HOUSTON – Terence Fontaine was born and raised in Third Ward until his parents relocated to Meyerland in 1970. Sam and Beverlye Fontaine, along with their three children (Terence, Michael and Tanya) were amongst one of the first African-American families’ to reside in that region. Accordingly, Terence was the only African-American student at his elementary school, Walnut Bend. He learned the value of hard work at an early age, an attribute he accredits to his parents. He said, “My parents were both very hardworking people and my father sacrificed a lot into getting us to where he thought we could better ourselves.” Hence he began cutting yards and trimming trees for his neighbors at the age of 12. His intermediate academic studies were completed at Johnston Jr. High School. He later graduated from Bellaire High School in 1978.
Growing up, Fontaine was unsure of what he wanted to do. However, he did know that he wanted to be successful in whatever path he chose. “I have always wanted to prove something to my parents – I wanted to be a barrier breaker – I wanted to show that I was about doing something big and positive,” he said.
After spending his formidable years at the airport during the summertime, Fontaine developed a desire to become an airline pilot. His father, being a 32-year employee of Delta Airlines, was not entirely sure that he could reach that level, so he attempted to convince his son otherwise. Yet, it was something about spending those summer years, watching the pilots decked in their uniforms leading their entourage that excited him. As such, Fontaine conducted the necessary research to become a pilot and found that it was not an affordable option for him to do it privately. Therefore, he joined the United States Marine Corps.
In his pursuit of becoming an airline pilot, Fontaine had completed all of the necessary requirements. His educational achievements were in place, as he had previously earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He had an impeccable score on his physical fitness test and only had to complete the required physical exam to consummate the process. Upon doing so, the naval flight surgeon diagnosed him as being colorblind. Although this factor was discouraging at the time, it did not annihilate his desire to fly. Hence, he would take his savings and during his downtime from the Marine Corps, he would commence to flying on his own. During this time he gained his private license and multi-engine rating. After dedicating a sum of seven years of service to the Marine Corps, he received an honorable discharge.
Afterwards, Fontaine secured employment with Continental Airlines as Manager of Maintenance Operations. In his role there, he was responsible for the maintenance of 343 airplanes and had 6,000 maintenance personnel under him. At this point, he had acquired a plethora of recreational flying hours, so he decided that he would test for his multi-engine commercial license. Aware that he could get a waiver for being colorblind as a civilian, Fontaine knew that the one element that prevented him before from becoming a pilot, could not pose a threat to him now. Thus, he applied for his license and informed the flight surgeon that he would need a waiver. The surgeon instructed him to take the test and wait for the outcome. Consequently he passed the test and it was established that he was not color blind as he had been told by the surgeon before. Therefore, he was able to acquire his multi-engine commercial license. Realizing that he was not colorblind and now having possession of all the requisites to fly the skies professionally, he set his sights on achieving his dream.
Equipped with his multi-engine commercial license and training and experience in the industry, Fontaine was now ready to initiate his career as an airline pilot. Accordingly, he petitioned his superiors at Continental Airlines and requested a transfer to Flight Operations. Though they advised him that he would receive a pay cut, he was still determined to fulfill his life-long dream. He started off as a Boeing 727 pilot instructor, due to his extensive maintenance knowledge. As an instructor, Fontaine developed a reputation as never having a student under his guidance to fail an FAA exam. He was later privileged to become the Boeing 777 pilot instructor, after completing three months of training and passing the exam to become a pilot instructor of the 777. Ultimately, he had to temporarily relocate to Denver, Colorado to operate in this capacity. Once Continental got a simulator in Houston for the 777, he received the opportunity to come home.
In 2000, Fontaine was approached by the vice president of Flight Operations at Continental Express. As it was, they were having difficulty with passing pilots for the new EMB-145 jets that were purchased. Aware of Fontaine’s record of never having a failing student, he was asked to overview the pilot training program at Continental Express. After doing so, he realized that the entire training program needed to be rewritten and was asked to be responsible for the task. Fontaine graciously accepted the opportunity and left the 777. From this experience, he composed the training program that is still in place today for the EMB-145 jet pilot training program.
In 2002, Fontaine and his wife Diedra were at a dinner at River Oaks Country Club. Coincidentally, he sat next to Bill White, they conversed and became friends. White later informed him that he was a prospective candidate for mayor. The following year, they met again and White asked for his support in the upcoming mayoral race. Fontaine was delighted to oblige and immediately began speaking on White’s behalf. Fortunately, Bill White became mayor and extended him an invitation to work with him as his Deputy Chief of Operations and staff. The mayor was confident that he would be an asset for his team.
