Keith Wade - University of Houston
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Hobby School of Public Affairs

 

It is with deep regret and sadness the Hobby School of Public Affairs recognizes the passing of one of our beloved advisory board members, Keith Wade.

Wade was an unflagging supporter of the Hobby School and its students. He will be missed by the entire community, but especially by the many students he mentored and the everyday citizens he defended.

A board member since 2007, Wade took special interest in teaching Hobby School interns the value of civic engagement and commitment to positive change.

“He worked diligently to prepare the Leland Fellows, Hobby Fellows and Civic Houston Interns for their foray into public service every year,” said Alice Aanstoos, Hobby School advisory board chairperson. “His guidance, experience and unwavering good nature will be deeply missed by the entire Hobby School family. He was a gentle person, but fiercely devoted to the University of Houston and the Hobby School. We will miss his wisdom.”  

Senator Kirk Watson, founding dean, said, "Our deepest regards are with his family and all who mourn him. He will be remembered by the many individuals whose lives he touched and by the community he generously served."

According to Hobby School senior director, Renee Cross, John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” These words describe my friend Keith Wade, who steadfastly led a diverse coalition of many to make positive changes in Houston and beyond for over 40 years. Whether you were a college student, an intern, a community organizer, a business leader, a nonprofit professional, a government staffer, a candidate or a public official of either political party, Keith shared his knowledge, experience and energy to help make your endeavor successful. He did this not for personal attribution or to make you beholden to him, but to better our world one step at a time. I will miss Keith’s intelligence, quick wit and calmness, which I have greatly valued for the past 24 years; yet I am comforted by the fact that his resolute actions created legions of people who are also dedicated to meaningful public service and opportunity."

Coleman, McNiel, and Wage

Rep. Garnet Coleman Remembering Keith Wade

When my cousin from El Campo, Texas set foot on the University of Houston campus in the 1970’s, he was one of many, but none were quite like him. Before he arrived at UH, Keith Wade was the first Black person elected to serve as Student Body President at El Campo High School. Before he graduated from UH, he was the first Black person elected to serve as President of the Student Government Association. 

Those like Mayor Turner who knew Keith then describe him as a leader, a trusted friend and brother. Others say he was passionate, knowledgeable, determined, and kind. Those same words describe Keith Wade today - a man who gave his time generously to officeholders, candidates, friends, and colleagues who trusted him and sought his counsel.

Keith was much more than a political consultant, a respected adviser, or a coalition-builder, although he was all those things. Keith also understood that he had a higher duty to the people as a citizen of the world. 

In the “Keith Wade School of Politics,” you get out in the community, listen to people, and bring to the table what matters most to those you represent. He understood that elections must go hand in hand with progress on policy. 

Keith’s commitment to civic life was formed by values he learned from his family while growing up during segregation. His Uncle, Reverend L.V. Winfield, served as the President of the Houston NAACP. Keith soon became a youth organizer. His life work had begun.

When Keith entered the University of Houston, there was reason to be hopeful. Thanks to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the 1972 elections for legislative and congressional seats in Harris County were conducted in single member districts, and the county’s legislative delegation became more diverse. Student leaders like Keith worked with their representatives on campaigns and progressive policy objectives, and many of them made that work a career. 

After graduating from UH, Keith worked as an intern in the office of Senator Lloyd Bentsen and served as a valued aide for Congressman Mickey Leland. He marched with Cesar Chavez and against Apartheid, and his work always involved community organizations. 

Keith served as a Co-Founder and Board Member of the Mickey Leland Kibbutzim Internship, giving over 400 Houston high school students the opportunity to learn about international policy first-hand. He also served as a Board Member of the Hermann Park Conservancy, the Houston Area Women’s Center, and Texans Together Education Fund. 

Keith never held public office, but when I ran for State Representative in a 1991 special election after the death of my predecessor, Larry Evans, Keith ran my campaign. Keith’s mantra was “we work while they sleep.” We worked and we won. Today, I am serving my 29th year in the legislature and Keith has lived a full life of public service, but perhaps the most important thing we shared is a commitment to the future.

Keith always kept it real, as exemplified by work he did with students and interns as an Advisory Board Member at the UH Hobby School of Public Affairs. Just as those who went before us made things possible for us, we must do the same for the next generation of leaders. 

Our politics, our government, and our community are stronger thanks to Keith Wade. He was a servant leader who shared his experience and wisdom with today’s leaders and the young people he encouraged to pick up the torch.  The times were right for Keith and he was right for the times. And the time he spent with us made our lives better.
Keith Wade and CHIP interns
“Everyone will remember Keith the political genius; I will always remember Keith the man and the teacher.  In 2004 during an interview for the Mickey Leland Internship, Keith set me straight, telling me that rather than going to Washington, I needed to learn about real people first by experiencing city politics, where the rubber meets the road and where daily lives are truly impacted. At 20, I thought not getting the internship was a major failure, but I listened to Keith, applied for and started the Civic Houston Internship Program the next semester at City Hall.  We’d have good laughs about the interview years later when I was making my way up with then-Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Alvarado and Council Member James G. Rodriguez, two people I now consider good friends. Some people fast track to success, but the longer road is paved with greater memories; Keith didn’t say that to me, but it’s the lesson he imparted to me at an important time in my life.  Today, 16 years later, I’m in a dream job that I can’t say for certain that I would have made it to had I gone to Washington so soon.  Thank you, Keith…may your memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved you. Rest In Peace.”
-Jerry Greenspan
Keith and 2010 Leland Fellows
“I found Keith Wade to be one of the most level-headed people in government. And one of the most caring. I would go to him with a problem, all excited and ready to fight, and he would calmly offer his advice. It was always great advice. Keith cared deeply about Houston and her residents. He cared about making the world a better place, and I think he did that. The world is certainly better off for having Keith Wade in it.”
-Dylan Osborne, Harris County Treasurer

