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Honoree & Distinguished Alumni

Kathrine McGovern

Born Kathrine Dunbar Galbreath in 1933 in Houston, Kathy has lived her entire life in Houston, except for one semester during college. She attended River Oaks Elementary School, Lanier Junior High School and Lamar High School before attending the University of Houston, where she studied business and art. While attending the University, she went to work for Dr. Goldie Ham as a secretary and receptionist for four years. When Dr. Ham retired, she took a position with Dr. John P. McGovern. She admits not taking a liking to him at first — he asked too many questions, she says — they grew to be fond of each other and married in 1961. Their honeymoon in Florida led to a lifelong passion for fishing and birding.

At the time of her marriage to Dr. McGovern, Kathy was one semester from graduating from the University of Houston. She was convinced that she would eventually finish her studies, but Jack wanted her to continue working in the office with him — which she did, as she enjoyed the work. Yet she was, and remains to this day, a loyal UH Cougar!

Kathy and Jack maintained a winter home in California, where Kathy pursued her interest in birding. She joined birding groups at The Living Desert while she enjoyed the desert and the surrounding mountains. Upon returning to Houston, she joined Jim Stevenson’s birding group in Galveston, as well as Houston Audubon. Now she has her companion, “Mac,” her live-in parakeet.

The John P. McGovern Foundation, founded by Jack in 1961 and now led by Kathy, made history in 2015 with a transformational $75 million gift to support critical areas of education and research at The University of Texas Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Hermann Park Conservancy’s Hats in the Park Luncheon honored Kathy in 2015 for her long-term commitment to Hermann Park, which culminated in the lead gift for the McGovern Centennial Gardens, in honor of the Park’s 100th birthday. Other areas of support in and around Hermann Park have been the Kathrine G. McGovern water play park, the McGovern Lake and the McGovern Children’s Zoo. 

In January 2017, the John P. McGovern Foundation gave $20 million to the University of Houston’s College of the Arts to create a permanent endowment that will benefit arts students and faculty, programming and community outreach. The Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts is the first college at the University of Houston named for a former student, and the first to be named for a woman. Kathy has said that among all of her philanthropic activities, she was the most enthusiastic about the gift to name the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts at the University of Houston.

Kathrine McGovern

Carolyn Houston Boone
Associate Professor of Acting and Directing (M.F.A. ’82)

Carolyn Boone taught English and creative writing at Westchester High School, and volunteered to teach drama at Stratford High School upon its opening, when she met Cecil Pickett, the legendary professor in the drama department at the University of Houston. She met him at an annual University Interscholastic League (UIL) drama competition where Pickett was serving as one of the judges. Boone’s UIL team went on that year to win at the district, area, region and state levels — with a Best Actor and several more all-star awards for every member of the ensemble — before Pickett contacted Boone to urge her to seek her M.A. in theatre. That wasn’t the right time for Boone to attend the University, but she reconnected with Pickett a few years later — and the rest, as they say, is history.

After graduating with her M.A., Boone taught drama for two and a half years at Elsik High School and, after that, spent time writing scripts, casting productions, scouting locations and producing mini-movies for firms making product introductions for large companies. It was in those years that Sidney Berger — the equally legendary chair of the drama department at the University of Houston and one of Boone’s professors from her student days — called Boone with the news that Pickett was retiring. Berger hired Boone as a short-term replacement before giving her the ultimate honor: returning to her alma mater with a permanent appointment on the faculty of the drama department, in the position held by her mentor, Pickett. Boone has now spent 29 years on the University of Houston faculty, directing over 30 productions and teaching courses, including Acting in a Comedy, Acting Styles, Acting with the Physical and Emotional and Five Approaches to Acting, among many others. Several of her former students have risen to public acclaim, among them Derek Cecil (Seth Grayson on “House of Cards”), Roxanne Hope (appearing on Broadway in “The Torch Song”) and Jim Parsons (Sheldon on “Big Bang Theory”).

