Gayle Brennan Spencer migrated from Virginia to San Antonio 40 years ago, equipped with a degree in international relations hampered by now-forgotten French as a second language. Following major stints of time with the Paseo del Rio Association creating such meaningful San Antonio traditions as the now-extinct Mud Festival, she departed to make her living on the computer as a freelance writer. The majority of her writing and design work was for nonprofit organizations.
In August 2004, Gayle returned to the River as Executive Director of the fledgling San Antonio River Foundation working to secure private contributions to complete the San Antonio River Improvements Project. With more than $10 million in pledges received for the project during her final fiscal year there, Gayle decided to stop to catch her breath – even take a vacation or two.
She now writes and devotes herself to practicing the art of slow travel full-time.Her nonfiction book about Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker, Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park, was released in 2010. Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement was published in 2019.
When distracted from working on her novel about Hedda Burgemeister and Otto Koehler, An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and, Yes, She Shot Him Dead, Gayle tells stories through collages. She tweets under @postcardsfromsa.
To complement Gayle’s midlife forays into producing historic fiction and postcard art, her husband Lamar played lead guitar in a blues band – After Midnight Blues Band. Daughter Kate lives nearby in Austin.
Current Full-Time Occupation: Writing and Pursuing the Art of Slow Travel
2020: Completing An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and, Yes, She Shot Him Dead.
2019: Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement, purchase at Material Media
2010: Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill: Voelcker Roots Run Deep in Hardberger Park, published by LBS CommuniCo
Between 2007 and 2014, freelanced projects for: Artists Foundation of San Antonio; AVANCE; Boudro’s; Coker Cemetery Association; EmployeeWellnessUSA; Excelencia in Education; King William Association; Martinez and Associates; Las Casas Foundation; The Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund; The Original Mexican Restaurant; The Republic of Texas Restaurant; San Antonio Children’s Museum; San Antonio Conservation Society; San Antonio Opera; San Antonio Public Library Foundation; San Antonio River Authority; San Antonio Taste; San Antonio Woman; Sellmark; and Zinc Bistro.
SEPTEMBER 2004 – FEBRUARY 2007: San Antonio River Foundation, Executive Director
Joined a year-old nonprofit organization in 2004, which by fiscal year 2006 secured more than $10 million in pledges and grants. Developed giving program; prepared grants; handled media relations; edited and designed newsletters, annual report and website; edited PowerPoint presentations; created and managed special events; designed invitations; represented the River Foundation in public meetings; coordinated with public partners in the San Antonio River Improvements Project; provided input for Public Art Master Plan; and worked with board of directors.
1993 – AUGUST 2004: Self-Employed Writer/Public Relations Specialist
San Antonio Public Library Foundation, prepared grant reports; designed and wrote Annual Reports; developed grassroots fundraising materials; submitted successful grants to foundations including The Brown Foundation, Houston Endowment, Inc., Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts and the Semmes Foundation, 1999-2004
Sellmark, worked on media relations, newsletters and/or fundraising materials for such non-profit clients as the Army Historical Foundation, French Legation, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, San Antonio Botanical Society and the San Jacinto Museum of History Association, 1999-2004
Conference Coordinator, Excelencia en Educación: The Role of Parents in the Education of Their Children for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, developed conference format and materials in San Antonio and then helped stage conferences in an additional four cities throughout the country with funding from AT&T, The Ford Foundation, IBM, State Farm Insurance Company and six federal agencies, 1998-1999
Conference Coordinator, Opening Doors in the Barrio: Forging New Partnerships, for AVANCE with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1998
Marketing and Media Columnist, San Antonio Business Journal, 1993-1997
Feature Writer, San Antonio Menu Book, 1997-2001
Writer, Annual Special Section on San Antonio for Texas Monthly, 1996-1999
Feature Writer, San Antonio Visitors Guide, 1999-2001
Consultant/writer for diverse clients, including the Alamo Plaza Association, Assumption Seminary, AVANCE, Cox and Smith, Inc., EG&G Management Services, H-E-B, Houston Chronicle, Kangaroo Court Restaurants of Texas, Martinez & Associates, The Mountain Institute, National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, National Underwater and Marine Agency, Paseo del Rio Association, Republic of Texas Restaurant, San Antonio Coalition of Neighborhoods, San Antonio Conservation Society, San Antonio Express-News and Urban Libraries Council
1986-1993: Paseo del Rio Association, Executive Director
Editor, Reflexiones del Rio (now Rio); Editor, Savory Memories of San Antonio (cookbook). The Paseo del Rio Association is a membership-based, non-profit organization with an annual budget exceeding $500,000 and hundreds of volunteers who help stage approximately ten special events each year. Transformed the annual Holiday River Lighting and Holiday River Parade from financial liabilities into the association’s largest generators of revenue; and created new events, including the annual Pachanga del Rio and the Mud Festival – now San Antonio traditions.
1982-1986: Spencer Public Relations & Advertising, Owner
1977-1981: Paseo del Rio Association, Assistant to the Executive Director
1975-1976: Lexington News-Gazette, Lexington, Virginia, Assistant Advertising Manager
EDUCATION: B.A., International Relations, Hollins College, Virginia. Studies included one semester in Paris, France, and another at the United Nations through Drew University, New Jersey. High School, Norfolk Academy, Virginia
PAST CIVIC ACTIVITIES: Director, AVANCE, Inc.; Director, AVANCE – San Antonio; Commissioner, Fiesta San Antonio Commission; Vice President, Monte Vista Historical Association; Aide, El Rey Feo; Vice President, San Antonio Chapter of Women in Communications, Inc.; Director, San Antonio Children’s Center; President, San Antonio Children’s Museum; Director, San Antonio Conservation Society; Editor, San Antonio Conservation Society News; Director, San Antonio Food Bank
PERSONAL: Married since 1975 to Lamar Spencer. Daughter Kate Spencer graduated from Trinity University and lives and works in Austin.