Connie McCombs McNab

Connie McNab

Connie McCombs McNab

Preserving a Legacy

By Dawn Robinette  |  Photography by Suzanne Pack


It’s hard to imagine downtown San Antonio without the glowing marquees of the Majestic and Empire Theatres. They’re woven into the fabric of San Antonio, and it’s no wonder: the Majestic has 95 candles on its birthday cake, and the Empire is 110 years old.


“To me, the great thing about San Antonio is that our history is still alive today. And the Majestic and Empire Theatres are a part of that. Maintaining them is an honor. And then we all get to share in the benefit of attending events in these beautiful theaters,” explains Connie McCombs McNab, a partner in McCombs Enterprises and vice president of the McCombs Foundation.


McNab also serves on the board of directors of the Majestic Empire Foundation – previously known as the Las Casas Foundation thanks to its role in restoring and renovating San Antonio’s beloved Majestic Theatre and Charline McCombs Empire Theatres, the “houses” referenced in the Las Casas name. Las Casas founder Joci Straus asked friend Charline McCombs to host a fundraising dinner. Charline was so moved by the effort to save the theaters that she and her husband, B.J. “Red” McCombs, donated $1 million, and what is now the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre was reborn.


“My first trip to the Empire with mom was before the restoration, when it was in a shambles. I was so proud of her desire to change that. She and dad were determined to renovate that jewel box of a theater – it’s a treasure.”


After restoring the theaters, the foundation set its sights on the future of performing arts, creating the Joci Awards Performing Arts Scholarship Competition. Awarding more than $1.5 million in scholarship funds since its inception in 2009, the competition is the largest performing arts scholarship program in the country. The program provides students with educational opportunities, workshops, master classes and audition experiences, culminating in a Broadway-caliber performance known as the Joci Awards.


McNab became involved with the foundation by attending the Joci Awards with her mother. “Mom never missed a show. She loved to go backstage and meet all the kids. Then, as they performed, she would sit in the front row and get teary. Mom was someone who teared up often at beautiful things – and she would get teary at these kids just belting it out and giving it their all.


“It is a beautiful thing to see. I love kids and am passionate about education and the arts. Putting it together, seeing the effect of art in any form – and the transformation it can make in a child’s life and the way they think – is exciting. It opens the mind.”


McNab’s passion for the arts started when she was young. “A field trip to the McNay was life-changing for me. I was in the third or fourth grade and saw paintings that gave me a feeling I had never felt before. And I thought, I want more of this – I want to know more about that. To me, the arts feed the soul, and that’s why I like being a part of it.”


When Charline could no longer attend foundation board meetings, McNab stepped in. “My mom loved the scholarship and educational programs. It’s what excited her – and what excites me. I could never take her place. But I will do my best to carry forward her vision and support these efforts that will continue to keep the arts flourishing in San Antonio.


“We had a record-breaking 333 applicants this year. They will all receive numerous educational opportunities, including workshops, master classes, and a preliminary audition process—designed to get them college-ready.” The applicants then audition before an adjudication team of seasoned performing arts veterans. The top 25 performers are selected, along with two technical theater students and one theater journalist, to showcase their skills at the Joci Awards on May 5 at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre.


“We’ll give away $120,000 in scholarships to help 28 students pursue their college dreams. And they don’t have to use the money for a theater degree – they can use it for any field they want to study. We’ve had people tell us that it’s made the difference in their kids being able to go to their school of choice. That’s what gets me excited.”


McNab credits her parents for multiple life lessons. “Being the daughter of two incredible people – two incredible philanthropic people – but also people who just the way they lived their lives helped shape me. I saw what they did, and they taught by example. I learned how to lead from my dad, and I learned how to be a loving and caring person from my mom and how to give of myself to others from both of them.”


She’s also learned that her instincts are a great guide. “I learned early on to take chances and to trust my instincts. I learned that that would not steer me wrong. I think a lot of times, we don’t listen to that inner voice, and instead think, ‘I can’t do it. Why would I do that?’ But you need to trust that voice. You’ll never regret it.


“It’s a cliché, but clichés are clichés because they’re true. Don’t spend so much time worrying about all these small things. It’s going to work out. Listen to that voice in your head. There were a lot of times when I didn’t and when I would shut it down and think, ‘Oh, that’s not right.’ And then that’s when I made mistakes.


“And when I didn’t listen to my mother,” she laughs. “My mother was always right. It’s unbelievable how she was always right. And if I didn’t do what she suggested, it was a mistake.’


She has life lessons and advice from both mom and dad to follow. “The best advice I received from my dad was, ‘Don’t complain, don’t explain.’ It’s good advice. Nobody wants to hear this long, drawn-out stuff. Just do it. In other words, just get the job done. Another one of my favorites of his that I find myself saying all the time in many different situations is, ‘You’ve already played that card.’ Why are you going that road again? You’ve already played that card.


“My mom’s advice was that I don’t have to tell everything I know. Sometimes, you just want to keep quiet and not tell everything you know. As I get older, mom’s advice was right. I don’t have to say everything I know. I don’t have to tell everything I know. And it’s really helped me a lot. I learned to listen. Sometimes, it takes time for good advice to take hold and make sense to you. You have to have some experiences where you didn’t heed it, and you think, oh, yes, mom was right.


“My personal philosophy is every day; I want to try to do my best. Then at night, I do a little inventory. What could I have done better? How could I have done that better? Then I start the next day thinking, I’m going to do this better. It’s something I got from my dad. Each day is a gift. He’d say, ‘Everybody’s got the same 24 hours. What are you going to do with it?”


McNab’s 24 hours include spending time outdoors with her and her husband Sandy’s three dogs. “I start my day, and I end my day outside, and it’s because of the dogs. No matter what the weather is, they’ve got to go outside, and I go with them. It’s a really nice way to say hello to the day, then say goodbye and thank you to that day.”


With four children and six grandchildren, McNab looks to the future of the family’s legacy. “My sisters and I have instilled that the next generation of my parents – eight grandchildren – their support of philanthropic endeavors should be based on involvement. If they say, ‘Let’s support this foundation,’ we ask, ‘What’s your involvement?’ The kids are all involved in various areas of interest for them, and I couldn’t be prouder.


“That’s what I learned from my parents. I love being a part of carrying on our family’s legacy – my parents’ legacy. To me, that’s the greatest honor in the world just to keep that going.”


charline mccombs connie mcnab




Robinette Headshot 1
Dawn Robinette
Contributing Writer
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. Selected as a local expert by the San Antonio River Walk Association, she regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can also read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.
Robinette Headshot 1
Dawn Robinette
Contributing Writer
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. Selected as a local expert by the San Antonio River Walk Association, she regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can also read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.

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