1960s

Ollan Cassell (’61) has published “Inside the Five Ring Circus,” a first-hand account of the Olympic Games’ turbulent mid-century history, particularly during the Cold War. Cassell was on the UH Track & Field team and won an Olympic gold medal in the men’s 4x400 m relay at the 1964 Summer Olympics. He currently resides in Indianapolis, Ind.

Brenda Beust Smith (’65), who spent more than 45 years as the Houston Chronicle Lazy Gardener columnist, now co-produces The Lazy Gardener & Friends Houston Garden Newsletter. She is married to Bill Smith (’65) and was editor of The Cougar during her time at UH.

Bill Smith (’65), a letterman on Coach Bill Yeoman’s first-year, 1962 Tangerine Bowl-winning football team, has been named to the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame. The Aldine ISD William A. “Bill” Smith Stadium on I-45N honors Smith’s 29 years as head football coach, as well as his 1990 ESPN National and 1990 Texas State High School Football Championships.

1970s

The Honorable Rodney D. Adams (’78), presiding Municipal Judge of the Irving Municipal Court, was named Best Jurist of 2016 by the Texas Municipal Courts Association on June 10, 2016 at its Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

1980s

Carolyn Adema (’80) has been named Vice President of Human Resources for St. Tammany Parish Hospital in New Orleans, La.

Martin B. Cominsky (’80) recently became president & CEO of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (IM). As president & CEO, Cominsky oversees a $17 million budget and 150 employees, as well as IM’s programs, which include Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston, Refugee Services, Interfaith Relations, and Disaster Preparedness and Response. Cominsky previously served for more than 15 years as executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in Houston.

Dr. Kevin O’Mara (M.B.A. ’82) has been appointed dean of Campbell University’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business in Buies Creek, N.C. Currently, O’Mara is the professor of management and executive director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Elon University’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

Ambassador Mohammed Alhussaini Al Sharif (Ph.D. ’83), chief representative of the League of Arab States, visited the UH Honors College in May, 2016 to discuss “The Arab Peace Initiative: Combatting Terrorism.” Ambassador Alhussaini Al Sharif has been a Saudi diplomat for more than 35 years. Before assuming his current post as chief representative of the League of Arab States to the U.S., he served as ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Canada and Turkey and headed the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Houston.

Ricky A. Raven (’83, J.D. ’86) has been appointed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by Governor Greg Abbott. The Board provides leadership and coordination for the Texas higher education system. Raven is a partner at Reed Smith LLP in Houston and is a former president of the University of Houston Alumni Association Foundation.

Johnnie Bernhard’s (’84) historical novel, “A Good Girl,” has been acquired by Texas Review Press, with publication set for spring 2017. While at UH, she served as yearbook editor for the Houstonian in 1983, and was an inductee into Grey’s Order and a member of the Daily Cougar Newspaper staff.

Captain Reginald E. McKamie, SR. (J.D. ’86) was named Outstanding Alumnus of the Year by the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Black Graduate Business Leaders, where he received his M.B.A.

Jai Sharma (’86, ’87) has accepted an invitation from Hospital Sisters Health System to serve as their system vice president – chief risk officer in Springfield, Ill. He most recently was the director of institutional risk management at Parkland Health and Hospital System—an integrated teaching hospital system with affiliates, a managed care organization and billions in assets.

R. Alan York (’86, J.D. ’89), Houston appellate attorney and president of the Texas-based trial and appellate law firm Godwin PC, has been named managing shareholder and chief operating officer of the firm. In addition to his roles as managing shareholder, president and COO, Mr. York will continue to serve as Chair of the Godwin PC Appellate Practice Section. Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Mr. York provides trial support and error preservation, as well as appellate briefing and argument, on significant civil cases.

Gwen L. Hulsey (’87) became a member of the Tax Practice Group in Baker & McKenzie’s Houston office. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Hulsey served as director of International Tax at an energy company and as a CPA in the tax practice of a major accounting firm.

