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NACUA's Distinguished Service Award

Renee Smith Byas - 2012

Renee Smith Byas currently serves as general counsel at Houston Community College System. Prior to her appointment at Houston Community College System, she served as vice chancellor and general counsel at Lone Star College System. 

After receiving her bachelor’s degree and law degree from Texas Southern University, she served as assistant attorney general for the State of Texas. Shortly thereafter, she was appointed to the post of general counsel for Texas Southern University. She later served as general counsel at Illinois State University. 

Since joining the NACUA in 1985, Renee has been a very active member of the association having served on the Board of Directors from 2000-2003; three years as Secretary of the Association from 2004-2007; Chair of the Committee on Board Operations 2004-2007, as well as service on the following Committees: Membership and Member Services, Nominations and Elections, Program for the Annual Conference, Legal Education, 50th Anniversary Focus Group, Advisory Group on Continued Engagement of Long Term Members, Board Advisory Group on Diversity and Inclusivity , and as Co-Chair of Affirmative Action Section. She has attended over 20 NACUA educational programs and has also served as a moderator and discussion leader at the NACUA Annual Conference. Renee is an active recruiter of new members to NACUA from her various bar memberships and encourages active participation in NACUA activities. 

She is described by her colleagues as a NACUA member who promotes the core values of NACUA – quality, service, civility, collegiality, diversity, inclusiveness, and respect. Her colleagues note that Renee is constantly encouraging participation and volunteerism in NACUA to both new and seasoned members of the Association. Throughout Renee’s career she has been an inspiration, mentor and role model to several high school, undergraduate and law students. Those who have worked with Renee are aware of her professionalism, integrity, ethical standards, and civility for others. 

Renee is active in several local, State and National Bar associations and has held numerous leadership positions, including President and Vice President in these organizations. She currently serves as a member of the Legal Advisory Panel for United Educators Insurance Company. Renee is also very active in her community as evident in her prior service on the Board of Directors for the Greater Greenspoint Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Special Olympics, former member of the Steering Committee for the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education and presently, an Ambassador of the Greater Houston Partnership. 

She is well respected for her skills at the negotiation table. Her ability to maintain focus on negotiation objective(s) while employing an even handed decision criteria is a quality for which she has received much admiration and praise.