonymous with University of Texas football and basketball for nearly 40 years. Pryor’s voice was known to cut through the crowds of tens of thousands at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. His quick announcement of “quarter” encapsulated his straight delivery that was touched with a tinge of humor.
Molly Ivins - 1991
You either loved or hated Molly Ivins. She was a political commentator with a sharp wit -- a take-no-prisoners critic of what she considered silly, outrageous, or unfair. Molly Ivins was based in Texas, and both loved and made fun of her state and its culture and politicians.
Nick Barbaro - 1992
One of the most enduringly influential characters in Texas music is Nick Barbaro, co-founder and publisher of the Austin Chronicle and co-creator of South by Southwest. A quiet, reflective man by nature, his watchful eye, acute observations and his nurturing of creative talent have helped define the music community and arguably, the character of Austin.
Brigid Shea - 1993
From fighting for affordability, ethics reform, stretching Austin's water supply and reducing taxes, to holding the toll road authority accountable and increasing Austin's community preparedness for floods and wildfires, Brigind Shea believes she's in the right place at the right time.
Cactus Pryor - 1994
Cactus Pryor was an American broadcaster and humorist. He received his nickname after the old Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, which was run by his father, "Skinny" Pryor. Cactus was first heard on Lady Bird Johnson's radio station 590 KLBJ, though his face became as well known as his voice once he moved to television broadcasting on Austin television station KTBC. In addition to his work in radio and television, Cactus also appeared in two movies, Hellfighters and The Green Berets with John Wayne. He was the author of a 1995 collection of some 40 essays entitled Playback. At KTBC, Pryor had served as programming manager and had hosted a variety of shows. He had conducted interviews with celebrities such as Arthur Godfrey and Dan Blocker and narrated behind-the-scenes programs about KTBC.
Lloyd Doggett - 1995
US Congressman Lloyd Doggett was awarded the Interfaith Action of Central Texas Hope Award for his long history of advocacy for policies promoting social justice and education. He has also been honored with the 2016 AARP Champion Legislative Leadership Award for his efforts to preserve seniors' access to healthcare. For his work ensuring families have access to health care, he received awards from the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Texas Association of Community Health Centers. For his work protecting the environment, Rep. Doggett was honored in 2006 by the Texas League of Conservation Voters with its inaugural Environmental Champion Award.
Toody Pyrd - 1996
Toody Byrd has spent her career helping people meet the challenges of education, even "in times like these." A natural communicator, she moves across the educational spectrum reaching students, parent, teachers, administrators, counselors, and the whole community with humor and home-grown Texas wisdom. In recognition of her unique contribution to education and community life around the state, Toody was declared a State Treasure by the 71st Legislature of the state of Texas.
Willie Kocurek - 1997
For forty years Willie donated much of his time to education in general and AISD specifically. When he ran for a position on the AISD School Board in 1946, Jake Pickle was his campaign manager and the campaign cost him $25. He served for almost ten years as a school board member, the last four years as president. Then he went on to serve as president of the Texas Association of School Boards, director of the National Association of School Boards and on the board of directors of the Region XIII Education Service Center, and chairman of "Forming the Future" for AISD in 1982-1983. Willie was also named "Texas Hero for Children" in 1996.
Marion Winik - 1998
Mario Winik's "Bohemian Rhapsody" column appears monthly at BaltimoreFishbowl.com, and her essays and articles have been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun, The Utne Reader, O, Salon, and Real Simple, among others. Her commentaries for All Things Considered are collected on NPR's websote, and she regularly reviews books for Newsday and Kirkus Review. A professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore, Winik was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction and has been inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. She has appeared on the Today Show, Politically Incorrect and Oprah.
John Kelso - 1999
John Kelso has been writing a humor column for the Austin American-Statesman since 1977. Kelso has been around Austin for so long that only two things that were here in Austin when he arrived still remain: Kelso and the Broken Spoke. In 2005, Kelso won an award for his humor writing from the National Press Club.
Chuck Meyer - 2000
Chuck was Vice President of Operations for St. David's Medical Center in Austin. He had been active in pastoral education in Austin at both the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest and at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He co-founded Hospice Austin and was deeply involved in the People's Community Clinic, Meals on Wheels, Planned Parenthood, El Buen Samaritano Clinic and other philanthropic organizations. A mystery writer cleverly disguised as an Episcopal Priest, he was also the author of 13 books, and well known in mystery writers' circles for the Lucas Holt murder mysteries set in Austin.
Kirk Watson - 2001
Kirk Watson is former mayor of Austin and has been described by Texas Monthly Biz magazine as "a man with a vision of what the community wants and the moxie to carry it out." Kirk was elected to the Texas Senate in 2006. He represents most of Travis County and all of Bastrop County in the Texas Senate. Among other recognitions, Texas Monthly magazine named him one of the state's "10 Best Legislators" in 2009. Texas Monthly has recognized him repeatedly, naming him "Rookie of the Year" in his first session (2007) and giving him honorable mentions in both 2011 and 2013. A graduate of Baylor University, Watson received the school's Pro Texana Medal of Service in 2010.
Admiral Bobby Inman - 2002
During a 31-year military career that included some of the most sensitive national security posts in government, Admiral Bobby Inman earned a bipartisan reputation as one of the nation's finest intelligence officers. News accounts have referred to him as "simply one of the smartest people ever to come out of Washington or anywhere, a superstar in the intelligence community and a tough-minded administrator.
Liz Carpenter - 2003
Liz Carpenter was a writer, feminist, former reporter, media advisor, speechwriter, political humorist, and public relations expert. She stood in the forefront of the Women's Movement when it began and never wavered from her platform. Her projects and causes ranged from supporting high tech to fighting cancer. Often called the "funniest woman in politics", she was in demand as a public speaker until her passing.
