Victoria Ramirez to leave the state’s history museum

Also, notes on the Rodeo Austin Gala, Andy Roddick Gala and LBJ National Historical Park


The Bullock Texas State History Museum is losing a classy leader.

“After much consideration, I have resigned from my position at the Bullock Museum to be the new director of the El Paso Museum of Art,” Victoria Ramirez announced in an email. “I have enjoyed my nearly four years here at the Bullock and am looking forward to this next chapter in El Paso.”

In a follow-up message, she endorsed the interim director, Margaret Koch, who will take the reins on Jan. 1. During her tenure, Ramirez opened the doors of the museum to new voices and viewpoints and oversaw some exceptional shows, several staged in the nifty upstairs rotunda gallery. Each of the current special exhibitions, “American Flags” and “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” not only packs a powerful punch but also features artifacts from local collections.

“The museum has seen tremendous strides under the leadership of Ramirez, including an increase in revenue and attendance, the launch of an award-winning website, and the milestone arrival and display of the shipwreck La Belle,” says Bob Barnes, president of the museum foundation’s board of trustees. “She brought an innovative vision and perspective to the museum that resulted in some of our most successful exhibitions and programs since opening. We are very sorry to see her go, but are confident that she set us on a strong course and the museum will continue to flourish.”

Rodeo reveals headliners for gala

In attendance, the Rodeo Austin Gala is among the biggest such fandangos in town — maybe even the biggest.

On Feb. 4, mingling crowds at the Palmer Events Center will tap their boots to the tunes of Randy Houser and special guest Ronnie Milsap. With a string of No. 1 hits and millions in singles sales, Houser is just the sort of talent that helps drive this fundraiser, the second largest for the group after the fair and rodeo in March.

Milsap is a longtime star, having compiled more than 40 No. 1 country hits over the course of a decades-spanning career. The rodeo is beginning to burst out of its customary cultural bubble under the guidance a new leader, businessman Rob Golding, whom we will profile in these pages in the coming weeks. He has plans aplenty.

Andy Roddick’s era of good feeling

It is hard not to be crazy about tennis star, media celebrity and philanthropist Andy Roddick and his wife, equally talented, open and giving Brooklyn Decker. Along with his family — and visionary leaders such as Jeff Lau and Richard Tagle — they have built an Austin charity that is making a noticeable community impact through after-school, spring break and summer programs for needy students.

The foundation’s gala is now a fond tradition, not only for local do-gooders, but also for random guests attracted by mega-stars such as John Legend and Elton John performing in the sublime setting of ACL Live.

This year, I arrived late after a wedding rehearsal cruise on Lady Bird Lake, just in time for the dinner and the auction. I met, of course, some sharp folks while learning more about the foundation’s work.

A new leader in LBJ land

We tipped our hand a few weeks back when we met Susanne McDonald at an LBJ Ranch barbecue and subsequently revealed that she would become the new superintendent at the LBJ National Historical Park come January. That means, according to National Park Service hierarchy, that she will, in addition, oversee the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

She takes the place of revered leader John “Russ” Whitlock, who will retire in January after 37 years of federal service.

“Susanne’s diverse experience in park leadership, operations and partner development are a solid fit for the community-focused management of the Lyndon B. Johnson and Waco Mammoth parks,” says Sue Masica, National Park Service Intermountain Region director.

During her 21 years with the Park Service, McDonald has run operations in Vermont, North Carolina, Colorado and Wyoming.

She moves to Texas with a son, Sam, age 5, as well as three dogs and a cat.

Cowboy for a day

The Texas Cowboys contingent at the University of Texas is perhaps best known for leather chaps, red bandanas and black cowboy hats and for shooting off Smokey the Cannon during Longhorn football games.

Yet this social reporter knows that they also serve as volunteers at countless charity events. Since 1954, they have worked closely with ARC of the Capital Area, which helps folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

One of ARC’s clients was honored as the first-ever “Cowboy for a Day” at the UT-TCU game on Nov. 25. He wore Cowboy regalia and rooted from the sidelines during the pregame festivities and the first quarter.

For these purposes, his name is rendered only as “Stephen R.,” a student in ARC’s art education program, who has gone from being severely withdrawn to being dubbed the “Ambassador” for his effervescent personality.


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