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2019 Fall Convocation Kicks Off New Academic Year at the University of Houston

by Veronica Ordonez
September 24, 2019 

Thursday, August 29, nearly 600 students, family members, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered in the Moores Opera House to mark the occasion at the 42nd annual Fall Convocation, celebrating the achievements of outstanding University faculty and students and welcoming the class of 2023. This August, more than 5,000 students began their college careers at the University of Houston, and 2,500 first-time and returning students began a new academic year with the Honors College at UH. 

Honors College Dean William Monroe opened the program by recognizing Chancellor and President Renu Khator, Regent John Fields, a third-year student in the UH Law Center and Honors College and Bauer College alumnus, and Provost and Senior Vice President Paula Myrick Short. 

Monroe welcomed Chancellor Khator to the podium by recognizing the work she has done in expanding the campus and enhancing the profile of UH, locally and abroad. 

“Alumni who graduated just a few years back are astounded at the transformed campus they discover when they visit,” said Monroe. “In addition to driving significant growth in academic programs and a renewed commitment to student success, President Khator’s leadership has resulted in 66 new buildings completed or planned, 2.3 billion dollars invested, 12 million square feet added. Just last week, the University of Houston College of Medicine was signed into existence by Governor Greg Abbott, right here on campus, with the inaugural class set to begin in the summer of 2020.” 

Chancellor Khator’s remarks emphasized her focus on student success, as she reminded students of the many professors, support services, and resources available to them as students of the University of Houston, in the city of Houston—the fourth largest city in the country.

 UH Regent Gerald McElvy (’75), who graduated from UH with a bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting and worked for ExxonMobil Corporation for 33 years, introduced the keynote speaker, April Feick (’97). Feick is executive adviser to the chairman of ExxonMobil Corporation and, as of May, McElvy’s next-door neighbor.

“I’m glad he said nice things,” said Feick, as she began her remarks. “We do share a fence line.”

Feick graduated from the University of Houston in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. While a student, Feick was president of the Honors Student Governing Board, a senator for the Cullen College of Engineering, a UH ambassador, and the 1996 Homecoming Queen. In addition to her professional achievements, Feick enjoys spending time with her husband and three children and has maintained her connection with the University as a football season ticket holder and frequent participant in the Great Conversation, the Honors College’s signature scholarship fundraiser.

Feick’s remarks struck a chord with many students in the Honors College, as she expressed the initial apprehension she felt as an engineering student beginning coursework in the humanities—in particular, as a freshman in The Human Situation, the college’s two-semester great books course with a hefty reading list. Despite, or because of, the numerous books, many papers, and weekly seminar discussions, Feick is grateful for her Honors College experience. 

“I can tell you that today, I use my technical engineering degree less often than I do my critical thinking skills, cultural awareness, and ability to solve problems and identify opportunities.” 

Feick also encouraged students to take some time away from their studies to focus on their friendships, which may last a lifetime. In fact, several of Feick’s college friends were in the audience cheering her on. 

“It’s so much easier to do things when you have a support group around, in the good times and bad,” said Feick, with a nod to her friends. “And they will push you to be the best you.”

 Dean Monroe presented Feick with the door of the mail slot she used when a resident of Taub, a historic residence hall and part of the legendary Quad. He concluded the program with recognitions of faculty, students, and programs—and fittingly, with a reflection on friendship, driving home the role of friendship in the Honors College experience.

“A faith in friendship is the driving force behind our commitment to experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom. It is the combination of these modes of learning, from great books and from grand challenges, from campus and from community, from professors and from peers, that makes our education distinctive and life-changing.”