The University of Houston Magazine

Creating a UH Tradition

Four Families Share Their UH Journey.

by Michelle Klump

Aalund Family

Aalund FamilyWhen Lauren Aalund (’09) donned her cap and gown to walk the stage for the University of Houston’s December graduation, she looked across the sea of new UH alums to find two very proud Cougars in the audience — her parents.

“She saw me cry,” says Niels Aalund (’79), Lauren’s father.

Aalund already shared his passion for UH with his wife, Charlotte (’78). But when one of their three daughters decided to attend their alma mater, a wish was fulfilled, and a legacy started.

For the Aalund family, and many others, attending the University of Houston has become a family tradition.

“I wanted my daughter to receive a great education and, hopefully, enjoy some of the same things that I enjoyed,” Niels Aalund says.

Aalund loved UH from the beginning. As a freshman, he walked onto the football team, received a scholarship and played defensive lineman for three years, including 1976 — when the team won the Southwest Conference championship. He lived in Moody Towers, joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and took full advantage of an education he describes as first rate.

Today, he remains active, showing up to nearly every home football and basketball game, even after he has given away his own tickets to encourage others to experience UH athletics. He serves on the College of Technology Dean’s Advisory Board, co-chairs UH’s Center for Logistics and Transportation Policy and tries to give back to the university he says gave him so much.

Charlotte received her degree in art education and now teaches art at an elementary school. “My education at UH fully prepared me for a career I really enjoy,” she says.

The couple always hoped one of their daughters would attend UH, but feared their chance for a legacy was lost when Lauren attended another school her freshman year. But after many visits home, Lauren began to give UH as second look.

“My parents had gone here, so I knew it was a good school,” says Lauren. “I had been to UH so many times, and I liked it. I decided this is where I belonged.”

Thirty years to the month after her father graduated, Lauren walked the stage, earning a degree in psychology and sealing the family tradition. Now, she works in UH’s Bauer College of Business management office and has plans to pursue her master’s degree at UH.

“We were really pleased,” says Charlotte Aalund. “It just makes you feel close, that we all went to the same place.”

Nnabuife Family

Nnabuife Family

From the moment he stepped foot on campus in 1978, Callistus Nnabuife (’82) felt at home at UH. Now, it seems natural that his children should find a home here as well, he says.

“I want to create a tradition of my family being a part of the University of Houston’s history of education,” Nnabuife says. “We have seen other families do that … we are trying to follow in their footsteps to become a Cougar family.”

As a student, Nnabuife, a native of Nigeria, was thrilled with the diversity that made the campus feel “like an international town.” He spent time attending student activities on campus, and he enjoyed playing soccer with friends.

He stayed on at UH after graduation — working in the library, the chemistry department and, now, in the environmental health department, where he works as a lab safety officer. Nnabuife gives back by participating in campus outreach programs, such as Cougar First Impression, a program designed to welcome new and returning students. He considers encouraging his children to attend UH another way of giving back.

Currently, his two daughters — Ogechi, a biology major, and Emeka, a psychology major — attend UH.

“I want to create a tradition of my family being a part of the
University of Houston's history of education.”
--- Callistus Nnabuife

“As a kid, I was always with my dad. I would go to work with him when I was off from school, so I was here already,” says Emeka. “I had more support here. I had friends and family … and looking at financial packages, UH was the best.”

Ogechi also decided her father’s alma mater provided the best resources for her as well.

“I like the many study areas and the different resources for the courses. I also like the different services they have that help students move into graduate programs,” she says.

With three more children in middle and high school, Callistus says he hopes to see other family members on campus soon.

“I don’t think I would be what I am today without the University of Houston,” he says. “Part of my own way of sharing that appreciation is bringing my own kids to the university — having them experience the Cougar spirit and sharing the experience that I had in college.”

Johnson Family

Johnson FamilyJoel and Margaret Johnson advertised their hopes for a UH family tradition on their vanity license plate. When they bought it, ‘VCOOGS’ was intended to represent five Cougars — themselves and their three children.

Their oldest, Beth Ann Johnson (’90), made the first step when she decided to attend UH. After their remaining two children moved away to attend school, it was decided the ‘V’ stood for victory. With Beth Ann at UH, the family tradition lived.

“Obviously, I had been indoctrinated in the UH spirit,” Beth Ann says. “My parents often told me they were happy to pay for college as long as I went to the University of Houston. While they said that in jest, once you repeat it enough times, it starts to sink in.”