Dr. Carla Brosnahan (M.Ed. ’88, Ed.D. ’11) was named assistant superintendent of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. She was formerly the principal at Birkes Elementary School and has served 32 years in education, all within Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.

Carmen Brown (M.S.W. ’88) was appointed director of Early Head Start Education at Harris County Department of Education. A 30-year educator, she has served as psychotherapist, case manager supervisor and program administrator within numerous agencies throughout greater Houston and in Washington, D.C.

1990s

Daniel Dodgen (M.S. ’91, Ph.D. ’95) spoke at the White House on April 4, 2016, during an event celebrating the release of the United States Global Climate Research Program report, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.” Other speakers included the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s Science Advisor John Holdren, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Dr. Dodgen is the lead author for the report’s chapter on mental health and well-being.

Gina Covell (’92), a Houston native, has relocated her PR firm, Going Public, back to its Houston roots after nine years in Tampa, Fla. Going Public has primarily focused on building products for clients, including Cosentino, Artisan Group countertops, Eva-Dry dehumidifiers and Tile Outlets of America. The firm has also successfully placed client products in health care, real estate, engineering and telecommunications.

Gloria E. Davis-Brackins (’92), a graduate of the College of Pharmacy, recently retired from the DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston after more than 20 years of service.

Dr. Pat Segu (O.D. ’92) received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Public Health Association in 2015. This award comes after many years of service, namely establishing the Student Public Health Vision Care Association as part of a pilot program to increase student engagement within the Vision Care Section of the American Public Health Association. She also serves as the regional director of Houston Community Based External Clinics (GNC, CASA and HOPE Clinic) and the director of the Kids Vision for Life Greater Houston – See to Succeed program.

The Honorable Jarvis V. Hollingsworth (J.D. ’93), former chair of the University of Houston System Board of Regents, will serve on Bracewell LLP’s six-member Management Committee. Hollingsworth, the head of the public entities practice, advises schools, colleges, universities and government entities on public and education law, including public finance. Additionally, he counsels boards of directors/trustees of public and private companies, and government and educational entities on their duties, corporate governance and director liability, as well as regulatory and finance matters.

ExecuTeam Staffing, led by President Laura Bowen (’94), is a leading staffing agency in the professional management, procurement, human resources, accounting/finance and administrative industries which won Inavero’s 2016 Best of Staffing® Client Award for providing superior service to their clients. Team1Medical, a division of ExecuTeam Staffing, also won a 2016 Inavero Best of Staffing Client Award for its superior customer service.

Matthew Brawley (’95) was awarded his 11th and 12th Lone Star Emmy Awards — one for editing compilation for 2015, and one as the director of the nationally-syndicated PBS series “Manor of Speaking,” which has garnered five Emmys in its four-season run thus far.

Raymond Cain, Jr. (’95, M.Ed. ’03, Ed.D. ’14), who teaches mathematics, has been selected as 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year of Maribeau B. Lamar High School (Houston ISD).

Brian McTaggart (’95) has written a new book called “100 Things Astros Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” published by Triumph Books. He is a longtime sports journalist and has covered the Houston Astros for more than 20 years.

Crystal James (J.D. ’98) accepted the position of assistant professor of public health in the Graduate Program in Public Health with the College of Veterinary Medicine Nursing and Allied Health at Tuskegee University, Ga.

Lon Porter (’99), a 13-year teaching veteran at Wabash College, received the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Excellence in Teaching Award in April 2016. An associate professor of chemistry, Porter is also the director of the 3D Printing and Fabrication Center at the liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, Ind.

2000s

Marcos Basso (LL.M. ’00) became a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Dallas, Texas.

Melissa Ginsburg’s (’02) debut novel “Sunset City,” a literary noir set in Houston about a woman caught up in her friend’s shocking murder, was published by Harper Collins. Ginsburg received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and teaches at the University of Mississippi.

Casie Fischer (’04) launched Thistle Wynd, a full-service event and styling company specializing in creating unique, inspired and memorable moments. Thistle Wynd is based in Houston, Texas but can travel worldwide to accommodate events.

