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UHD Alumni & Friends Celebration Dinner Set For May 24

Event Recognizes Outstanding UHD Graduates

The University of Houston-Downtown will honor outstanding graduates at the UHD Alumni & Friends Celebration Dinner on Tuesday, May 24, at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston.

Aligned with the Investiture of UHD President Loren J. Blanchard, the event will celebrate UHD’s future and honor graduates who have gone above and beyond to support the University. A cocktail hour will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with dinner and a program following from 6:30 to 9 p.m. 

The event will benefit UHD’s Compass Points Fund, which invests in the success of UHD students guided by the University’s Institutional Compass

  • Strengthening Justice 
  • Strengthening Student Success and Equity 
  • Supporting Institutional Excellence and Infrastructure 
  • Growing as an Anchor Institution

Tables and individual tickets are available for the Alumni & Friends Event, which can be purchased online. If you are unable to attend, you can still support the efforts by making a donation online

“The individuals we will honor at the UHD Alumni & Friends Celebration represent all of UHD’s graduates who have made a remarkable impact on this University and this community, and those friends of the University who feel a special call to move UHD forward,” said Jay Zambrano, Vice President for Advancement & University Relations. 

UHD Alumni and Friends being recognized at the event include:

Distinguished Alumna
The Honorable Paula Mendoza (BS ’95; MBA ’17)
Paula Mendoza is an entrepreneur, innovator, advocate, barrier-breaker, and tireless volunteer. She is also the first UHD graduate and first Latina to serve on the UH System Board of Regents.

Alumni Service Award
Phillip Ellison (BA ’94)
Phillip Ellison has been a driving force in the incubation and founding of the UHD Alumni Association shortly after completing his degree in the mid-90s. An accomplished supply chain executive with 25 years of experience in purchasing and contract management in both the private and public sectors, Ellison is currently executive director of procurement services for the Spring Independent School District.

Alumni Entrepreneur Award
Marcus Bowers (BA ’11) 
Marcus Bowers is the co-founder and chief executive officer of She’s Happy Hair. From an initial $900 investment and selling his product from a car trunk, today the company has multiple stores nationwide and an online presence, with a reported $18 million in sales. Bowers also founded the She’s Happy Hair Foundation, which is heavily involved with community outreach; in recognition, Mayor Sylvester Turner named October 1 She’s Happy Hair Day.

Alumna on the Rise
Maria del Pilar Montes (MBA ’17)
As the founding director of boards and commissions for Harris County’s new Office of County Administration, Maria del Pilar Montes educates others about the importance of public service and works to increase diversity on these boards.

Distinguished Friends of the University
Tommy Harper and Harry Gee
For well over two decades, Tommy Harper and Harry Gee have served UHD as members of the President’s Advisory Council. Both were involved in the Red Rose Ball, which has provided hundreds of students with scholarship support since the late 1990s. Gee and Harper are both accomplished professionals in their own rights. Gee has been a recognized authority on immigration and naturalization law for over 50 years. He has served on myriad professional, nonprofit, and community boards for decades. He has helped promote Asian-Pacific American causes and propelled Asian-Pacific Americans into leadership positions, founding the Asian-American Coalition and the Institute of Chinese Culture in Houston. Harper began his professional career in commercial banking in New York City and spent 13 years at executive levels with major banks in New York and Houston. He also spent many years in Houston’s global energy industry and currently serves as director of the nonprofit Spirit Golf Association, which promotes golf for philanthropic purposes, and of the Houston SPCA, where he led its $35 million capital campaign.

“We are excited to recognize these accomplished Gator alumni and our supporters, who have made this University what it is today, as we celebrate UHD’s history and the exciting next chapter we open with the Investiture of President Blanchard,” Zambrano said.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.