Boone has appeared locally with professional theaters including The Catastrophic Theatre, Main Street Theater, Stages Repertory Theatre, The Heights Theater, Strand Street Theatre, Country Playhouse, Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company and Unity Theatre. She has worked in recent films including Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and “The Bay House,” due out in summer 2019; and has worked with the Prague Shakespeare Company. She serves on numerous local, regional and statewide professional boards; was recently appointed to the Advisory Boards of Catastrophic Theatre and the Chicago Children’s Theatre; and is in demand for workshops and as a clinician. She is twice a recipient of the University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award.


Michael Ray Charles
Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Painting (M.F.A. ’93)

Michael Ray Charles was born in 1967 in Lafayette, Louisiana, and graduated from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1985. In college, he studied advertising design and illustration, eventually moving to painting, his preferred medium. In 1993, Charles received an M.F.A. degree from the University of Houston.

 Charles’ work explores historic African-American stereotypes from the Antebellum South, appropriating images from advertising and pop culture to expose the underlying racism prevalent in contemporary culture. He creates a vocabulary of cultural, racial and historical images in order to explore caricatures that continue to survive in popular media, such as Aunt Jemima or Sambo.

 Spike Lee commissioned Charles to create the poster for his 1997 documentary, “4 Little Girls,” about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black girls, as well as two paintings prominently displayed in Lee’s 2000 feature film, “Bamboozled.” In 2001, Charles was among the first group of artists showcased in the PBS series “Art21.” A 2003 article in “Black Issues in Higher Education” acknowledged Charles as one of the top future African-American scholars under 40. In 2014, Charles returned to his alma mater and joined the University of Houston faculty as the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Painting.

 Charles has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a juror for The Bush Artist Fellowship in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as the Inaugural Biennial Underground Railroad Exhibition at Northern Kentucky University. His work is represented in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and other major museum collections in both the U. S. and abroad. He lectures and exhibits nationally and internationally, and his work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in New York City, Miami, Santa Fe, Düsseldorf, Paris, Belgium, Spain and Norway.

 In 2018, Charles became the recipient of the prestigious American Academy in Rome, Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize, awarded to artists at the forefront of their disciplines and considered one of the most prestigious awards a practicing artist can receive.

Michael Ray Charles

David Ashley White
C. W. Moores, Jr. Professor of Music (’68, M.M. ’74)

David Ashley White (b. 1944), is the C. W. Moores Endowed Professor of Composition in the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston. White holds a B.M. and an  M.M. from the University of Houston and a D.M.A. from The University of Texas at Austin. He served as the director of the Moores School of Music from 1999 – 2014, during which time he held the Margaret M. Alkek and Margaret Alkek Williams Endowed Chair.

White’s secular and sacred compositions are widely performed and published, and he has received numerous commissions from various organizations, schools, churches and individuals. His hymns appear in a number of denominational books, including the Episcopal Church’s “The Hymnal 1982” and its supplement, “Wonder, Love, and Praise;” “The United Methodist Hymnal” and its supplement, “The Faith We Sing;” the hymnal of the United Church of Christ in Japan; Great Britain’s “Worship Songs Ancient and Modern;” and the recently published “Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal” (2013). Four volumes of his hymns are published by Selah Publishing, most recently “I’ll Sing and Joyful Be” (2014). His vocal and instrumental music is recorded on several commercial labels, including Zephyr, Gothic and Albany. Commercial recordings of his music include “Echoes from the American Cathedral,” “The Blue Estuaries,” “Praise the Spirit” and “As you set out for Ithaka.”

A 7th-generation Texan, White is an active member of the Houston arts community and has served on numerous boards, including as a mayoral appointment on the board of the Houston Arts Alliance. He was recently appointed composer-in-residence at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, his home parish. He was designated Distinguished Composer by the American Guild of Organists for its national convention held in Houston in 2016 — where his anthem “With a Shining Like the Sun” was premiered. In April 2015, he received the Esther Farfel Award from the University of Houston, the University’s highest honor in recognition of overall career excellence, and in July 2015, he was awarded the Raabe Prize for Excellence in Sacred Composition for his work “Spirit Moving over Chaos.”