"Keith Wade was a friend to all and a mentor to many. I learned a lot from Keith. His decency and mild mannered-ness often calmed tensions in politically charged environments. He will be missed deeply by those of us who knew him personally, and the absence of his leadership will impact our local politics for years to come."
-Mustafa Tameez, president of Outreach Strategists

Keith and CHIP Interns
“Before the 2017 Hobby Fellows embarked on what would become a highly controversial and provocative legislative session, Keith Wade told incredible stories of state politics and gave great advice that calmed the nerves of many nervous fellows. I will never forget the stories that Keith provided. I'm saddened by the passing of Keith and I will never forget the advice he gave us.”
-Jason LaBarbera

"I’ve been grappling with how to put into words the loss felt with the sudden passing of unsung hero Keith Wade. I only interacted with him a handful of times, however the impact he made to my life some 15 years ago altered the course of my life. It was because of Keith, alongside a few other distinguished colleagues such as Renee Cross, that I was chosen to be a part of the Mickey Leland Congressional Internship Program in Washington, DC through the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs (then the Center for Public Policy). There were only six of us chosen, and as a wide-eyed South Asian girl from Los Angeles, this was an opportunity of a lifetime. It was because of this opportunity that I became a Capitol Hill staffer, a presidential campaign staffer, White House staffer, and a slew of other priceless opportunities — including my current role in government affairs for the City of Houston. Keith made a difference in my life, and recently I had the opportunity to let him know that he did. Gratitude for such an amazing soul, may he rest in peace." 
-Ilhaam Jaffer, City of Houston

Keith Wade

"Keith is considered the President of all SGA Presidents given his historic election at UH. It seems that word got out informally about the group and many former Presidents petitioned Keith for “membership”.  It was  joy to see and hear many of those conversations. I was fortunate to have him as a friend and mentor for several years, having been a Leland Intern in 1986, and our work together during both the Parker and Turner Administrations.  I will miss him greatly as he has been an extremely positive influence on my life and career."
-Harry Hayes, City of Houston

 

Keith Wade. This was a name that I always looked forward to hearing when it came to the Hobby School of Public Affairs. I first met Keith while interning at Houston City Hall as a Civic Houston Intern. I was allowed to sit in on a meeting with him and a few others. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that I was in the presence of a legend. Keith Wade knew Houston like the back of his hand and his passion for its constant improvement was as clear as day. He imparted so much knowledge on me in a mere 30 minutes. Fortunately, this first meeting would not be my last. I found out soon after this that he also served on the Advisory Board of the Hobby School. 

Over the years, different cohorts of both Hobby and Leland Fellows had the pleasure of receiving guidance from Keith on what to expect, how to act, and how much fun we were about to have during these experiences. This was always a highlight of our orientation sessions. Keith cared very much about the integrity of the Hobby School and its programs, but he also cared very much for the students that participated in them. He was willing to ‘come to our rescue’ if he felt that we needed his help, something which personally touched me and I will cherish forever.

 I was extremely saddened to hear of his passing, but I am confident that he is resting peacefully, knowing that he had done all that he was put here to do, and more.
-Alleanne Anderson

Keith Wade and Mayor Turner

Biography

Keith Watson Wade was a Hobby School board member since 2007. His public service career started in 1997 as the first University of Houston African American president of the student government association. It was the first sign of his political prowess when he tapped a white student from a popular sorority to join his ticket.

His talent came to the attention of U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland, who recruited Wade to serve as the representative’s district director. From there, Wade would go on to counsel important figures in Houston politics including mayors Annise Parker, Sylvester Turner, former state senator and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Garnet Coleman, among many others.

At the Hobby School, Wade especially enjoyed working with students in the Civic Houston Internship Program, as well as the Hobby and Leland Fellows, who interned in civic offices in Austin and Washington, D.C. He took time to mentor, explain, and broaden their experiences with relatable stories of common people left out of but affected by political decisions. He believed wholeheartedly in the Hobby School mission and vision.

Wade is best known for working behind the scenes, using his skills as a peacekeeper able to find common ground with opponents and always maintaining a positive attitude in the mercurial arena of politics.

His admirers noted his vision of the long-term goals versus the short-term battle, which meant they wanted him by their side during a crisis to keep the calm and help focus on the larger picture of public service.

Wade never lost his sense of humor, his sense of fairness and his belief in the best of people. He will be deeply missed by the Hobby School and all who knew him.