January 19 was dubbed “Community Day” to celebrate the launch of the $1 billion Here, We Go campaign — but with so many UH alumni, faculty, staff and donors gathered together in support of their University, it seems that “Family Day” would also have been an appropriate name! Here are just a few Coogs who recognized those family ties on Community Day:
The Honorable Wilhelmina “Beth” Robertson
Former UH Regent and member of the Campaign Executive Committee
At the very first event of the day, Beth Robertson introduced President Renu Khator. “UH is a family affair for us,” she told the audience. Robertson, a former regent of the University of Houston System, has a deep connection with the University of Houston: her grandparents, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen, gave the funds that allowed the University of Houston to build its own campus in 1938.
Robertson was a regent of the University of Houston System during the University’s last major fundraising campaign, which was 25 years ago. She reiterated the fact that it is very unusual for an institution like UH to go that long without a major fundraiser, and that it is the whole UH community, from students to staff members and everyone in between, who will make this campaign succeed. “It’s up to us to get the story out about our University,” she said. “It’s time to get involved and be a part of something great.”
Otis Birdsong (’77)
Original “Phi Slama Jama” member and former NBA player
Why does Otis Birdsong continue to stay involved with his alma mater? “I love the University of Houston,” he said, appearing on an alumni panel and then later at a pep rally before the basketball game. “Going here was a family affair — I remember that whenever we played, home or away, our professors would come to watch, and the entire football team.”
When asked what he hopes for in UH’s future, he said, “I’ve never been more proud of UH as I am in 2017. I’m a part of the Cougar family, and whatever I can do for the University, I’ll do it.”
Christine Ha (MFA ’13)
MasterChef Season 3 winner and author
Most know Christine Ha as a “MasterChef” winner, and from her bestselling cookbook, “Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food.” But during her time at UH, she was 100 percent focused on earning her master’s degree in creative writing. For that reason, she was actually a little nervous for her professors and former classmates to watch her on TV. “I was worried that it wasn’t ‘serious’ enough,” she recalled at the alumni panel on community day. “I thought, this is not what serious writers do!”
But, her UH family were cheering for her every step of the way, watching the show and offering words of support. Ha, who majored in business as an undergraduate and is legally blind, had some trouble adjusting to UH as a graduate student, but encouragement from her UH family — namely Professor James Kastely in the English department — convinced her to stay. Her grit, she said, can be attributed to her parents, who came to the U.S. as refugees. “I believe that Houston, and the University, are both often underestimated,” she said. “I am supportive of Houston because I had a great experience here.”
If you’re not already a part of the Cougar family, what are you waiting for? Join the campaign for the University of Houston today!