We are proud to announce the 2020 ABC13's Women of Distinction

Monday, January 27, 2020
Women of Distinction
See how these 11 women are coming together to help the Crohns and Colitis Foundation and patients who suffer from the silent disease.

ABC13 and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation are proud to recognize Houston-area women who go above and beyond to make our community better. We're proud to introduce you to this year's group of special women, listed for you below.

Cheryl Byington

Cheryl Byington has a high moral compass and integrity in everything that she does. Professionally, she worked for BP for 41 years, having risen through the ranks in managerial and VP positions while mentoring colleagues to reach their maximum potential. Cheryl has not only demonstrated commitment to others through her work, but also to the many organizations in the Houston community which have benefited from her leadership.

Throughout the years, Cheryl has been actively involved with the Houston Fire Museum and Education Center, serving on the Executive Board since 2006 and as Gala Co-Chair and Casino Chair multiple times. She is also passionate about the Houston Symphony and has held leadership roles on its League Board from 2012 to her current role as VP of Membership. Cheryl's devotion, time and talent to countless organizations have undoubtedly helped to further their success. To name a few, she has served as Society of Performing Arts 2019 Ball Co-Chair, UNICEF 2019 Gala Co-Chair, Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce 2017 Hall of Fame Inductee, KNOW Autism 2019 Ambassador and Virtuosi board member, where she will serve as its 2020 Gala Co-Chair.

On a personal note, Cheryl has traveled to over 60 countries and she and her husband, Sam, adopted a rescue dog named Simba, who Cheryl claims, "has rescued us"!.

Zane Carruth

With 25 years of marketing experience, Zane Carruth is the Founder and President of Carson Marketing, LLC, a full-service marketing firm. She is also a published certified business etiquette and protocol professional as well as an award-winning children's book author. She will soon publish her third book in her trademarked series, The World's First Tooth Fairy...Ever.

When she's not writing, Zane gives generously of her time, compassion and expertise to the city of Houston. She serves on the board of the Houston Grand Opera, Houston SPCA, Carruth Foundation and Discovery Green Conservancy. Living a generous life was instilled in Zane at a very young age. Her mother was very active in donating her time and resources to the less fortunate. Zane is humbled to support the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. She's worked closely with those diagnosed with Crohn's disease and understands the effect it has on a person's daily life. She cherishes spending time with her husband Brady, daughter Brittany, son-in-law Adam, grandchildren Chloe, Carson and Truett, and Brady's sons Trent, Buddy and fiancée Kylie.

Zane also enjoys thoroughbred horse racing with Brady.

Theresa Chang

Theresa Chang was the Presiding Judge of Harris County Civil Court from 2012 to 2018. In 2017, she was rated the top Judge of Harris County Civil Courts by Houston Bar Association.

Before earning her law degree from South Texas College of Law, Chang obtained a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University System.

Theresa was appointed to the Board of Regents of the University of Houston by George W. Bush in 1997 and has served as President of various community organizations, such as Texas Executive Women and Asian Chamber of Commerce. She also serves and has served on many boards, including YMCA, Houston Grand Opera and American Leadership Forum. For her professionalism and community involvements, Theresa's honors have been many, including the George Bush Award from Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, the Impact Award from the Asian American Bar Association, and the John Connor Humanitarian Award from Operation Smile.

Theresa and Dr. Peter Chang have been married for 36 years and are proud parents of Winston and Spencer. They believe deeply in giving back to the community through serving as gala chairs or honorary chairs of many charitable organizations.

Elsie Eckert

"I never considered giving back to my community an option" has always been Elsie Eckert's philanthropic mantra. A graduate of Kent State University, 30 years ago she founded Elsie Smith & Associates Inc., a Graphic Design & Branding firm, with just two clients she kept from her New York corporate career and a belief that she would work hard and make this dream happen.

Elsie's passion for supporting what she believes in has meant hands-on, long-term volunteering for the charities she loves. Her unwavering belief that medical research is the answer to finding cures for Crohn's disease, cancer and many others, led her 25 years ago to become both a Founding and lifetime member of BRASS, Baylor Research Advocates for Student Scientists. She is currently serving her third term as President.

