Incoming, United Way for Greater Austin Welcomes A New Class of Board Members

AUSTIN, Texas – 2019 is off to a great start for United Way for Greater Austin. United Way is excited to announce the addition of six new Board Members; Kristie Gonzales, Kristin Marcum, Scott Rust, Amy Simmons, Charles Thornburgh and Jeffrey Vernor. These six key community leaders will provide invaluable leadership with their wide variety of professional skills and set policies for United Way.

“I am excited about the direction and future of United Way for Greater Austin and am honored to Chair the Board and welcome this incoming class of influential, local business leaders who have joined in United Way’s fight to end poverty. We are excited to continue to grow an engaged and active Board with a deep desire to provide families and individuals in need with the tools and resources needed to thrive.”  -Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Cafe & United Way for Greater Austin Board Chair

Kristie Gonzales joined KVUE as President and General Manager, leading one of the top television stations in Central Texas. She manages a staff of more than 125 employees who produce 33 hours of award-winning live news and programming each week. Under her leadership, KVUE became the most-watched news station, winning five out of seven weekday news time periods among the coveted demographic of adults aged 25 to 54. Gonzales is also incredibly committed to her professional and personal communities, she is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and serves on the board of directors for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas, the SAFE Alliance and Vision for Equality and more.

“United Way for Greater Austin has the special vision of making Austin a thriving community for all. Nine out of ten kids under 6 facing poverty in Travis County are children of color. Three out of four are Hispanic.  People of color are adversely affected by this hardship, and I couldn’t be more excited to join United Way and all of our community partners in leading the fight against poverty for everyone in Central Texas.” -Kristie Gonzales

Kristin Marcum is the President of Elizabeth Christian Public Relations (ECPR). ECPR is a communications firm specializing projects involving media relations, video production, legislative and grassroots efforts, social media planning and execution, branding, event planning and crisis communications. Marcum works with a diverse roster of clients, including St. David’s HealthCare—one of the state’s leading health care systems with more than 110 sites in Central Texas, among others. Marcum is also a graduate of Leadership Austin, a former Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) McBee Fellow, an AARO member and a 2016 AU40 finalist.

“United Way for Greater Austin is doing critically important work to develop programs to help the more than 44,000 families living in poverty in the Austin area,” Marcum said. “It is a privilege to serve alongside the committed members of this board and staff. -Kristin Marcum

Scott Rust is the Senior Vice President of Global Resource and Development at National Instruments. Rust leads R&D vice presidents and their worldwide organizations in driving product development to equip engineers and scientists with tools that accelerate productivity, innovation and discovery. Rust also founded the IVI Foundation, an alliance formed to address the gap seen by military/aerospace and large commercial electronics test developers for interchangeable virtual instrument drivers.

“I am excited to serve with the incredible team at the United Way for Greater Austin.  I am inspired to join their fight against poverty.  I believe that together, we can make a huge difference in our community and make Austin a vibrant and thriving city for everyone.” -Scott Rust

Amy Simmons is the Founder and President of Amy’s Ice Creams. A University of Texas McCombs School of Business MBA graduate, Simmons founded the beloved Austin ice cream shop 34 years ago and has launched several other successful businesses along the way including, Phil’s Icehouse, Baked By Amy’s and more.

I had an outdated view of what United Way for Greater Austin was all about. When I had the opportunity to meet with CEO David C. Smith and several of the board members I realized how off I was. In our busy lives, we have limited time to dedicate to the missions we find most important. I am overjoyed to be associated with United Way primarily because of the engagement and quality of the staff and board, the rigor dedicated to results, not effort, and finally the LOCAL focus. I believe strongly in this group’s ability to leverage the board and staffs’ skills toward our mission to fight poverty and make Austin a better place for all!”-Amy Simmons 

Charles Thornburgh is a serial education entrepreneur. He fell in love with teaching while an undergrad at Stanford, and upon graduation, he bought his first company – for debt. In the 20 years since he has built multiple successful ed-tech businesses that leverage technology and data to improve educational access and success at scale. In 2011, he moved to Austin to launch Civitas Learning, an outcomes-focused SaaS company that is making the most of the world’s learning data to graduate a million more students per year by 2025 and address the $4 trillion completion problem in higher education. After just seven years, Civitas Learning serves more than 325 institutions, representing nearly 40 percent of all of the students in U.S. higher ed. Charles also volunteers regularly with The Andy Roddick Foundation and deeply cherishes his family time with his wife Natalee and two young sons.

“As a career educator, I’ve seen the insidious impact that poverty can have on our children’s ability to learn and thrive.  After watching the remarkable progress, the team at United Way has made on combating the root causes of poverty in our community, I am humbled by the opportunity to lend my voice and support to their important work.” -Charles Thornburgh

Jeffrey Vernor is the Head of Risk Management for Dimensional Fund Advisors LP. Dimensional is a global investment manager dedicated to implementing great ideas in finance. Vernor is responsible for executing the risk management framework and supporting the appropriate risk culture throughout operations. Vernor holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Texas Christian University and was in the inaugural graduating class of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s executive MBA program.

“I have personally witnessed the tremendous good United Way and their supported agencies have done and continue to do in each community I have lived in over the last twenty years. I want to thank current and former board members, staff, and volunteers for positioning UWATX so well to meet the pressing needs of our community. I look forward to working with David and his team and my board colleagues in the coming years.” -Jeffrey Vernor

Vernor served on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Pierce County, Washington from 2009 – 2015 and served as 2005/2006 Board Chair for St. George Episcopal Day School in San Antonio. Mr. Vernor has also been active in supporting his field by serving in leadership roles within the Risk & Insurance Management Society including serving as a guest lecturer in universities throughout the USA.

“United Way has one of the strongest boards in Austin. We are thrilled to welcome, Kristie, Kristin, Scott, Amy, Charles, and Jeff as we continue growing an engaged and active Board with a true heart for our mission to fight poverty and make Austin a better place for all.”  -United Way for Greater Austin CEO David C. Smith says

The volunteer Board of Directors provides leadership and sets policy for United Way for Greater Austin. Board members act as stewards for the monies raised in our community, understand United Way’s legal responsibilities, review existing policies and formulate new policies, review and approve the annual budget and audit, and review and approve agency funding decisions.



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