In both Dr. Renu Khator’s Annual Fall Address and the Houston Chronicle article about Dr. Khator’s address, Dr. Polly Hardee of the Economics Department was cited for her contribution to the rescue of UH student Amana Waheed during Hurricane Harvey. Extracting from both Dr. Khator’s speech and using input from Dr. Hardee, the following is an account of how UH’s Economics department was involved in the rescue, especially Dr. Polly Hardee. Quotes from Dr. Khator are from her Fall Address given on October 18, 2017.
Relating to Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Khator stated in her Fall Address: “The University of Houston was able to resume classes within a week. Two more weeks into the semester, when the date to withdraw from the university passed, we realized that we had won the war against Harvey. Our enrollment remained intact… our students were back… our hurricane heroes succeeded. Many of the heroes who went above and beyond the call of duty are in attendance today.”
Dr. Khator continued, “Thank you! Culture is nothing but an aggregate reflection of individually held values. I would like to share with you an email exchange between a student and a faculty member that, I feel, exemplifies the best of the academy… a student true to her values, and a professor true to hers.”
Dr. Khator explained that shortly after Harvey hit Houston, “a student (Amana Waheed) emails her professor (Dr. Polly Hardee), ‘I still do not have power at my house and the bayou is right at my first floor. I don’t know what I can do about my assignments that will be due September 5 because there is no saying when power will return. PS: if there’s any way possible for you to get a hold of anyone that can help please let me know.’ “
Dr. Polly Hardee responded to the student, ”Call 911.” But about 30 minutes later the student wrote to the professor again, ”Please help if you can.” So, Dr. Hardee immediately called 911, but to no avail—the victim, not a third party, must make the request to 911 before action is taken.
Dr. Hardee again called the student and reported: “I just called 911. They do not take 3rd party calls. They said you must call. I followed by a call to the Fire Department, but they said the same thing. So, I will just stay in touch via email to determine if you have been rescued.”
The student, Amana Waheed, sent a reply to Dr. Hardee, “Thank you so much. It is so considerate of you.”
Following the interchange with Amana, Dr. Hardee sent out an email to several economics professors asking them for guidance. Dr. David Papell, Chair of Economics, called Dr. Hardee to discuss the situation. Soon Dr. Hardee received an email from Dr. Rebecca Thornton, Director of Applied Economics, who supplied Coast Guard phone numbers and the good news that the Coast Guard would take third party calls. Dr. Hardee then called the Coast Guard to verify, and the Coast Guard gave critical information including a central number that the student could call for a quicker rescue.
Dr. Hardee then wrote to the student: “Just called the Coast Guard. They said put a white sheet in your window or white towel. Call them at the primary number. Go on your roof, not in the attic. Give them the specific address of your house.”
Five minutes later, Dr. Hardee sent another email to Amana, “I contacted the Coast Guard again. If the central number did not work, call on any of the five numbers below or email the Coast Guard at the email address below and do exactly as they instruct you. Good Luck.”
A few tense hours later, the message of relief finally came from Amana. The student wrote to Dr. Hardee, “Thank you, professor. We called the Coast Guard and we got rescued by boat. We are safe now. Our family is in a shelter in Tomball.”
Dr. Hardee then sent a final message to the student, “I am so relieved. You stay safe and don’t be concerned about your graded assignments. They have all been postponed. Of the utmost importance is that you are out of harm’s way. Please let me know if I can assist you further.”
We now return to the Fall Address of Dr. Khator who after discussing Hurricane Harvey and some particulars of the rescue said “I asked the student in this exchange, Amana Waheed, and her professor, Dr. Polly Hardee from Economics, to join us today. Will you both please stand?” (This prompted cheers from the audience.)
Dr. Khator concluded her recognition of the Economics Department, Dr. Hardee and the student Amana Waheed by stating…”This is the spirit and the character of the University of Houston.”