A Note from Interim President Michael A. Olivas: On a Clear Day, You Can See UHD
As we finish the academic year and gear up for the fall semester, I am celebrating six months in this University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) service (or, more precisely, two email password renewal periods). One of the wonderful parts of this position is that I am able to meet many UHD stakeholders and to speak on your behalf with many audiences. I am always trying to highlight impressions and experiences into this personal and institutional narrative, which I then incorporate into these discussions. I write to share two of the newest such impressions, and why they have struck me as they have. I hope to put these to your service as we enter the new year and begin important periods of UHD reflection and purposive engagement, particularly the legislative biennium and the University of Houston System (UHS) campaign.
I have been turning over in my mind a recent event we held to honor the legacy of the gift from Joel Abramowitz and his family to honor his beloved late wife, UHD Microbiology Professor Joan Abramowitz. Abramowitz Scholars over the life of the program have included superb students who have all gone on to professional schools and graduate schools, after engaging in interactive research lab experiences with dedicated science faculty at UHD and the Medical Center. Some are continuing their studies, while others are teaching and undertaking other science and research projects.
The scholars recounted their laboratory experiences, their gratitude for the support, and their aspirations. The intersection of so many ethnicities, immigration situations, and scientific interests were extraordinary. Hearing the wonderful students who spoke so respectfully of her and her effects upon their lives, I was reminded once more why UHD is so special. I hope to incorporate this program into my own storytelling and UHD narrative as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session and UHS campaign. We will never have too many of these programs, across all fields, and I hope we will attract families, alums, and other supporters to honor the many teachers who have touched so many lives. As I have mentioned in other settings, even my own family members were touched by Professor Abramowitz and by other UHD faculty.
As some of you may be aware, our redoubtable IT professionals undertook an initiative this year to offer the University's recycled PCs and laptops to UHD students at a very reasonable price. These PCs and laptops are in good working condition and were made available to students at a cost significantly below what is available in the market for similar equipment, allowing our students the opportunity to own functioning and well-maintained computers or laptops. And the reason that we are really excited about this program is that the proceeds from the sales are designated for student scholarships, making this truly a win-win program for our students and the University. The program has been so successful that we have generated $50,000, now available for scholarships. (I wish we could find more old products lying around to refurbish and supply for student needs!) I look forward to more programs and additional scholarship dollars for our students.
The Abramowitz event was held in the lovely Windows Room of our library, with its beautiful view of the city. As I look outside my own 9th floor office, I can see the edge of Minute Maid Park, and can watch the fascinating construction of two new residential buildings rising to our south. Look for yourself. We are at the crossroads of this vibrant and thriving city. The old TV show "The Naked City," solemnly intoned at the beginning of each episode: "There are a million stories in the naked city. This is one of them." Well, this is two of them, but there are many more, and I hope to listen carefully, hear them all, and recast them in service to UHD as we move forward.
Let's all think about ways we can establish scholarships like these: contribute to funds already established; work with your civic and religious organizations to earmark UHD programs; include us in your own estate planning and wills, as Dr. Abramowitz has done; honor our late colleague Professor Edwin Padilla. My wife and I have established nearly 20 student scholarships over the years at a variety of schools and colleges, and our own careers were influenced by the generosity of others who provided scholarships with which we were blessed and that helped us both achieve. I assume that many of you reading this will also have received such scholarship support in your own careers.
I promise to work hard every day to change our status as the best-kept secret in Houston. We may aspire to be the best, but we should not be a secret. I call upon all of you to create new stories whenever possible.
Michael A. Olivas
University of Houston-Downtown