Staff Bios for University Media Relations

Richard Bonnin, Assistant DirectorRICHARD BONNIN: Executive Director of Media Relations

Who would have thought that when Richard Bonnin spent a couple of summers playing for an independent semi-pro baseball team in Beaumont, he would leave his field of dreams for the journalism and public relations fields? Well, as he explains it, maybe some of the folks who saw him play. Richard joined the University of Houston in February 2007, and is the Executive Director for Media Relations. He has enjoyed seeing the growth and development of the team as they strive to achieve goals and increase the university’s visibility. Richard’s previous experience includes sixteen years at the Office of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, where he worked in media relations, managed and edited publications, and served as coordinator for internal communication. He also spent nine years as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise, covering a wide range of beats, including City Hall, federal and state courts, higher education and police. He has won numerous awards for writing and editing from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and Hearst Newspapers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Lamar University in Beaumont. When Richard needs to take a breather, he hits the golf course – and has been futilely chasing his second hole-in-one for two decades.


With her own local newspaper column before she could even drive, Shawn Lindsey got an early start in the news industry. A New Braunfels native, Shawn graduated with honors from Texas A&M with a double major in political science and journalism, and launched her professional career as an anchor and reporter for the education-based news program Channel One News in Los Angeles. She followed that up with time working behind the scenes as a freelancer for ABC Sports and on-air at television stations in Texas and Missouri, including anchoring and reporting for the morning and early evening newscasts on Fox 2 KTVI in St. Louis. As assistant director of media relations at UH, Shawn uses her skill to help lead efforts to increase the university’s visibility and share the important stories happening on campus. In her spare time, Shawn loves to cook for friends, explore new places, spend time with her dogs, and give her time to the community. She volunteers with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Premium Seating Committee, the American Cancer Society’s Starlight Gala and Pink Door, a local non-profit that helps women in remission from cancer.


Music was always a love of Mike Emery’s, as was writing. Soon, the two loves would combine and a career would be born. Mike started working as a media relations representative at the University of Houston in 2001 covering fine arts, but before coming here, he had a wide spectrum of jobs. Among his first jobs was as a copywriter, and later he was the publications manager for a trade association and oversaw its monthly magazine. For years he also freelanced for weeklies and magazines as a music and movie writer, mainly writing about blues and R&B performers. He also worked for a few Web publications including Mike received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communication at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) in 1993, and in 2007 received a Master of Arts in Humanities-Professional Writing at UH-Clear Lake. Along with his love of music and writing, Mike is partial to B-movies – if it’s bad, it’s good, he says. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and dogs, riding bikes, and attending concerts and festivals.


As a classically trained musician on flute and piccolo, Lisa Merkl started out her career teaching lessons, performing in professional classical ensembles and a few rock bands. It was writing about rock bands that lured her into journalism, and later public relations. The New Jersey native was born to Hungarian parents, and learned to speak Hungarian and English at the same time. She’s lived in the Houston area since 1979, where she attended UH and earned a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in music, and a M.A. in Public Relations Studies. With 15 years of public relations experience, including work for Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Vollmer Public Relations and Johnston & Company Advertising, Lisa has helped clients write materials, garner media coverage and chart out communication plans for a variety of fields. For UH, Lisa helps direct coverage for natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, pharmacy, optometry, research, Texas Learning & Computation Center, Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, the Center for Advanced Materials and Institute for Molecular Design. In her job, she is able to incorporate two of her passions – writing and learning from the great minds in a university setting.


Marisa, who joined UH in 2004, covers education, social work, architecture and hotel and restaurant management. She also works to promote faculty in the UH Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Public Policy. Marisa is a veteran news radio journalist, filing stories with San Antonio’s KTSA, WOAI and Houston’s KTRH and KUHF. During her 13-year tenure in broadcasting, she covered stories on education, city and county government, women’s issues and children. She also wrote and produced a number of award-winning special news and feature stories, and served as an afternoon-drive news anchor. She graduated from the University of Houston in 2000 with a degree in English.


