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Planned and reinvented

ann stevens sitting at desk

Planned and reinvented

by Cheryl Van Tuyl Jividen

The evolution of Ann Stevens - San Antonio's biomed visionary  

The daughter of two university English graduates, Ann Stevens (B.A. ’72) was immersed early on in reading, writing, and education. “It was almost preordained that I would become a communicator,” Stevens says. 

When her father joined the English faculty at Texas State University, Stevens was editor of the high school newspaper and worked summers at the San Marcos Record. Studying journalism at the university was “a calling,” as was serving as managing editor of the University Star. After graduating with honors in three years, Stevens launched her reporting career for newspapers in Big Spring and Abilene.

Nepotism rules forced Stevens to make the first of several career changes when her fiancé joined the San Antonio Express-News. Unable to work together and unwilling to work for the competing newspaper, Stevens altered her career path. “I began to reinvent myself by taking a job at the corporate headquarters of Harte Hanks, the San Antonio-based media company that owned both newspapers where I’d started,” she says. She found working with management of a publicly traded Fortune 500 media conglomerate came naturally. “I entered the world of big business without even realizing it, shifting almost seamlessly from the journalism career I trained for in college into the field of corporate communications.”

In 17 years at Harte Hanks, she took on additional responsibilities in the field of investor relations, the blend of corporate and financial communications for companies with publicly traded stock. 

Her next reinvention came at the suggestion of a professional contact who thought Stevens was a good match for a cancer drug development company called ILEX Oncology. It had just gone public and was seeking an investor relations director.

Her experience helped her get the job and make a big biotech jump. “Though I’d changed jobs before, it had always been within the media industry that I trained for in college. ILEX represented my first big leap of faith into a new, science-based field that I knew precious little about and hadto learn from the ground up.” She fostered media contacts, promoting the company stock and the management team’s ability to bring new drugs to approval and market. Eight years later, as it was about to get its second leukemia drug approved, the company was acquired for $1 billion.

At the height of the company’s success, Stevens found herself out of a job with few similar prospects in San Antonio. Recognizing the need to transfer her skills and experience to a different position, she worked with a life coach who stressed the need to stay visible with the local business community while weighing her options.

As an active volunteer with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, serving on its healthcare and bioscience committee, she was accepted into the yearlong Leadership San Antonio program as its first biotech professional. She also crafted a personal mission statement along with a job description for a biotech economic development specialist. “I wanted to grow more ILEX’s so that industry professionals like me would have more options on where to work and so San Antonio could participate more fully in this exciting industry of the future!” she says.

At that time, Henry Cisneros, former mayor of San Antonio, launched an idea at the chamber’s annual Economic Outlook Conference to create a nonprofit organization, BioMed SA. It would promote and grow the city’s largest industry sectors — healthcare and bioscience. Stevens was hired in 2005, following a national search for founding president.

“For the past 14 years I’ve played a role that makes full use of my communications skill set,” Stevens said. “My job allows me to use my biotech industry knowledge and passion to help San Antonio diversify its economy by creating well-paying, knowledge-based jobs, and translating academic discoveries into new therapies to make lives better here and around the world.”

Honored as a Distinguished Alumna in 2013, Stevens credits her Texas State education as the foundation for her career successes and remains connected to the university, as a donor and through advisory roles within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Department of English. Over 20 years ago, she endowed the David R. Stevens Memorial Scholarship for graduate students of English while honoring her father’s memory and contributions. 

Stevens and her husband, David Cordova, an advanced manufacturing quality engineer, enjoy watching movies, working out, rooting for the San Antonio Spurs, and spending time with family in Central Texas.

Stevens is leading BioMed SA into the future with a newly developed action plan to continue growing one of San Antonio’s largest industries, building on the community’s role as the “home of military medicine,” as well as five key disease areas in which San Antonio’s biomedical sector has unique assets and recognized strengths: diabetes, infectious diseases, cancer, neurological disorders, and trauma/wound healing/regenerative medicine.

“I never imagined becoming a nonprofit leader or an advocate for science, yet BioMed SA has become the perfect vehicle for realizing my hopes and dreams both for my own career and for the community I love,” she says.