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Friday, December 4, 2020
News Newsmakers: Director named at UTA’s Center for African American Studies

Newsmakers: Director named at UTA’s Center for African American Studies

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Jason Shelton, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington, has been appointed the director of the university’s Center for African American Studies, effective Jan. 1.

He succeeds interim director W. Marvin Dulaney, former chariman of the history department and associate professor emeritus.

Shelton joined UT Arlington in 2008 as an assistant professor and has been a faculty affiliate of the center since its founding in 2012. He frequently speaks to groups and is a media commentator on black middle class culture and ideology, racial and ethnic attitudes, the sociology of religion, and the debate over race versus class.

Previously, he was on the faculty of Miami-Dade College, the College of Wooster and Rice University. Shelton earned his undergraduate degree in sociology from Kent State University. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Miami.

“Dr. Shelton distinguished himself early on as a very strong candidate to lead UTA’s Center for African American Studies,” said Ron Elsenbaumer, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “He has visionary leadership as demonstrated by his teaching, research activity, mentoring and engagement with students, faculty, staff and others within and outside of the African-American community.”

“I am honored to accept this role for a number of reasons,” Shelton said. “First, it provides a major opportunity to impact people’s lives in a way that takes the classroom beyond the traditional boundaries and into the community. Second, it serves as a platform for conducting and sharing research that furthers our understanding of the contemporary African-American experience as well as our nation’s past, present and future.”

Shelton has written several articles and the book Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions (2012), which was honored by the Southern Conference on African American Studies with the C. Calvin Smith Award. The book also earned honorable mention from the American Sociological Association’s Section on the Sociology of Religion.

The Center for African American Studies was established in August 2012. It is the only center of its kind in North Texas and one of only three in the state. Its mission is to enlighten, inspire and empower students, faculty and the community to create progressive, collaborative solutions that drive social change within the African-American community and the broader society.

Among its signature events and initiatives are its CAAS Opening Lecture, Evening of Arts and Letters, and annual CAAS Conference.

Shelton said his vision for the center includes three major goals: increasing the number of students in the African American studies minor program, ensuring that the center has a meaningful impact on campus and establishing a department of diversity studies.

Banking & Finance

Rob Semple joined Texas Capital Bank Private Wealth Advisors as a senior vice president and investment adviser. A chartered financial analyst, Semple has 17 years of investment experience in New York and Texas. He previously worked as an equity portfolio manager at Citadel, an investment analyst at Carlson Capital and an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse. Forbes magazine ranked Semple the top analyst of 2008 in the computers and office equipment category based on his stock recommendations and also ranked him No. 2 the same year among Wall Street analysts across all categories.

Texas Capital Bank promoted Mark Johnson and John Sarvadi to managing director-regional and specialty banking, a new position at the bank. Jim Recer, who most recently led U.S. corporate coverage for BBVA Compass in Houston, also joined Texas Capital Bank in the same position.

Johnson has been responsible for oversight of the Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio regional offices as well as statewide commercial real estate and builder finance.

Sarvadi has had primary responsibility for corporate banking in Houston as well as the bank’s national efforts around asset-based lending and retail franchise finance.

Matthew R. Redding Sr. is a new partner at Financial Gravity Companies Inc. Redding is the founder of Metroplex Wealth LLC in Southlake and has been in the financial services industry since 1983.

Construction & Engineering

McCarthy Building Companies Inc. expanded its leadership team with the return of Todd Henson as vice president of transportation operations, and the promotions of Bob Rogers to vice president of marine operations, Fitz O’Donnell to marine project director and John Frazier to solar project director. Henson will lead efforts to secure and execute heavy civil/transportation-related projects throughout Texas. He was with McCarthy from 1995-2004 in various positions including project engineer, assistant superintendent, project manager and estimator. Prior to his return to McCarthy, he was the deputy director of construction at Southgate Constructors, where he oversaw all construction activities and design review on one of the largest transportation projects in Dallas.

Rogers joined McCarthy in 2000 as a project engineer. In his new position he will lead efforts to expand client relationships and execute marine projects across the Gulf Coast.

