LEADERSHIP TEXAS. Leadership Texas, a program of the Foundation for Women's Resources, was launched in 1983 under the board presidency of Cathy Bonner and the direction of Martha P. Farmer. Its purpose is to identify and develop the women leaders of Texas by providing them with essential information, an awareness of ongoing changes, sharpened skills, and an enduring network of women from diverse backgrounds. Women are selected for the program through a competitive application process that examines the leadership roles applicants have had in their profession or community. In the first year the program enrolled fifty-eight participants from around the state and took them to six different cities for two-day seminars that critically examined the issues facing Texas. The program set the standard for addressing tough issues with top-notch presenters. Topics in the first year included Public and Private Leadership Opportunities and Issues in Agriculture. Over the course of the next decade, the program was headed by Mary Love (Bitsy) Henderson, Mandy Dealy, and Candace O'Keefe. By the tenth year, the number of women accepted had reached 100 annually and the program was refocused to allow greater discussion of topics, with expanded sessions held in five cities each year. In 1994 participants in the program tackled such topics as Education in a Complex Bicultural Environment, Quality (or Inequality) in the Environment, and Reengaging People in Government. At the conclusion of 1994, the one-thousandth woman graduated from the Leadership Texas program. Graduates, from both rural and urban areas, include corporate executives, lawyers, physicians, allied health professionals, journalists, artists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials.
Having recognized the power of information and connections, the women of the first program formed the Leadership Texas Alumnae Association. Pat Bailey was the founding president of the organization and oversaw the development of what became a vast network of some of the most influential and talented women in the state. In 1988 the association established a regional board of directors to support the growing number of women who had completed the Leadership Texas program. In addition to planning an annual retreat known as the Athenaeum, the association provides continuing enrichment opportunities to the membership and provides ongoing support of the efforts of the Leadership Texas program. The success of the Leadership Texas concept was taken to the national level in 1986 when a sister program, Leadership America, debuted. Leadership Texas has also served as the model for similar programs in California, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.