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Trinity Alumni Changing the Face of Austin

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Austin alumni collage

by Jeremy Gerlach

As the state capital of Texas, Austin is known for its vibrant nightlife, rapid growth, and unique musical scene.

The city is also just 70 miles north of Trinity University, the No. 1 university in Texas, and home to more than 2,000 Tiger alumni. Find out how these alumni are changing the face of Austin through nonprofit advocacy, health care, energy, tech, and education.

Darsh Singh headshotDarsh Singh ’08
Managing Partner, Hazoor Partners

Investor Darsh Singh, along with his oldest brother, Harpreet, has launched a firm that focuses on the values of service and giving. His parents built a business with the idea that business can be a force for good, and the two brothers are carrying it forward into the next generation through their own business.

Hazoor invests in niche assets, including carbon credits and loans to law firms that fight for issues such as gender pay equality, and on a smaller scale, the world of cryptocurrency.

“We want to build conscious cultures around the idea of what money means to our lives,” Singh says. “Money can be a tool for good or for bad, so really our goal is to help people feel connected and purposeful when they do have the privilege of having access to resources.”

At Trinity, Singh majored in engineering science, served as the captain of the basketball team—where he was the first Sikh-American player to compete in a turban during an NCAA basketball game—and was a resident mentor. He also loved playing flag football and “had a blast” competing in Hallympics, a decades-old Trinity tradition that pits residence halls against each other in volleyball, kickball, and trivia.

Jerold McDonald headshotJerold McDonald M’08
Co-Founder, Omaiven Health

Omaiven’s signature product, an SMS texting chatbot called askMia, allows patients to communicate with their doctors’ offices using native language, text slang, and even emojis.

“The future of healthcare is all about inclusion, letting patients be who they are,” McDonald says. “Our AI chatbot increases access for the underserved at health clinics across the nation.”

McDonald earned his master of science from Trinity’s health care administration program  (HCAD), which has produced CEOs, COOs, and other leaders at hospitals across the country.  

At Trinity, McDonald was his HCAD class president and enjoyed playing intramural football. He actually suffered a leg injury from the sport that gave him a firsthand look into health care from the patient perspective. McDonald says he can’t dunk on you anymore, but he’s still active.

Erica Anthony-Benavides headshotErica Anthony-Benavides ’06
Founder, The Second Home School for Personalized Learning

Anthony-Benavides runs a small but growing non-profit that provides tutoring to disadvantaged students.

“I want to have a place for people who are considered ‘atypical,’ who are typically left out, to have a place where they can explore learning, express their ideas, and exercise their imagination,” Anthony-Benavides says.

At Trinity, Anthony-Benavides majored in physics, was a member of Black Student Union and the Latino Exchange, and loved playing intramural soccer. As a musician, she loves bossa nova, punk rock, and jazz, and can sing and play acoustic guitar and upright bass.

Alan Toscano headshotAlan Toscano ’16
Founder and CEO, Dream Big Live Tiny Co.

Toscano’s website has created a community where tiny home enthusiasts can network, share successful tips, and explore the tiny home lifestyle.

“I’ve just had this fascination with people ‘downsizing’ their living spaces,” Toscano says. “People are downsizing material possessions, downsizing the space in their homes, but it’s a movement that has created a ‘bigger’ community.”

Toscano first discovered the idea for his business at Trinity, where he majored in finance and enjoyed taking classes in the entrepreneurship program.

Scott Tinker headshotScott Tinker ’82
CEO, Tinker Energy Associates

Tinker is an acclaimed speaker, filmmaker, professor, and geologist who advocates for sustainable, practical energy solutions. He’s created a series of free, nonpartisan films about energy’s past, present, and future, shown in classrooms and lecture halls around the world.

“Sometimes, I feel students I work with have a sense of hope being gone,” Tinker says. “But hope is not gone; hope is alive and well, and that’s the underlying message.”

At Trinity, Tinker majored in geology and is one of 11 family members who have attended the University.

Heather Brunner headshotHeather Brunner ’90
CEO & Chairwoman, WP Engine

Tech executive Heather Brunner runs WP Engine, which provides managed WordPress hosting for mission-critical sites around the world.

"Working in a fast-paced, high-growth environment is like running a marathon," she explains. "You have to prepare, be tenacious, and pace yourself."

During her tech career, Brunner has led companies ranging from global organizations such as Accenture and Oracle to startups such as Bazaarvoice, which she helped grow into a publicly-traded company. She has experience in marketing, finance, sales, business development, customer services, R&D, and technical operations, and she also serves on a number of nonprofit boards and is a mentor at Capital Factory, an Austin startup incubator.

"I aspire to lead a life with purpose, to go after big opportunities, and seek ways to contribute to the greater good,” Brunner says. “My hope is that via my actions, I can inspire others to do the same.”

At Trinity, Brunner studied business administration and economics, represented her class as student senator for three years, and was named homecoming queen in 1987.

Matt Swinney headshotMatt Swinney ’98
CEO, Fashion X

Swinney’s company, Fashion X, creates world-class fashion events. Their headlining initiative, Austin Fashion Week, is the largest fashion industry event in Texas and the fourth-largest of its kind in the United States.

“We have such a deep impact on so many young fashion designers,” Swinney says. “I get excited about helping these young designers achieve their dreams. We get them connected to the right people, and they discover that they can do this as a career.”

At Trinity, Swinney majored in business administration, with concentrations in marketing and international business. He played baseball as a first-year, was elected an ASR senator as an upperclassman, and also served as a student ambassador. Swinney is married to fellow grad Kara (Tingley) Swinney ’98, a psychology major who works in physical therapy for an Austin preschool that fully integrates kids with disabilities.

Cami Hawkins headshotCami Hawkins ’95
CEO, Marathon Kids

Hawkins leads Marathon Kids, a nonprofit that aims to put kids on a path to a healthier life through running. Marathon Kids starts its 25th season in 2020. Though it began in Austin, it is now a nationwide organization with about 90,000 kids running in the program.

“I’m passionate about health care and kids, so this position is a perfect role for me to give back to the community,” Hawkins says. “Through running, we’re finding health care solutions that have a direct impact on the next generation.”

“If I could achieve the big dream, a vision of all kids being active and healthy, obviously that would put ourselves out of business, but in a great way,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins earned her master’s degree from Trinity’s on-campus health care administration program.