Image courtesy of UTSA.
Image courtesy of UTSA.

How would you like to have dinner with Craig Boyan, president and chief operating officer of H-E-B, to talk about eating healthy? It’d be a good opportunity to talk about your neighborhood H-E-B with the ranking executive after CEO and Chairman Charles Butt.

How about a seat next to Ricardo Romo, president of UTSA, as he lays out his vision for taking San Antonio’s four-year public university to Tier One status? Perhaps you’d rather break bread with Bill Chiego, director of the McNay Art Museum, to help celebrate the museum’s 60th anniversary.

Great Conversation!,” UTSA’s annual fundraiser for its Honors College, enters its 14th year on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6-9 p.m. at the Institute of Texan Cultures at Hemisfair Park. It’s popularity is twofold: One, attendees can select the table host they most want to meet and converse with over dinner.  Two, the event has become San Antonio’s anti-gala dinner party.

Wine and food is served buffet-style. Some people will be dressed in suits, others will be wearing jeans and cowboy boots. And there is always a lot of table hopping as people network and move around to meet different table hosts. It’s the antithesis of the formal gala dinner with lots of speeches and presentations.

Conversation leader Raul Lomeli-Azoubel, executive chairman of SABEResPODER (center) with participants of the “Great Moments in Mariachi Music” conversation table for the UTSA Great Conversations 2013 fundraiser. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Conversation leader Raul Lomeli-Azoubel, executive chairman of SABEResPODER (center) with participants of the “Great Moments in Mariachi Music” conversation table for the UTSA Great Conversation! 2013 fundraiser. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Here’s the bonus: Many of the tables will include a student or two from the Honors College. These young men and women are UTSA’s best and brightest, people doing remarkable work and recipients of scholarships funded by Great Conversation!

Full disclosure: I am hosting a table to talk about the ups and downs of our two-year-old startup, the Rivard Report. Some years ago, Monika Maeckle, my wife, and I served as co-chairs for the event. I’ve attended as both a table host and a table hopper, eager to share a meal with individuals I might not otherwise meet. The price of admission is $95 for an individual ticket. Parking is free. Click here to register. For that you get food, drink, interesting company and you are helping fund scholarships. You also get to wander the Institute’s museum exhibits if you haven’t paid a visit recently.

Some tables and hosts are no longer available. Dinner with author, documentarian and UTSA distinguished senior lecturer John Phillips Santos sold out quickly. Santos was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in the same class with Dan Goodgame, Rackspace’s VP for corporate communications. That one is sold out, too. Ditto with Darryl Byrd, CEO of SA2020, and Pat DiGiovanni, CEO of Centro San Antonio.

For wine and tequila lovers, you’ll also have to settle for table hopping. San Antonio chef Johnny Hernandez, owner of La Gloria and Fruteria, will be discussing “Tequila vs. Mezcal: Is There a Winner?” Plenty of people want to explore that question; it’s sold out. Julius Gribou, UTSA’s executive vice provost and senior international officer, will be discussing “Food and Wine Pairings Across Italy, France and Spain.” That’s also sold out. One wonders if Chef Hernandez and world traveler Gribou will be bringing research materials to sample at the dinner.

Other sold out tables: Charlie Gonzalez, VIA’s chief of public engagement and a former seven-term U.S. Congressman, and Sonya Medina Williams, consultant for Silver Eagle Distributors and the former deputy assistant for domestic policy to Pres. George W. Bush and director of projects for First Lady Laura Bush.

There are plenty of still-open tables with interesting hosts, so sign up now for an engaging evening of great conversation.

*Featured/top image: promotional photo courtesy of UTSA.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.