conservation leader

Houston energy exec to chair Texas parks board

Jeff Hildebrand will lead the organization that protects and conserves Texas parks. Photo via

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, or TPWC has named its newest chair, and the job went to a Houston energy executive.

Governor Greg Abbott named billionaire Jeff Hildebrand as chair of the Parks And Wildlife Commission, effective August 31. The organization "manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas and provides hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations," according to a news release from the state. In the announcement, William “Leslie” Doggett was also named to the commission.

Hildebrand replaces Arch "Beaver" Aplin, the CEO of Buc-ee’s, who served as the chair for the past two years.

“I thank (Aplin) for faithfully serving his fellow Texans to preserve the beautiful Texas landscape that spurs our booming tourism industry and protects our state's rich history," says Governor Abbott in the release. "Jeff Hildebrand and William Doggett both bring unique experiences to the Commission and will help ensure that Texans, and out-of-state visitors alike, continue to enjoy Texas’ outdoors and recreational activities for generations to come.”

Hildebrand, the richest person in Houston with a net worth at $10.2 billion according to Forbes, is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Company, a privately held energy exploration and production company. He also serves as a director for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Central Houston Civil Improvement, and Central Houston Inc. A University of Texas alumnus, he was formerly the chairman of The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company and served as the gubernatorial appointed vice chair for the UT System Board of Regents, among other roles.

Doggett, another Houston executive, is the executive chairman and founder of the Doggett Equipment Services Group and the Doggett Auto Group, which has 47 dealerships throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico. He's also a UT alumnus and a member of the World Presidents Organization, and a trustee of the Houston Methodist Research & Academic Institute, The Kinkaid School, San Jacinto Monument and Texas History Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston – Rienzi.

This year marks the centennial celebration for the organization, which is led by the commission. Governor Pat Neff worked with Texas leaders to create the State Parks Board in 1923 to create a place where Texans “might go and forget the anxiety and strife and vexation of life's daily grind,” per the website.

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A View From HETI

HEXASpec was founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program. Photo courtesy of Rice

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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