Luke Gilman (’04, J.D. ’10), an associate with Jackson Walker, was recently selected to the “2016 Texas Super Lawyers – Rising Stars” list by Thomson Reuters.

Kai Kramer (J.D. ’05, M.B.A. ’05) and Emily Haribson (J.D. ’07) became new partners at Baker & McKenzie in Houston, Texas.

Morena Arredondo (’07), PE, has been promoted to project manager in the Public Works Department of RPS Klotz Associates. Ms. Arredondo has nearly 10 years of experience in site design, public utilities design, and water and sanitary sewer modeling.

Lori Markel (Pharm.D. ’08) co-founded Sienna Compounding Pharmacy in Missouri City, Texas, in August 2015. Her business specializes in compounding medications: preparing customized medications to meet each patient’s specific needs.

After practicing optometry in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for two years, Jamel Vaughn (’09, O.D. ’13) has started the buyout process to acquire ownership of Advanced Eye Care in Dalhart, TX. “I’m excited to bring Cougar Pride to the Texas panhandle!”

Rick Henfling (M.S.M.E. ’10) was selected as one of five new flight directors to manage International Space Station operations at NASA. NASA’s flight directors lead teams of flight controllers and experts in research and engineering, supporting personnel around the world. They are also involved in space station cargo and crew vehicle integration and developing plans for future exploration missions.

2010s

Danny Haley (’10), RPLS, has been hired as a survey project manager at Manhard Consulting in Westminster, CO.

Ayokunle Falomo (’12), a Nigerian-born psychology graduate and poet, was featured in January 2016’s Local Houston Magazine in the “Houston A to Z” edition as one of nine Houstonians doing big things in the city. He has also been featured in a TEDxHouston talk. He is pursuing a master’s degree in School Psychology, and his second book of poems will be released soon.

Katia Hadjiyska (’13) is CEO of EnCourage Group, a conglomerate of various businesses ranging from management consulting, coaching and mentoring to real estate and non-profits, all dedicated to supporting people and organizations globally. Having grown up in Sofia, Bulgaria, Hadjiyska moved to Houston in pursuit of a quality college education. She received two bachelor’s degrees in business administration from the Bauer College of Business.

Jacob Fakheri (M.B.A. ’14), a former wedding photographer, has founded Metrojojo, “the AirBnB of wedding photography.” Metrojojo is a full-service online platform that makes it easy for couples to find and work with a wedding photographer in their area and price range.


Distinguished Alumni

Distinguished Alumni Awards are given to individuals whose professional accomplishments bring prestige to the University. These individuals were honored at the 62nd Annual Alumni Gala on May 7, 2016.

  • Dr. William Brookshire (’57) was raised by his grandparents, and his son and grandson were named after his grandfather who was a great inspiration to him. Math and science were his best subjects in school, and when he first came to the University of Houston, he wanted to be a petroleum engineer. He became a chemical engineer instead. Brookshire attended class after days of laboring in a “concrete gang,” laying house slabs. “If you don’t think you’re tired going to class at night after a day of that, you need to rethink it,” he says. He is the co-founder and chairman of S & B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd., along with Jim Slaughter (’70), a civil engineer. “Four of the top six people in our company worked during the day and went to school at night at UH,” he says. He implemented a program modeled after the chairman of Exxon, where scholarships are given to employees’ children. “I believe in helping people who want to help themselves.”

  • According to Pamela O’Rourke (’95), everybody should be hiring UH alumni; that way, in her own words, “We can all be number one!” She’s a self-proclaimed “Type A” personality who wanted to go to UH for the band program but ended up in computer science. Five years of night classes at UH and one small business plan later, her company finished off its first year with $2.5 million in revenue. Icon Information Consultants is a sales and recruiting company that started in a tiny room with “me, myself, and I working there ... all three of my personalities!” she laughs. But the other day her husband called her “Miss Distinguished Alumni,” which prompted her to retort, “I will be a spokesperson for UH—and I will make sure everybody wants to be one!”

