What started as a breakfast meeting between University of Houston System (UHS) Chancellor Renu Khator and University of Houston law professor Michael A. Olivas resulted in 14 months of growth for the city’s second largest university.
At the conclusion of that friendly meal, Olivas was asked to step in as the interim president of the University of Houston-Downtown. It was an opportunity he could not pass up, and one that had a deep impact on both himself and the University.
That was in January 2016.
Fast forward to April 2017, and UHD has experienced several transformative events, which include a land purchase that will reshape the campus, and a historic $10 million gift that named the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
Olivas is set to depart his post as interim president and return to teaching and hosting his radio show “The Law of Rock & Roll” (soon to air on Houston’s KUHF 88.7 FM). Before his departure as interim president, well-wishers flocked to UHD’s Welcome Center on April 13 to celebrate his accomplishments during the past year. Guests delivering remarks included Khator, donor Marilyn Davies, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, UHS Regent Paula Mendoza, UHD Student Government Association President Mustapha Nyallay (who presented Olivas with the SGA Legacy Award), former Metro Board of Directors Chair Gilbert Garcia, and master of ceremonies David Bradley, UHD vice president for Administration and Finance. Other special guests included UHS Regents Welcome W. Wilson Jr. and Gerald McElvey, UH Law Center Dean Leonard Baynes and many others. Of course, UHD faculty, staff and students also turned out to honor Olivas, who was front and center with his wife, Augustina Reyes, UH education professor.
“What an incredible job Michael has done,” Khator told the audience. “I didn’t know so much could be accomplished in 14 months.”
Khator cited Olivas’ roles in the land purchased and Davies, as well as his participation in the articulation agreements between Lone Star College and Houston Community College and his hard work during the 85th Texas Legislature.
“He is one of the most cherished friends I have,” she said. “This (UHD) has turned out to be one of the most able administrations that I have ever seen.”
Olivas took the mic at the event’s conclusion and offered film clips depicting two very different cinematic college administrators – Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) in “Horse Feathers” and Dean Wormer (John Vernon) in “Animal House.”
Olivas said his remarks were inspired by the recent New York Times Article “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love.” That article mentions the connection between job satisfaction and workers’ appreciation of their employers’ mission, Olivas said.
“I’ve been privileged to serve two institutions that are in the throes of improving and forging their own destinies,” he said “I see that at UH, and I see that here at UHD, which has such an opportunity to capitalize on its mission. Let’s all think well of ourselves and remember the UHD mission, which all of us exemplify.”