OUR TEAM

Our Founders

Alfred Anthony Annunziato (Tony)

Founder

Since 2007, Mr. Annunziato has been a board member of Texas Aspires (formerly Texas Institute for Education Reform ‘TIER”) a non-profit organization that advocates for education policies that focus on students first. 

 Tony is President of the Annunziato Family Foundation, which is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization and includes a Scholarship Fund to assist students/families with college tuition, etc. Currently, he is trying to find young people with potential, but are disadvantaged because of circumstances, and help them become exceptional productive adults. 

Mr. Annunziato believes economic opportunities will continue to be abundant for those who know how to position themselves for access and therefore success. As so many of these skills are not taught in schools, he would like to show those young people what is necessary to give them greater access to long term financial and emotional success.

Background:

Tony Annunziato is Sole Member of Annunziato Holdings, a privately held company which was formed in March 2015 as a vehicle to trade and invest personal funds. He founded AAA Capital Management in 1997 wherein energy futures were traded on a private platform for Citigroup / Smith Barney as a Commodity Trading Advisor, where he served

as President and co-owner until his retirement at the end of 2014. In the year 2005 AAA Capital reached a billion dollars under management. He was a member of the NYMEX until his retirement in 2015. 

Mr. Annunziato has over 40 years of experience in the commodity trading business beginning in the early 70’s with the Chicago Board of Trade. He then moved on to Citigroup/Smith Barney and its predecessors supplying energy futures services to a wide range of commercial traders and individual commodity accounts. He retired from Smith Barney in 2005 to focus on his AAA Capital Advisors business. 

Tony is a board member for EIV Capital which he co-founded in 2009; EIV is a private equity firm based in Houston, Texas, specializing in the energy industry. EIV focuses on the midstream and downstream segments of the market. EIV Capital is an investor-centric private equity firm, with diverse team experience. 

He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1948, and attended St. Bonaventure University graduating in 1971 with a BS in Business Management. Mr. Annunziato has three grown sons. 

His hobbies include dinners with family and friends, reunions with his siblings, playing golf and attending Astros games.

Rick Gornto

Founder

Rick Gornto, CFP is President of First Financial, INC., an investment management company that manages investments for county governments. He is nationally recognized for his development , implementation and management of the ALTERNATE PLAN, sometimes called the Galveston Plan, which has had a 38 year record as successful privatized alternative to Social Security.

Additionally, he has been managing partner of DRDA, LLC, a midsize CPA firm and he was co leader of the consulting service division with one of his partners specializing in M&A activity, tax strategies, retirement planning and executive assessment. He sold his interest in DRDA in March 1, 2015 and is now chair of the two founding Houston groups of Tiger 21. He is also a past member of the Tiger 21 New York City group.

Since college at University of Louisiana Lafayette he has continued his education and received certifications in financial planning, business value building, retirement planning, Birkman Assessments, and personal coaching as well as licenses in Insurance Counseling, P&C insurance, life insurance, securities, and real estate.

He has a passion for helping people develop both personally and professionally and to that end he mentors and works with at-risk and abused children through Communities in Schools – Bay Area a non-profit organization.

He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of HCA Clear Lake Regional Hospital, Special Spaces, LLC. For terminally ill children, and Emertis Board member of Communities in Schools – Bay Area for at-risk children. His past boards include Alvin National Bank, Alvin Community College, the Nolan Ryan Foundation and Houston Child Advocates for abused children.

He has been married to Janice since 1971 and is an avid “Poppy” to his five grandchildren.

Hobbies are reading and research of Hebrew and Christian history, family trips, philanthropy, golf, hunting, fishing, skiing and scuba diving.

Hillary Gramm

Executive Director

Hillary Gramm has been empowering youth for past 13 years through her work in the non-profit sector. Growing up, Hillary experienced home life issues, which inspired her to delve into the issues children face that may hinder their chances of success. She works towards achieving her goal of assisting youth in breaking the cycle both professionally and voluntarily through her role in community organizations.

Originally from Chicago, Hillary came to Houston after graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. She managed the Bay Area Branch of Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Houston where she matched youth with adult role models for the mentor program. Hillary, inspired by the program became a volunteer mentor herself and continues to serve as a Big Sister to Emily.

Hillary’s desire to do more to help stabilize the lives of children in need led her to a 10-year career at Communities In Schools – Bay Area. She worked directly with students in Clear Creek ISD for 5 years before transitioning to the Resource Development Director role where over her tenure, she helped raise over $1M. Also, during this time, Hillary received her Master of Arts from University of Houston – Clear Lake in Cross Cultural Studies.


When the opportunity arose to help develop and implement the HIGHER Up Texas program, Hillary knew this was the next step in her life-long goal of positively impacting the life trajectory of children. She is eager and excited to be on this journey to kick start the program during its pilot year at Dickinson High School. 


Hillary has received the Houston Business Journal’s 2015 40 Under 40 honor as well as the Galveston Daily News 2019 40 Under 40 honor. She never takes a day for granted and serves in any way she can to brighten the days of others.