Though Fontaine took a pay cut, he left his position and began working at City Hall. He regards his position at City Hall as being the best job he has held in his life. “It gave me a lot of autonomy to do a lot of things within the city that I felt saved taxpayers money, improve processes, helped people get jobs and changed residents’ lives for positive,” he said. He continued, “Mayor White was a great boss to work with and he trusted me and gave me the opportunity to do things that I hadn’t trained for.” “He saw something in me that I didn’t know I had,” he added.
In 2005 when the wrath of Hurricane Katrina devastated the residents of New Orleans, Mayor Bill White made a decision to take care of the evacuees in Houston. In doing so, he assigned Fontaine as the co-manager of the George R. Brown Convention Center to take care of those affected. He tirelessly dedicated his time to assisting the evacuees with transitioning through the process. Fontaine maintains that although it was hard work it was amongst one of the most fulfilling things he has done. To this day he is reverenced by many for what he did, including the state of Louisiana, which honored him and others in New Orleans two years ago.
As time went on the mayor eventually placed Fontaine on the board of directors for METRO. When Mayor Annise Parker succeeded him, he was transferred to the Senior Staff of the company. During his tenure at METRO, he achieved the title of having been the first African-American male to become Executive Vice President. He made a slew of contributions while serving at METRO. He contributed a great deal in terms of improving processes, ensuring that the new implementations and advancements that the company has undergone were successful and was responsible for organizing RAILFEST. RAILFEST was the grand celebration of the opening of METRO’s two new rail lines. Fontaine worked closely with Susan Christian of the mayor’s office to ensure that the event was a success. It was free to the public and turned out to be an overwhelming event hosted at the BBVA Stadium.
On June 8, Fontaine resigned from METRO to focus on BOS (Business Operating Solution), a transportation consulting business he engineered himself. He remains appreciative of the knowledge that he gained during his seven and a half years of service at METRO. He said, “I am very humbled by what I believe I delivered to the agency and hope that it has made a positive difference in the lives of Houstonians who use METRO as their primary form of transportation.” “I personally want to say good luck to METRO in their future,” he added.
Today, Fontaine possesses a MBA from the University of Houston and Doctorate in Higher Education from Texas Southern University. Furthermore, he serves as President and CEO of BOS (Business Operating Solution). It is a transportation and consulting business based on his acumen for aviation and transit. He is actively seeking to culminate his wide range of education, experience in transportation and strategic planning in the functioning of BOS. His consultant business is giving him the opportunity to fulfill the commitment that he has pledged to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo.
Recently, Fontaine became third African-American, in the history of the Houston Livestock and Rodeo to serve as vice president. He says, “It is a job and assignment that I take very seriously, because I believe that it is extremely important that our youth have the financial means to fulfill their education requirement.” The rodeo donates $20,000 scholarship awards to worthy students. This month, the Houston Livestock and Rodeo donated $1.4 million worth of scholarships to FFA students, throughout the state of Texas. Fontaine is hoping to make a huge difference in lives of students, by ensuring that they receive the scholarships and that the scholarship base that they are giving the money to is diverse. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Black Heritage Committee.
In 2013, Pastor Marcus Cosby of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church commissioned Fontaine and Bro. Milton Scott to chair the building committee at the church. Through their efforts the church has already built a $3 million parking lot. Additionally, they have plans to host the groundbreaking ceremony for a new sanctuary in May of next year. Fontaine says, “My volunteering for this duty has been a blessing for me and my family – just having the opportunity to work with the pastor and the other people on the building committee has been a value add for us.” “I am truly humbled that I have had the opportunity of being selected to help lead this project,” he added.
Throughout the years, Fontaine has found that he has a niche and gift for, “fixing things”. To that regard, the Houston Chronicle nicknamed him, “Mr. Fix-it” in 2006. He exclaimed, “If you let me know the problem, I’ll figure out a solution.” This asset turned out to be a huge cost saving commodity for the City of Houston.
Terence Fontaine is married to the love of his life, Diedra. Together they have been blessed with a daughter, Courtney. Courtney is a senior at Texas Tech University and currently working as an intern in Washington for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, this summer.