Kinky Friedman - 2004
Kinky Friedman is an American Texas Country singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and former columnist for Texas Monthly who styles himself in the mold of popular American satirists Will Rogers and Mark Twain. He founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, also located near Kerrville, whose mission is to care for stray, abused and aging animals; more than 1,000 dogs have been saved from animal euthanasia.
Judy Maggio - 2005
Judy Maggio is one of Austin’s best-known and most beloved broadcast journalists. She spent 32 years anchoring and reporting the news in Austin. Her entire career took place in Austin as it grew from a sleepy college town to a mecca for music and technology. Judy has won multiple reporting and media awards and was voted Best Newscaster in Austin by Austin Chronicle readers for 10 years in a row. In 2014, she was named Trailblazer of the Year by the Alliance for Women in Media.
Ronnie Earle - 2007
Ronnie Earle was, until January 2009, the District Attorney for Travis County, Texas. He became nationally known for filing charges against House majority leader Tom DeLay in September 2005 for conspiring to violate Texas' election law and/or to launder money. Earle prosecuted other politicians, including Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and State Representative Mike Martin, as well as Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox on charges of commercial bribery.
Gary Powell - 2008
Gary Powell's accomplishments read like a Who's Who catalog of family entertainment with his productions having sold some 45 million albums across 69 countries with 147 album productions all produced in his Austin, Texas recording studio. His credits include scoring work, original songs and production as represented on Walt Disney's storybook and song albums for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story I & II, Dinosaur and Pirates of the Caribbean. In Powell's work with Walt Disney Records, five of his productions have gone Gold and two Platinum. He has also produced the entire catalog of albums and videos for national touring and recording children's artist Joe Scruggs.
Ron Oliveira - 2009
Starting off at KGBT Harlingen in 1977, Oliveira made his way to Austin in 1980 where he was the main anchor at KVUE. In 1994, he helped start KNVA in Austin as well as co-own it. He was at KEYE from 2005 until 2013
Pliny Fisk III - 2010
Pliny Fisk III is a co-founder and co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (CMPBS), a sustainable design and planning 501c3 non-profit established in 1975. Fisk also serves as Fellow in Sustainable Urbanism and Fellow in Health Systems Design at Texas A & M University, where he holds a joint position as signature faculty in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Planning
Roy Spence - 2011
Roy Spence is the Chairmand and co-founder of the advertising agency GSD&M and author of the books The Amazing Faith of Texas and It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven By Purpose. In 2004, he won the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Texas. The Austin, Texas chapter of the American Advertising Federation and Texas Monthly magazine have previously named Spence Adman of the Year and Adman of the Century.
Art Acevedo - 2012
Art Acevedo is Chief of the Austin, Texas, Police Department, also known as APD. He leads a department of 2,547 sworn law enforcement and support personnel who carry out police operations within the City of Austin, as well as the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, city parks and lakes, and municipal courts.
Major Mary Jennings Hegar - 2013
Major Mary Jennings Hegar was one of Foreign Policy Magazine's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 and one of Newsweek's 125 Women of Impact of 2012, was commissioned into the Air Force through ROTC at The University of Texas in 1999. She served on active duty as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri where she worked on the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Her maintenance career culminated in responsibility for 75% of all B-2 maintenance as a Captain and selection as the Company Grade Officer of the Year for 2003. In 2004, she was selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard. Upon completion of her training at the top of her class, she served three tours in Afghanistan flying Combat Search and Rescue as well as Medevac missions.
Shannon Sedwick - 2014
Shannon Sedwick was the co-founder and star of Esther's Follies who was a recipient of the special B. Iden Payne award recognizing outstanding contributions to Austin theatre. Esther's is one of the local theatre scene's greatest success stories, running continuously somewhere on East Sixth since 1977 through busts, booms, and even fire.
Maura Thomas - 2015
Maura Thomas is an award-winning productivity and time management speaker, author of two books, founder of Regain Your Time, and nationally recognized expert delivering her unique message that the key to productivity and effectiveness isattention management. She is a TEDx Speaker, a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, and was invited by one of the largest publishers in the world to literally “write the book” on productivity (Personal Productivity Secrets was her first book.) Her work has appeared in hundreds of national media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company,Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Huffington Post, to name a few.
Bob Cole - 2016
In bringing back KOKE FM, Bob Cole has realized a true dream in being able to create a renaissance of the most iconic radio station in Austin history. Bob Cole is also the voice of The University of Texas Longhorn Band and the stadium announcer, with Bill Little, at all Longhorn home football games. Bob Cole was Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. Community Service is also a major part of Bob’s commitment-serving as Austin’s most visible and requested non-profit fundraiser event host, emcee and board member.
Jim Spencer - 2017
In his 27th year at KXAN, Emmy Award-winning weathercaster Jim Spencer has been forecasting Austin and Central Texas weather longer than anyone in the history of Austin television. Jim has received national recognition for his work. He is a past recipient of the National Weather Association’s Weathercaster of the Year award. Jim has been awarded three Emmys for his work and has been nominated for several more. He is also a five-time winner of the Texas Associated Press Best Weathercast award, and has been voted Austin’s Best Weathercaster 18 times by readers of the Austin Chronicle. He has been named TV Personality of the Year by Austin’s American Women in Radio and Television Chapter five times. Jim has a long history of involvement in community and charitable organizations including Service Dogs, Inc., Helping Hand Home for Children, CASA, and The Jerry Lewis Telethon. Jim visits numerous area schools each year, teaching thousands of area students about severe weather safety.