John Spong, a staff writer for Texas Monthly since 2002, was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 for his story celebrating Texas dance halls, “Step Right Up,” and has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism – in 2007 for “The Good Book and the Bad Book,” and in 2010 for “Holding Garmsir.” He is the author of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove (UT Press), and his magazine stories have been collected in Best Food Writing 2012 (Da Capo Press), The Best American Sports Writing 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Literary Austin (TCU Press), and Rio Grande (UT Press). He holds a bachelor of arts and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from The University of Texas at Austin. John and his wife, Julie Blakeslee, have two sons, Willie Mo and Leon.
Location: San Antonio
Dr. Carmen Tafolla is a poet, storyteller, performance artist, motivational speaker, and university professor – loved throughout the world for her moving performances and poetry readings. The author of more than 30 books, her work appears internationally in high school and university textbooks, newspapers, journals and magazines, and elementary school readers. Carmen was named Poet Laureate of Texas in 2015, and she is the immediate past president of the Texas Institute of Letters. Carmen also served from 2012-2014 as the first Poet Laureate of San Antonio and presented at more than 300 schools, universities, professional conferences, and community arts centers in her two-year tenure. She has received numerous awards, including the Americas Award, five International Latino Book Awards, two Tomas Rivera Book Awards, three ALA Notable Books, a Charlotte Zolotow Award, the Art of Peace Award, and Top Ten Books for Babies. She has been recognized by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies for work which “gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”
James S. Taylor has an enduring love of and appreciation for Mexico—the result of his upbringing in that country. Born in the Texas panhandle and raised in Tamaulipas, James’ bi-cultural background and bi-national experience have infused his career, personal interests, and community endeavors.
An underlying purpose of James’ multi-faceted career has been to deepen connections and knowledge between the U.S. and Mexico in business, the arts, and politics. He graduated from Texas State University with a degree in international studies and began pursuit of opportunities that help bridge a better understanding of the two neighboring countries.
James is a co-founder of Vianovo, an international strategic advisory consultancy, and of Grupo Compadres, a company that produces and markets SUSTO Mezcal, a new brand of Mexico’s oldest agave spirit.
James is a member of the advisory board of the Texas Book Festival and serves as honorary consul of Spain in Austin, Texas. James and his wife Ingrid have two children, Benjamin and Gabriela.
Ellen Weingarten Wagnon, a second generation Texan and Houstonian, is a former public relations and marketing professional, with over two decades of experience representing a wide variety of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to local and regional non-profit organizations. She has experience in creating and implementing multi-platform communications campaigns, developing branding and marketing strategies, and extensive event planning and execution, including everything from large-scale public events to private launches and celebrations. Having worked as both a professional executive and as a volunteer for numerous charitable boards and committees, she possesses a unique perspective on the business of non-profit organizations, from operations to fund development to program fulfillment. She and her husband, Robert, live in Houston and have three adult sons.
Reid Wittliff, a partner in the Austin-based law firm, Wittliff Cutter PLLC, is a technology lawyer with a deep understanding of the fast-developing law governing online activity, privacy, and data security. He has represented both fortune 100 companies and small start-ups in technology and intellectual property disputes. As a certified mediator, he also frequently negotiates and drafts software licenses and other technology contracts. Reid’s prior experience includes serving as the founding Division Chief of the Texas Attorney General Office’s Computer Crime Division and as a federal prosecutor responsible for leading computer crime investigations and prosecutions in the Dallas, Texas area. In 2008, Reid founded R3 Digital Forensics, LLC as an independent company to provide digital forensics and e-Discovery services to clients throughout the nation. He holds a B.A. from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law.
Sally Wittliff is an Austin attorney with a general practice. Born in New York City, she spent most of her childhood in Washington, D.C. Sally moved to San Antonio during her high school years, and has been in Texas ever since. She is a member of Inns of Court and a fellow of the Texas State Bar and Austin Bar Foundations. She is a former secondary mathematics teacher, chair of the City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission, president of We Care Austin, and board member of many civic organizations, including KLRU Public Television, Safe Place, and the Contemporary Austin. Cofounder with her husband, Bill, of Austin’s Encino Press and The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, Sally is also the business manager of Pangaea, Inc., an Austin film production company, and of Wittliff Properties. Sally and Bill have two grown children and four grandchildren.
Susan Wittliff is Chief Operating Officer of Price Wealth Management, an independent investment advisory firm based in Austin. She is also involved with Texas State University through her service on the university’s Development Foundation Board, having served as chair of the Investment Committee and through her current role as the vice chair of the Development Foundation Board. Prior to her work in financial services, Susan served as a corporate securities attorney and advisor for multiple public and private companies. Susan received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and her J.D. from Southern Methodist University School of Law. Susan is actively engaged in her community, having served in various leadership roles for Communities in Schools – Central Texas, the Heritage Society of Austin, the Nature Conservancy – Texas, the Seton Fund, and Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, as well as for her children’s schools. When given the chance, she loves to escape to the mountains, read a great book, and work at improving her tennis game. Susan is married to Reid Wittliff, and they live in Austin with their two children.
Location: San Marcos
Cathy Supple earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in English education at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, New York. She taught high school English in Willsboro, New York, and was a feature writer and photographer for the North Country Catholic newspaper. In her avocation as a singer and guitarist with her late husband, Jerry, Cathy organized Plattsburgh music festivals and country dances. She served on numerous San Marcos community boards until 2002, and she long served on The Wittliff Collection's Advisory Council. She passed away on March 25, 2022.