  • Billy Ray Brown (’85) came from a family of athletes. His dad and brother played football at the University of Houston, but he chose golf, playing for the legendary Coach Dave Williams. “Winning the National Championship as a freshman was something I didn’t expect.” Only two other players in the history of the NCAA have won such an award. After a successful career, he realized that through television, he could reach more people about the University of Houston. “I owe everything I have to UH. They have my heart, they have my passion and I’m always proud to say, ‘I’m a Cougar.’”

Outstanding Volunteer Awards are given to those individuals with a strong commitment to volunteerism at UH, giving generously of their time and talent.

  • Barbara Parrott McGinity (’74, M.S.W. ’00) was told by her mother: “If you’re going to go to college, you’re going to do the whole thing—you’re going to live on campus.” “I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t been in those dormitories, because those people I met and the connections I made are the people I know today,” she was known to say. For more than 40 years, the OB Open Golf Tournament was a fundraiser for the Oberholtzer dormitory at UH, and for 20 years, McGinity and her husband, Michael, hosted the after-party. She went back to school and received a graduate degree in social work in 2000, and became the President of the GCSW Alumni Association, but eventually found her niche as the treasurer. She and her husband were season ticketholders for football. McGinity was known as a motivator for her fellow students and alumni: “I like getting people moving and doing things but I do it because I like to, not for recognition,” said McGinity. Sadly, Barbara passed away in 2016 but was honored posthumously as an Outstanding Volunteer Honoree.

  • Margarita Barcenas (UHD ’92, M.B.A.’03) new that the Social Sciences program was strong at UH-Downtown, so that is where she decided to attend. After graduating from UHD, she got a scholarship to Arkansas to study clinical psychology. After getting that degree, Barcenas moved to Boston and worked in an outreach setting with kids. “It’s tremendously heartbreaking,” she says, about working with children in bad situations. “I wondered where my passion would be, and I thought I’d be a bit more entrepreneurial.” “Why don’t you do more for the University?” asked Trey Wilkinson, who she was working for at the time she was getting her degree from Bauer College. As she worked on different events on the board, she was asked to step into the chair position of the golf tournament, which became very near and dear to her heart. “Why should you get involved? Why shouldn’t you get involved! I find it hard not to get excited about what’s going on at UH,” says Barcenas.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to UHAA Life Members who are set apart by a history of service to the Alumni Association and the University.

  • After a long career in Houston, Dale Lowe (’70) got the entrepreneurial bug and moved to Austin to start a company that distributed roofing materials. His company grew quickly, as did his family—two children and seven grandchildren keep the Lowes on their toes. Giving back to the community is important to both Nancy and Dale — as evidenced by Dale’s interest in the Rotary Club. Former football coach Bill Yeoman called Dale up one day and convinced him to get more involved with the University of Houston. That led the Lowes to becoming hosts of New Student Send-offs in Austin. He and his wife have young people over to their magnificent home, before the students begin their first semester at UH. The Lowes are big supporters of Athletics, also. “In the years to come, I believe that University of Houston is only going to get greater,” says Dale. Distinguished Service Honorees in 2016, the Lowes show what it means to have Cougar pride!

UHAA’s Rising Star honors motivated young alumni who have excelled beyond the norm early in their careers.

  • Lisa Cushing (’01) had a knack for craftiness as a young child, but she never thought it would define her career. Her parents were both Cougars, and they became excited as she got older, because she also wanted to attend UH. Cushing worked full time at a desk but at the same time was growing her company, “Petals by Design,” an award-winning floral boutique specializing in weddings and large events. “My education at UH has brought me to where I am today. Being a University of Houston alumna is something that you can’t just shove under the carpet … It doesn’t matter what piece of the puzzle you are, you fit into a puzzle. And we need to take advantage of that. This is our city,” states Cushing.

For more details about distinguished alumni awards and to nominate an outstanding Coog, visit houstonalumni.com/daan.