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Alumni Awardees United by Cougar Pride

In a tremendous show of Cougar spirit, more than 100 members of the University of Houston community raised a glass to five deserving honorees during the annual Hilton College Alumni Awards on April 13. Hosted by the Hilton College Alumni Association board, the event is traditionally held in the Hilton University of Houston’s Shamrock Ballroom on the eve of Gourmet Night, allowing guests to meet the student management team and receive a preview taste of the Gourmet Night appetizers.

Dean Dennis Reynolds received the Honorary Alumni Award for his contributions to the growth of the College since taking the helm in 2015. He was introduced by Alumni Board President Kaitlyn Venable-Valdez ('12) who listed the Dean’s long string of achievements that have helped elevate the College’s presence here and abroad.

Doug Brooks (’75), former chairman, president and CEO of Brinker International and the University’s newest regent, then introduced Mike Pede ('89), recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. By consistently giving generously of his time, talent and resources, Mike has brought recognition to the College’s goals and programs. He is also vice president of University of Houston Alumni Relations, and has always bled Cougar Red. As a student, Mike “suited up” and was the face behind Shasta!

The Distinguished Alumni Faculty Award went to Instructional Assistant Professor Alexis Jamieson ('05, MS '15). Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Mary Dawson (’92, MHM ’95), who once taught Alexis as an undergrad, introduced Alexis and spoke of how she has seen her grow into a capable mentor and leader at the College. She shared letters from students who spoke admiringly of Alexis’ kindness and guidance.

Kaitlyn then returned to the stage as an honoree. She received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, and was introduced by Todd Coutee, senior vice president of operations of Luby’s Fuddruckers Restaurants. Todd spoke of Kaitlyn’s fast promotion to Luby’s corporate chef after being a management trainee right after graduation. Kaitlyn plays a major role in developing the company’s menus and is a stellar example of a young star on the rise. 

The Distinguished Alumni Award went to Sharmagne Taylor ('86), president and CEO of On-Site Partners. Clara Snelson (’15), now a teacher and basketball coach at Dickinson ISD, had the honor of introducing her mentor. Clara spoke about Sharmagne’s love and support of her “Baby Coogs,” all who have gone on to successful careers around the world. Speaking on behalf of her peers, Clara thanked Sharmagne for the lasting impact she has made in their lives. In turn, Sharmagne challenged her colleagues to do the same for others. 

To close out the presentations, emcee Michael Alcorn (’07), immediate past president of the board, encouraged his fellow graduates to pass on the torch in the name of service and love for their alma mater. Then the real mixing and mingling began. A good time was had by all. Click here for event photos. 

Congratulations to this year’s winners! And mark your calendars today for the next Alumni Awards reception on April 12, 2019 when the Hilton College Alumni Association board will be honoring “50 in 50” during the College’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration. 

(Story & Photo: Pearl Cajoles)

Posted on April 25, 2018