Elsie has co-chaired Texas Children's Cancer Center's annual luncheon since its inception 13 years ago. She was selected in 2014 to be a Director/board member for the BARC Foundation and in 2016 chaired their gala. For 20 years she has been on Alley Theatre's Advisory Board and is actively involved in the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation's Ladies for Literacy.

Challenging herself daily to be the best she can be in both her business and personal life, Elsie acknowledges that the rewards of giving back would never be possible without the loving support of her husband Les.

Myrtle Jones

Myrtle is the Senior Vice President of Tax at Halliburton, with global responsibility. A CPA, she earned her BS degree in Accounting from Mississippi State University. She is a native of Mississippi and has called Houston her home since graduation.

Myrtle currently serves on the boards of Genesys Works Houston, The Houston Zoo, Stages Theatre and the Houston Area Women's Center. She has chaired events and raised money for Dress for Success Houston, UNCF and many more. She has been recognized for her work in the oil and gas industry and for advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace by the Houston Business Journal, Black Enterprise Magazine and Savoy Magazine to name a few.

The divorced mother of three, Allie, Candice and Nate, she balanced motherhood and career but not always well. Her children's unconditional love was what kept Myrtle going down the path cleared by the sacrifices and support of family and community.

Myrtle is grateful for the work that the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation does for people like her sister Nedra who is thriving despite being diagnosed with Crohn's disease over 30 years ago.

Brigitte Kalai

Brigitte Kalai grew up in Houston and loves being part of this wonderful community, giving back to it every chance she can. After graduating with a BSN from UT, she and her husband, Bashar, started a family and their company, Amerapex. They are the proud parents to Alex, a junior at Rice and Remy, a senior at Kinkaid. Brigitte champions causes that empower women and children, and those facing medical issues. She has a deep understanding of the financial and emotional toll it takes on a family dealing with medical issues due to her nursing background as well as her own struggle with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

She serves on the board of Interfaith Ministries, UNICEF, The Sheriff's Advisory Board and Crime Stoppers, and has broken records for almost everything she has chaired. She established the Brigitte and Bashar Kalai Family Workshops at Rice. She supports many organizations including Small Steps, Operation Smile, Methodist Hospital, TCH and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Brigitte has received many honors including being named one of the Fifty Most Influential Women, Houston Chronicle's Best Dressed by The March of Dimes and the John Conner Humanitarian Award. She was also honored for establishing the Brigitte and Bashar Plaza of Respect. Among all her accomplishments, she feels her greatest is her family.

Kelley Lubanko

Kelley Lubanko was raised in Houston and graduated from the University of Houston. She met her husband Steve when they both worked at Mitchell Energy. She is the proud mom of two daughters, Kaia and Elise, and has three perfect grandchildren who bring her tremendous joy.

Passionate about children's causes, the arts and saving wildlife, Kelley currently serves on boards for the Children's Assessment Center and Houston Ballet. She has raised funds for the Houston Zoo and Covenant House, among others.Houston has a tremendous culture of philanthropy, and Kelley is in awe of the many women who use their talents to shape and foment this vibrant legacy. To list these women would be prohibitively long, but Kelley is grateful to have witnessed their inspiration, experience and hard work, and to have seen first hand the positive changes a determined woman can make.

Familiar with the IBD umbrella, she supports research to find a cure for diseases that force people to cobble together individualized treatment plans in hopes of managing symptoms.

Joy McCormack

Joy and her husband Don married in 2000 after a chance encounter at a Happy Hour. She lists her greatest achievement as she is still a work in progress with their three children, Hannah, Ian and Evelyn. As they grow, Joy's main goal is to instill a servant heart into them so that they will choose to serve others.

As a staunch believer in public schools, Joy began her philanthropic career through her children's schools, serving many PTA positions for Midland and Spring Branch ISDs. She has been instrumental in her family's choice of two charities they support on many fronts. Her desire to see opportunities for all led to her work with the YMCA of Greater Houston where she serves on the board as well as the Trotter Y Board.

