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Trinity Alumni Changing the Face of Houston

Friday, March 1, 2019
Houston alumni collage

by Jeremy Gerlach

With more than 3,000 alumni, Houston has the biggest concentration of Tigers outside of San Antonio.

And even in the nation’s fourth-largest city, Trinity’s alumni are standing out from the crowd. See how ten of our Tigers are making their mark across the fields of education, nonprofit advocacy, healthcare, tech, government service, and entrepreneurship.

Ron Fortin ’08
CEO and Founder, Homeschool Spanish Academy

Ron Fortin Fortin’s business, HSA, is using video conferencing to change the way students learn the Spanish language.

HSA connects Spanish learners with remote instructors in Central and Latin America, changing the lives of the people on either end of the platform. Students get an authentic, one-on-one instruction from a native speaker, while these instructors earn income that changes their lives for the better.

“This business is transforming everybody involved—even I’m transforming. Fortin says. “Over the next 50 years, language is going to connect this continent, from Latin America to Canada.”

Fortin, a Business Administration and Finance double major at Trinity, graduated magna cum laude and was also president of the Trinity Multicultural Network and the Filipino Student Association, among other activities. Before Trinity, Fortin served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Montse Garcia ’11
Asylum Officer, USCIS

Montse GarciaAs a Houston-based asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Garcia conducts interviews with refugees fleeing from persecution.

“I myself am a third-generation Latina,” says Garcia, whose international family includes siblings who are Bolivian citizens and a stepfather who is a British citizen. “And I feel like I can make a difference here. Trinity left me feeling like if you aren’t going to make a difference, then what are you doing?”

At Trinity, Garcia double majored in Political Science and Spanish, served as an International Student and Scholar Services Advisor, and was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, Trinity’s political science honor society.

Tyson Weihs ’98
CEO and Co-Founder, ForeFlight

Tyson WeihsWeihs, along with Jason Miller, co-founded ForeFlight in 2007, a company that provides invaluable software to support personal, business, military, and commercial flight operations around the world.

Weihs and Miller, who won the Eren Ozmen Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018, give back to the aviation community by contributing to nonprofits Able Flight, Lighthawk, EAA, AOPA Foundation, the NBAA President's Council, and the Sporty's Foundation. ForeFlight is also a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Weihs double majored in computer science and business administration at Trinity, and was a member of a student entrepreneur team that included Dan Cornell and Sheridan Chambers, founders of SA software powerhouse the Denim Group.

LaTanya Flix ’94
Founder and Principal, CauseAdvance

LaTanya FlixThrough CauseAdvance, Flix helps connect a range of clients who want to make social change with philanthropic causes that match these goals.

Flix’s clients represent the entire wealth spectrum, and include individuals and families, foundations, companies, nonprofit organizations, board members,
networks, and collective giving circles. Causes include education, health, youth and community development, anti-poverty, social justice, and women and girls.

At Trinity, Flix majored in sociology, was a member of honor society Alpha Kappa Delta, and won the National Collegiate Minority Leadership and Delta Sigma Theta Outstanding Leadership awards.

J.R. Paredes
Owner, Satellite Music Group

J.R. ParedesParedes is a Houston-based music producer, composer, mixer, and audio engineer​ who owns Satellite Music Group, a music production company and commercial recording studio.

As an active member of the Recording Academy, Paredes also gets to vote on the Grammy Awards! He mainly works with rock, country, and pop artists, and many of his clients have received radio play throughout the U.S. and abroad, with some reaching Top 40 charts in Europe. 

A music composition major at Trinity, J.R. played tuba in the Trinity Symphony Orchestra and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble. During his time at Trinity, J.R. also composed musical works specifically for some of the university’s music ensembles, including the Trinity Chamber Singers.

Keith Barber ’96
CEO, Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital

Keith BarberAt Willowbrook, Barber leads a high-achieving hospital that’s been nationally recognized for the quality of its care.

Appointed CEO in 2015—after stints as vice president and CFO—Barber led Willowbrook to a Five-star rating from the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Willowbrook is a nonproft, faith-based hospital.

Barber earned his master’s degree from Trinity’s Healthcare Administration program, which has produced CEOs, COO’s and other leaders at hospitals across the country.

Ashley Lai ’13
Founder, Dumpling Haus

Ashley LaiDumpling Haus, a pan-fry food truck, was born out of a lifelong family tradition of love, hospitality and food.

“My mom, Elaine, had grown up following her dad around in the kitchen in Guangzhou, China, where she first learned to make dumplings. When she moved to the United States cooking and sharing food was one of those few comforts that reminded her of home,” Lai says. So, after driving past countless taco trucks in Houston each day, Lai and her mother decided to jump into the food truck scene.

Each Dumpling Haus dumpling is handmade, and the company is also dedicated to making food accessible to people with dietary restrictions, always including at least one gluten-free option and multiple vegan options. “Vegan dumplings aren’t traditional,” Lai says, “but the flavors are 100% traditional.”

At Trinity, Lai double-majored in Urban Studies and Chinese, studied abroad in both Seville and Hong Kong, served with TUVAC, was a member of the Korean Student Association and Filipino Student Association, and service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

Elizabeth Appleby ’94
Curator, San Jacinto Museum of History

Elizabeth ApplebyWhile San Antonio has its Alamo, San Jacinto was the site of the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. As curator for the on-site museum, Appleby is charged with preserving and exploring this rich and complex history.

This means Appleby wears several hats: she oversees the creation and installation of physical and digital exhibits, produces content for the museum’s social media, handles grant writing and reports, and even manages the museum database and IT platforms.

At Trinity, Appleby double-majored in Art History and History.

Robby Buckreis ’12
Founder and Sensei, Forged Warrior Martial Arts and Fitness

Robby BuckreisAt Forged Warrior, Buckreis has created a gym that gives visitors a unique look not just into the world of fitness, but martial arts as well.

Buckreis fills multiple roles as both a trainer and sensei, leading clients through a hybrid discipline that draws on martial arts such as Taekwando, Aikido, Jujitsu, and Jeet Kun Do.

At Trinity, Buckreis was a double major in Business Administration and Neuroscience, was an offensive lineman for the football team, and a thrower for the track and field team.

Joe Alapat ’97
Founder and CEO, LionGard

Joe AlapatAt LionGard, Alapat is helping change the landscape of IT.

While intruders and attackers have typically enjoyed the upper hand in the tech world, Alapat says LionGard is working to tip the scales in favor of IT departments trying to protect their infrastructure.

The company, which specializes in data visibility, system documentation, and threat detection, offers platforms such as “Roar”, which works to automate and strengthen processes for Managed Service Providers, or MSPs.

Alapat was a computer science major during his Trinity days.