UH Alumni Business Leaders Celebrated During Cougar 100 Luncheon

The second annual Cougar 100 Luncheon, hosted by the University of Houston Alumni Association (UHAA), took place at the Bayou City Event Center on October 27, 2015 to honor the 100 fastest growing alumni-owned or led businesses. University of Houston President Renu Khator was present to give opening remarks, and Rushion McDonald (’83), Daytime Emmy Award-winner and 2015 recipient of the UHAA Distinguished Alumni Award, delivered the keynote address.

The Cougar 100 is a bold new UH tradition that celebrates graduates who are business leaders in Houston and beyond. To be considered Cougar-owned, the company must be 51 percent owned by a Cougar or cumulatively by a group of Cougars. Cougar-led companies are considered those with a CEO, president, managing partner or chairman who is a Houston Cougar. Only companies that submit an application are eligible.

This Cougar 100 list is ranked by two-year revenue growth. ATS Pest Force, owned by Austin Elrond (’11), ranked first with a growth rate of 148.43 percent, up from fifth place in 2014. New Cougar 100 addition Lookout Capital Management LP came in second with a growth rate of 148.35 percent.

Most Cougar 100 businesses are located in Texas, but New Jersey and North Carolina are among the other states represented by UH alumni business leaders, making it a truly global celebration. Besides the recipients, several UH deans and other University leadership were present, as well as current UH students — the next generation of UH business leaders.

In her remarks, Khator thanked the Cougar 100 for their hard work, and related their business success to the accomplishments the University has recently achieved, including induction into national honor society Phi Beta Kappa, a 7-0 football season and hosting the final Republican presidential primary debate in 2016.

“If you weren’t allowing us to dream big,” she said of the successful alumni in attendance, “we could not achieve what we are achieving now.”

She also emphasized the importance of taking risks in order to advance, relating both to business leadership and to UH’s growth.

“To achieve things you haven’t achieved before, you have to do things you haven’t done before,” she advised.

McDonald echoed that sentiment in his keynote address, drawing from his experience as a once-unfocused student and current role as architect of the global Steve Harvey media brand — not to mention his own stand-up comedian skills. Introduced as one of UH’s most well-rounded graduates, McDonald was quick to note that he isn’t a business — “I’m a brand.” Even so, his inspirational journey, from growing up in Texas with a father who only completed a third-grade education to finding the path to success at UH through hard work and determination, was a testament to the business-building experience. The media mogul praised the Cougar 100 winners for their role in boosting the economy and their refusal to retreat in the face of challenges. He also emphasized the importance of giving back to the community and to UH, where so many of these leaders’ skills took root.

“Fear can overtake opportunities,” he said, “but you’re special. We can’t forget to share those opportunities with others.”

After lunch, the previously unrevealed ranking countdown began. Mike Pede (’89), associate vice president for Alumni Relations, announced the companies in descending order, and the winners proceeded down a red carpet to receive their award from Trey Wilkinson (’92, M.B.A. ’02), UHAA Board President, accented by well-known film soundtracks to add a touch of adventure to the celebration.

All Cougar-owned or led companies are invited to apply for the 2016 Cougar 100 when applications re-open next year. More information can be found at houstonalumni.com/cougar100, as well as the full 2015 list of winning companies.

Contact: Bob Leaumont, Director of Corporate Sponsorship and Revenue, at 713-743-9558 or rfleaumo@central.uh.edu.