Mary Gordon Spence

Speaker, Writer, Commentator


Mary Gordon Spence’s voice is a well-known one around Austin and throughout the State of Texas.  Through her commentaries for the American Statesman and for Austin’s public radio station, KUT, her keynote presentations, and her published essays and stories, Mary Gordon has provided an insight into her world where things are rarely dull.

She grew up in a small Texas town listening to dramatic tales of Texas history and stories of political wins and losses.  Being elected Valentine Queen in the first grade and Miss Friendly of Brownwood High School helped shape her positive attitude. In addition, she was the first on her block to get a hula-hoop.

Mary Gordon changed her major many times in college but managed to graduate from The University of Texas “with her class.” She holds a MA in Intercultural Education from la Universidad de las Americas and several education certifications, including an advanced mediation certification.

A master of diversity, Mary Gordon has lived in Latin America, taught students from kindergarten to college, directed statewide environmental programs, written Texas history materials, drafted legislation, and worked for former president Lyndon Johnson.

Several years ago, Mary Gordon couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to dive in to save audiences from boring talks from members of the nonprofit world.  Her goal was to help nonprofit leaders discover, create and deliver engaging and powerful stories about their work rather than focusing on organization charts and other less-than-titillating information.

For the past four years, she has been a teacher in the Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (CNLM) Program at ACC.  She also works with nonprofits in other settings to help them create inspiring and engaging stories. Her passion for creating compelling stories has had great impact on many group in and around Austin.


Brief statement why you have accepted appointment and what you would consider to have been a successful tenure when your term:

I am proud to serve on the Community Leadership Council of the Center for Nonprofit Studies.  First and foremost, I admire the work that Barry Silverberg has done in creating the Center and the many good things that has come from his great work. No one, in my opinion, knows as much about operating successful NPOs than Barry.  Secondly, I think that the Center is “the place” to go for information, guidance and support for existing nonprofit and emerging nonprofit groups.

There are many more ways to create a stronger presence for the Center in the Austin area, and I want to help recognize and promote the Center’s good work.

Brief statement on your sense of the Center’s impact for its first 15 years and its potential for future:

The impact of the Center for Nonprofit studies during its first 15 years has been amazing, especially in the area of education and training.

The educational opportunities provided by the Center have helped create a new generation of leaders in the nonprofit world.  Through the Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management (CNLM) Program, emerging and experienced leaders have been introduced to the best practices in nonprofit management, with an eye on excellence in every step.

Education provided by the Center has not been limited to the CNLM courses; the Center has also offered outstanding educational opportunities through other classes as well.  From brown bag lunch seminars to more rigorous studies, the Center has provided crucial information for the successful, ethical management of nonprofit groups.