Musician Recalls Early Connection to UHLyle Lovett is proud to return to his parents' alma mater

As a young boy, Texas singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett watched proudly as his parents, wearing cap and gown, walked the stage at the University of Houston to accept their diplomas.

Though his father Bill passed away in 1999, it's only fitting that Lovett's mother, Bernell Lovett ('60), be in the audience as her son is presented with an honorary doctorate of letters from the same university.

"It is really a tremendous honor," Lovett said. "And just to be there with my mom, and really just as a way to thank her for the way she has encouraged me ... that is a powerful feeling."

Lovett, a four-time Grammy winner known for blending elements of the blues, country, folk, gospel and jazz, remembers how hard his parents worked to earn their degrees. Both worked full-time at Humble Oil during the day - jobs they started as teenagers, just out of high school.

"It was important to them to go to college, but going to night school was the only way they could do it," Lovett said. "It took them longer to finish their degrees."

Lovett's mother graduated in 1960 with a degree in business education. His father graduated a year later with a degree in business administration.

In those early days, the family lived close to UH in a little house on Perry Street near what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Lovett remembers making many trips to campus - to see football games led by legendary Coach Bill Yeoman, and other events.

"It was a place I was very familiar with," he said, adding that he remembers performing in a recital in the Cullen Auditorium.

Lovett even attended kindergarten on the university's campus.

"I remember it quite well," he said. "I felt like I was going to college."

Lovett's connection to the university was strengthened in later years when his longtime friend Joe Mashburn became dean of UH's Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. Lovett met Mashburn and his wife, Julia, at Texas A&M University, where Lovett attended school.

"They have just been friends since then, and when Joe became dean at UH, it was a natural thing to continue doing things for him," he said.

Over the years, Lovett performed at various fundraising events for the college.

"It was a real privilege to be invited to play for a few of the Blueprint Balls there," he said. "And it was great fun."

Of the honorary degree, Lovett said he is proud to be associated with his parent's alma mater, and the university that serves the city that means so much to him.

"I was born at Methodist [hospital] and never lived anywhere else but Houston," he said. "It's more than a little part [of my life], and to be able to come back and visit the campus, it is an honor that I'm certainly glad to accept."

-- By Michelle Klump