Jeannie Kever is happy to discuss natural gas vehicles, the potential of waterless fracking and whether solar power will ever catch up with wind as Texas’ leading renewable source of energy. After a long career as a newspaper reporter, capped by covering energy for the Houston Chronicle, she now covers energy initiatives for the University of Houston, as well as the Division of Research, the College of Engineering and the College of Technology. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and after being warned that an English degree would never pay off, began a newspaper career that took her to papers in Texas, Florida and Washington state. She has been in Houston since 1997, making UH’s energy, engineering and technology-related research a natural fit for a long-time resident of the nation’s energy capital. 


Francine Parker is a veteran University of Houston staff member. Prior to joining UH, Francine was a reporter for the Waco Tribune-Herald. She has received numerous honors, including two Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District IV awards. She holds a master of business administration from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a bachelor of journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Melissa Carroll, Writer-Editor

From working as a “slimer” in a fish cannery in Alaska, to teaching English in Japan, to interning with the New York Times, Melissa Carroll explored a wide range of fields and careers before joining the media relations team at the University of Houston. A graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. with a bachelor’s degree in art history, and a master’s in education from the University of Southern Maine, Melissa has 20 plus years of work experience, including nine years in media relations. She previously promoted the Maguire Energy Institute as associate director of marketing and communications for the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University and served as a media relations specialist for Vinson & Elkins LLP, one of the leading energy law firms in the nation. She now helps direct coverage of energy, business and environmental matters at the university. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, looking for fun activities to do in Houston. She also enjoys exploring the public library and maritime museums – an interest she developed during yet another summer job as a camp counselor at the Maine Maritime Museum.


Mike Garrity, Writer-Editor

A seasoned journalist, Mike Garrity worked as a television news anchor and reporter for more than a decade, most recently at WMUR-TV (ABC) in New Hampshire, KSDK-TV (NBC) in St. Louis, WWBT-TV (NBC) in Richmond and KDRV-TV (ABC) in Oregon.  Garrity twice led NBC’s “Today” show, providing live coverage of breaking national news, has covered Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush and has interviewed public figures including Vice President Biden, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, John Kerry, John McCain and Whoopi Goldberg.  He has also contributed reporting to NBC News, CNN, BBC Radio and ABC News, among others.  Born in Bethesda, Maryland, Mike graduated high school in Andover, Massachusetts and earned his B.S. in Journalism from Emerson College in Boston.  In 2002 Garrity traveled to Saudi Arabia as a selected participant in a royal family-sponsored, “Saudi-American Exchange,” trip.  In 2012 Mike was awarded the “U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Valor” for rescuing a stranger from nearly drowning in dangerous surf off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.


Kristina Michel joined the University Communication team in 2011.  Previously, she was the communications specialist for the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA), a non-profit trade association.  She served as managing editor of the organization’s trade publication, Today’s Technician, and was a principal contributor to the NPTA’s website.  Michel also worked as an intern for City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s election campaign and for the Houston Wellness Association.  A native Houstonian, she graduated summa cum laude from UH in 2008 as a member of The Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in communications/print media.  She worked as a reporter for the UH student newspaper, the Daily Cougar, in 2008.  Her hobbies include reading, writing, swimming, going to the movies, traveling and looking for interesting new restaurants.  Since both her parents and a number of other relatives have also attended UH, Michel says that her return as an employee feels a lot like coming home.

ERIC GERBER: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/COMMUNICATIONEric Gerber, Executive Director/Communication

Eric’s career in daily print journalism covered more than two decades, with positions ranging from film critic and book editor to editorial writer and daily columnist. He also worked in the online field as senior producer with Microsoft Sidewalk and as editor-in-chief of Citysearch/Houston. In addition to serving on the faculty at Sam Houston State University, he has taught courses in film, literature and communications at other area universities. He has won awards from the Texas Headliners, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the Houston Press Club. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism education and a master's in English, both from UH.