O’Donnell started with McCarthy in 2008 as an assistant project manager working on the Port of Houston Authority Bayport Wharf 1 project. He has since worked on other projects including the Texas A&M Wellborn Road underpass, Port Freeport Berth 7 and the SJRA Surface Water Treatment Plant. In his new position, he will focus on McCarthy’s port and marine efforts, providing leadership and technical support to three ongoing Port of Houston projects.

Frazier joined McCarthy in 2006 as a project manager working on the IH 410 reconstruction project in San Antonio. In his 16-year career, he has worked on projects including the 205 MW Roserock Solar Plant, Fort Worth Westside Water Treatment Plant, MARAD Beaumont Layberth Facility and the DART TRE Beltline grade separation. He will focus on expanding solar market share and delivering renewable energy throughout Texas.

Honors & Awards

American Airlines has received the Human Rights Campaign’s highest rating in the 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). American was the only airline to achieve a perfect score when the CEI launched in 2002, and is one of only a handful of corporations to do so every year since. The CEI is a nationally recognized benchmark that evaluates America’s top workplaces and their inclusion of LGBT employees and their allies. Companies that earn the top CEI score of 100 percent also are named the “Best Places to Work” in the United States.


Bourland, Wall & Wenzel PC has added new associate attorney Elle Whitaker. Whitaker, a cum laude graduate from the University of Alabama School of Law, focuses on business transactions and business planning. She was admitted into the State Bar of Texas in 2016.

Business trial law firm Curnutt & Hafer LLC will open an office in Decatur on the historic square in early 2017. It is the firm’s second location, with its first in Arlington. Pat Wadlington joins as an attorney and Robin Stout as community relations coordinator and case manager.

Real Estate

Trademark Property Co. added Jencey Keeton as director of corporate marketing. With 12 years of experience in retail and entertainment brand strategy and marketing, Keeton will lead the marketing and communications initiatives for Trademark and its 17 properties. Keeton was the digital brand manager for global marketing at Fossil and as digital marketing manager for AT&T Performing Arts Center. She is also the founder of Social Yum Yum, a blog covering the latest digital trends, interviewing creators and providing tips and tricks. Her experience also includes Clear Channel Radio, Reach Media and R.J. Reynolds. Keeton has spoken at a number of industry conferences and webinars including Brand Innovators, Social Media Today and eTail West.


Beth-El Congregation, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Fort Worth, installed a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, during installation activities Dec. 9-11. Zimmerman is the 13th rabbi to lead the 114-year-old congregation. He took over rabbinical duties on July 1 from long-time Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, who retired.

Zimmerman, a 12th- generation rabbi, was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in New York City in 1993. He was the regional rabbinic director for the South District of the Union for Reform Judaism and served clergy and congregations in an 11-state district comprising 195 congregations. He was the rabbi at Congregation Beth Am in Tampa, Florida, from 1999-2006, and the assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, from 1993-1999.

Through his temple classes and other outside commitments, Zimmerman merges his two passions – Judaism and film, the latter of which he studied at Boston University. He has served as co-chairman of Cinema Emanu-El in Dallas, a major summer Jewish film festival, and was chairman of Film Procurement for the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival. He teaches classes that explore religious themes in American films.

Zimmerman has served on boards and on numerous committees, including as vice president of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas and president of the Tampa Rabbinical Association. In 2015, he was featured as one of Tablet Magazine’s “15 American Rabbis You Haven’t Heard Of, But Should.”


McDonald Transit Associates Inc., which provides public transit management services at 32 locations in 17 states, appointed Blaine Rigler as its president. Rigler replaces Ken Fischer, senior vice president of business development, who had been interim president since the retirement of Robert “Bob” Babbitt in October. Rigler will also take on the role of vice president of bus for RATP Dev America, the parent company of McDonald Transit.

Rigler has over 25 years of experience in leadership and operations management. He previously was senior vice president-global solutions at Iron Mountain Inc., an S&P 500 company employing 17,000 professionals in 1,000 facilities across 36 countries.

Laurence Batlle will take over the reins as RATP Dev CEO from Francois-Xavier Perin, who will officially retire in January.

Send Newsmakers to Betty Dillard at bdillard@bizpress.net


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