The Johnsons’ love for UH began in the 1960s when the two were undergraduates and living in the same private dorm just off campus. Margaret Johnson (’67) was majoring in home economics education and Joel Johnson (’69) was majoring in electrical engineering. A traffic accident brought them together.

Margaret was injured, and the driver went to the dorm for help. Joel was manning the front desk and went out to assist. Because both of their last names were Johnson, the ambulance drivers assumed they were related and asked Joel to accompany Margaret to the hospital.

“There was no separating us after that,” says Margaret. “We just started going out, and we ended up getting married my senior year.”

Since then, they’ve maintained their interest in the Houston Cougars — buying season tickets to football games every year.

“We are both fans of football and the University of Houston,” says Joel. “We struggle with them through good years and bad years.”

Along the way, they encouraged their kids to attend UH. That encouragement paid off for Beth Ann, who credits her time at UH, including the invaluable experience she gained working on the yearbook and for The Daily Cougar, with helping her succeed in her chosen career as a senior communications manager.

“I was really happy there,” she says of her time at UH. “It’s fun growing up in a UH family.”

Carrasco Family

Carrasco BrothersIt was cheerleading that started the Carrasco family tradition at UH. With six brothers and sisters, Rick Carrasco (’92) knew he had to find a way to help pay for college, and after discovering he had a talent for it, he opted for cheerleading.

Raised in Garland, Texas, just outside of Dallas, Carrasco’s first stop was a junior college, and then Sam Houston State University. But the University of Houston beckoned.

“The University of Houston had, and still does have, a phenomenal cheerleading squad,” he says. “They would go to nationals and place high every single year. I wanted to be on the best squad I could be.”

When he tried out and made the squad, Carrasco moved to UH to begin what he describes as one of the happiest years of his life.

“I love UH,” he says. “It gave me everything. It gave me my jumping off point for my career, it is where my education was, and I’m still in Houston because of my love for UH and the city.”

Carrasco earned a degree in history and went on to become an attorney. When it came time for two of his younger brothers to attend college, he made the case for UH. That insistence, along with scholarships and financial aid, soon brought Ruben and Rafael Carrasco to Houston.

“It was because of my brother talking so highly of the university,” says Ruben Carrasco (’98). “It was just the perfect place for us.”

“I love UH. It gave me everything. It gave me the jumping off point for my career.”                --- Rick Carrasco

Both ended up at the Bauer College of Business, with Rafael majoring in business marketing with an emphasis on advanced professional selling and Ruben majoring in accounting.

Carrasco Brothers“I loved it. It was great … to be able to attend college with your brother,” says Rafael Carrasco (’98), adding that he also felt the professors at Bauer really prepared him for his future as a real estate broker. “It was just a great program to be in.”

The three brothers still love UH, attending football games when they can — they traveled to North Carolina in 2009 for the Conference USA Championship game — and promoting the university to anyone who will listen. Ruben, who was married on New Year’s Eve, even put the UH logo on his groom’s cake.

The Carrasco brothers say they would love to see the tradition continue. Rick says if he has anything to say about it, it will.

“My daughter is going to go to UH,” he says. “She’s only 9, but she’s committed already!”

Cougar Class of 2023

by Shawn Lindsey

Shasta and CougarIn 1991 two UH students, Gina Gardner (’92) and Scott Covell (’92), were young and in love — both with each other and their university.

“If we have a son one day,” joked Scott, “we should name him Cougar.”

Nothing was spoken of the idea until almost a decade later. During a doctor’s appointment while Gina was pregnant with their only child, Scott took the ultrasound paddle like a microphone and, in his best sports announcer voice, proclaimed “In the starting lineup … Cougar Covell!” From that moment on, their little cub was known as Cougar.

“People either loved it or thought we were insane,” says Gina.

Now 9 years old, Cougar, or “Coog” as his friends call him, is well known in his Florida community.

“I love it!” says Cougar. “My mom says it’s unique, and everybody else says it’s unique, and I like it that way!”

The pitching ace, who tossed a 45-mph fastball during little league last season, hopes to become a student-athlete at UH — following a long family legacy that includes his parents and grandfather, Jerry Gardner (’70), UH football captain (1965–69).

“My friends are like ‘What’s the University of Houston?’ and I say, ‘It’s the best place in the world!’”