Peter Coneway

Peter Richard Coneway

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Peter Richard Coneway, investment banker, international diplomat, and civic leader whose career took him from the Rio Grande Valley to the capitals of Europe, passed away November 13, 2020, in Houston. He was 76.

Pete Coneway had a Texas-sized personality that made him larger than life. Tirelessly upbeat, he was the consummate lover of people. When he approached with arms wide open and flashed that electrifying smile, no one found it easy to say “no” to their friend - particularly when he was garnering support for an endless array of civic projects.

Above all, Coneway believed that a life worth living was worth sharing with family, friends, and those less fortunate than he. He conducted himself according to his favorite Biblical verse, Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

Possessing a sharp mind, quick wit, and engaging spirit, Coneway quickly worked his way up the ladder at Goldman, Sachs & Company after earning his MBA from Stanford University in 1969. Six years later, after earning a reputation at Goldman Sachs as a positive, can-do team player, he founded the investment bank’s Houston office and was named a general partner in 1978. From the founding of the Houston GS office in 1975, Mrs. Eva Chung served as his right hand and remained his loyal assistant throughout his tenure at Goldman. Since 2009, he has been managing director of Riverstone Holdings LLC.

Investment banking, however, was merely one aspect in the multifaceted career developed by the product of parents who instilled a robust work ethic in their middle son. Always more interested in getting results than playing partisan politics, Coneway received important appointments from both Democrats and Republicans—a rarity in today’s world of highly-polarized politics.

In 1993, Democratic Texas Governor, Ann Richards, appointed Coneway to the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System, UT Austin being his alma mater. In 2006, Republican President George W. Bush nominated Coneway as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, a position he held for three years after winning Senate confirmation and being sworn into office by then Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

As U.S. ambassador in Bern, he promoted American interests abroad and maintained our country’s important relationship with Switzerland and Lichtenstein, Switzerland being a protecting power for the United States in countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the U.S. While there, he created and maintained a series of cooperative projects, educational exchange programs, and an active public relations campaign.

Upon learning of Coneway’s nomination as ambassador, President George H.W. Bush noted: "Pete demonstrates the same tenacity great athletes do. He is a tough competitor who achieves his goals. He does that in a way that earns the respect of those with whom he is working. He is a strong and principled leader."

Said former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III: "Pete has the capacity to juggle complex issues, the judgment to accurately prioritize those issues and the collaborative personality to deal with the people associated with them.”

A relentless fundraiser, Coneway built an impressive legacy of community involvement that included leadership positions with some of Houston’s most important civic institutions, including chairman of the Board of Visitors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and board membership with Texas Heart Institute. He also served as a trustee on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and served the Houston Ballet Foundation, among others.

In 1995, he chaired the Houston/Harris County Sports Facility Public Advisory Committee created after Houston Oilers owner, Bud Adams, announced plans to move his football team from the aging Astrodome into a new stadium in Nashville. Former Mayor Bob Lanier later noted that Coneway's leadership in that post helped produce three new stadiums for the city in five years.

A 2006 editorial in the Houston Chronicle lauded the nomination of Coneway as ambassador, saying that he had dedicated his life to serving others. “He carries with him a long list of personal credentials earned over a lifetime of meritorious service that has made Houston a more livable city,” the Chronicle wrote.

Peter Richard Coneway was born in Harlingen, Texas, on April 13, 1944, as the second of the three sons of Albert Earl Coneway and Clara Laroux “Sue” Durham Coneway. His father, a one-time FBI agent, was Harlingen city attorney for 28 years. His mother was a housewife who made sure her sons kept their noses to the grindstone. As a result, he took his first job at age 10 and never stopped working. “Honesty, integrity and kindness were three of their greatest virtues,” he said of his parents.

A slight but pesky running back for the Harlingen High School Cardinals, Coneway never lost his passion for the sport of football or for the Texas Longhorns, and he was a regular at their games in Austin where he enjoyed a 50-yard line seat at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The hard scrabble of the Rio Grande Valley was responsible for another critical aspect of Coneway’s character—his empathy for others. Growing up in a small, economically challenged community in South Texas, most of his classmates were far from privileged. During the 2003 ceremony when he received the UT Distinguished Alumnus Award, Coneway recalled two childhood friends, each of whom faced distinct challenges. One, a Hispanic friend, who once saved Pete from drowning, dropped out of high school and later lost his life in a senseless conflict. The other faced ridicule because of sexual preference and took his own life.

“If only (they) had had a support system and not lost hope during times of despair, they would have been able to contribute to our society,” Coneway said. “Instead they both lost hope, each in his own way. I believe there is hope in education.”

After high school, Coneway followed his father’s footsteps to The University of Texas at Austin, which he considered a critical beacon in his life. On the Forty Acres, he excelled both at academia and social life. There, he earned his bachelor’s degree and was named the outstanding graduate in the Department of Finance. He was also vice president of the Student Association and an officer in the Texas Beta chapter of the fraternity, Phi Delta Theta.

Coneway bled burnt orange. Years after graduating from Texas, he gave the Ex Students Association a 6-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a longhorn that stands outside the Alumni Center across San Jacinto Boulevard from the football stadium. In 2004, Coneway received the McCombs Business School Hall of Fame Award.

As a sophomore at Texas, he met Lynn Martin, who was then a freshman from Houston, and the two were married four years later in 1967.

Coneway said that their purchase of Dead Horse Ranch in 1990 near Ribera, New Mexico “was one of the most important decisions Lynn and I made.” There, Lynn pursued a passion for horses and excellence in horsemanship. The two kept their ranch house well-stocked with good food and wine, a warm hearth, family, friends and acquaintances – a place for rest, retreat, fellowship and fun.

Coneway was also a director of the Greater Houston Partnership, member of the Board of Advisors at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, member of the National Board and Executive Committee of the Smithsonian Institution, a founding member of Barbara Bush’s Celebration of Reading Houston, a member of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of the United Way, and chairman and trustee of the Stanford Business School Trust.

In 2008, he received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution for “his lifelong dedication to strengthening his community, his state and our nation.”

Coneway was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Albert E. “Bert” Coneway, Jr., and P. Michael Coneway.

Coneway is survived by his wife, Lynn; two daughters, Natalie Lynn Coneway and Cecile Coneway Swan; son-in-law Stephen Swan; and three grandchildren, John William Puckett, Charlie Puckett and Peyton Puckett.

Lynn and the family wish to express their special thanks for and to Dr. Steve Wells, Pastor, South Main Baptist Church; Dr. Robert E. Jackson, M.D., Houston Methodist Hospital; and Pete’s caregivers, Liliana Montes, Evelyn Rojas, Dorca Flores and Clara Navarrete. In addition, our deepest love and gratitude to Olga Munoz, who has been a part of our family for 42 years. And last, but certainly not least, our deep gratitude to Mrs. Melissa Ford, Pete’s executive assistant for the past 12 years, friend, and voluntary assistant to all of us during this difficult period of illness and loss.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to The University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center P.O. Box 4486, Houston, Texas 77210-4486; Open Door Mission, 5803 Harrisburg Blvd., Houston, TX 77011 or Houston Methodist Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 4384, Houston, TX 77210-4384.

A memorial service will take place at a safe future time.
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Open Door Mission

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Pete touched so many lives here at the Mission and will remain in our hearts forever. We pray the love of God enfolds you during this difficult time.

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