Joy and Don have also been involved with the National MS Society at many levels and together have raised over $400,000 to support the mission to END MS. It is the McCormack's hope that their fundraising efforts for the NMSS will translate into growth in development for therapies across the autoimmune spectrum. Joy's childhood friend struggled with what was thought to be Crohn's disease and was later diagnosed differently. Many in Joy's family are challenged with various autoimmune diseases. The McCormacks are devoted to helping their MS friends and all those living with other autoimmune conditions.

Familiar with the IBD umbrella, she supports research to find a cure for diseases that force people to cobble together individualized treatment plans in hopes of managing symptoms.

Hannah McNair

Hannah McNair, the wife of Cal McNair, CEO and Chairman of the Houston Texans football team, has a very active role in the community focused on our youth, military, cancer and women's initiatives. Hannah has served her community as an executive committee or board member for the Lady Texans, Project 88 Foundation, DePelchin Children's Center, Celebration of Reading Committee, the Ladies for Literacy Guild, Houston Methodist Brain and Bone Collaborative Committee, Texas Children's Hospital Leadership Council, and a Provisional Member of VICTORY.

She has served as a chair or committee member for a number of Houston charities including Houston Texans Foundation, Bo's Place, March of Dimes, AVDA, Dec My Room, Impact a Hero, The Mission of Yahweh, Candlelighters, The Children's Assessment Center, and many more. Hannah is passionate about giving back to our community.

Hannah was born and raised in Houston along with her 10 sisters and 3 brothers. She earned her B.B.A. from the University of Houston and attended the MBA program at Rice University. Hannah and Cal have seven children. They enjoy three boys and one daughter together, Robert (8), Calhoun (7), Michael (5) and Hunter (9 months) and Cal's three older daughters, Devon, Raelyn and Vivian.

Mary Tere Perusquia

Mary Tere Perusquia was born in Mexico City to a family of benefactors and raised with the duty and desire to help those in vulnerable groups. She has been happily married to Ricardo for 29 years and is a proud mom of three children, Ricardo Jr., Gonzalo and Tessa, and daughter-in-law, Christine.

Since she arrived in Houston, she has been involved in giving back to the community, having served on the Children's Museum Board and currently serving on the boards of Cristo Rey Jesuit School, SpringSpirit and Latin Women's Initiative. She is also the President of Friends of SpringSpirit.

When it comes to bringing people together for an important cause, Mary Tere is your inspiration. She has chaired and co-chaired many successful galas and events such as the Baylor College of Medicine Gala, the Cristo Rey Jesuit School Gala, Kissed by an Angel benefiting the Clayton Dabney Foundation and Latin Women's Initiative Luncheon, along with publishing their cookbook while President. Her boundless energy and continuous enthusiasm make all feel welcome and wanted.

Betty Hrncir as the 2020 Women of Distinction Ambassador

A fifth-generation Texan, Betty has served others through her commitment to charitable work and community service both nationally and internationally, including successfully establishing the Junior League of London while living there in the 1980s.

Since Betty's return to Houston in 1995, the community has greatly benefited from her charitable spirit:

She and her family established the McMillan Character Education Series at The Kinkaid School. She devoted her time and talent to the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary and throughout the years held many leadership positions along with co-chairing the 2010 Reflection on Style and serving as the 2018 Reflection on Style Honoree. Her passion for child literacy is evident as she has been an annual co-chair for The Barbara Bush Foundation's "A Celebration of Reading" for over two decades.

In 2015, she co-founded The Ladies for Literacy Guild which is playing an important role in advancing the mission of Mrs. Bush's legacy in literacy. She served as President for two years. She was named an ABC13 Woman of Distinction by the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation in 2007 and is deeply honored to be the 2019 Ambassador. At 14 her daughter-in-law was diagnosed with Crohn's Colitis.

Betty and her husband John have two sons and one wonderful daughter-in-law. They are blessed with four granddaughters and one grandson as "every good and perfect gift is from above."