Author Archive

Elsie G. Schulze (M.Ed ’72)

Elsie Gwendolyn Schulze, born August 28, 1934, passed away Friday, June 25, 2021. She is preceded in death by beloved husband Albert, her parents, Voyd Harrelson and Alma Sparks Glover; siblings, Claude Harrelson, Charles Harrelson, Leonard Harrelson and Sybil Harrelson Nunley. She leaves behind sons James Schulze and wife, Donna, Dale Schulze and wife, Valerie, grandchildren, James, Jennifer, Lauren and Heather; great grandchildren, Isabel, Elle, Stella, Otto, Autumn and Paige; and many, many other family and friends.

Elsie grew up in Huntsville where she met her husband-to-be while he was working at the local movie theater. Love flourished and they were married in 1951. While raising 2 sons Elsie studied and earned degrees in education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She taught for 20 years at Almeda Elementary where she assisted countless students to overcome their learning difficulties.

Elsie also taught Sunday School and Catechism classes for many years at Trinity Lutheran in Corpus Christi, St. Michael’s Lutheran in Houston, and Epiphany Lutheran in Pearland. She loved to sing and was a choir member and leader everywhere.

A devout Christian, Elsie spent countless hours in study, devotion, prayer and service to her Lord and Savior in many roles throughout her life.
Elsie will be greatly missed by all those whose lives she touched through the years.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Elsie Schulze Memorial Fund at Epiphany Lutheran Church Pearland.

Margo A. Costello (’79)

Bauer Alum Margo Costello was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Awards. She is President and CEO of Riverway Business Services Inc.

The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? It took about
two days after labeling Covid a
“pandemic” to really crystallize how
dramatically differently people handle
unprecedented stress. I’d always
known this deep down, but never
seen it so prominently displayed.
While some of our team took the
situation as “par for the course”
of life, others found themselves
panicked and fearful, and yet others
found themselves saddened and
overwhelmed. I fell somewhere in
the middle of all of these — it was a
rollercoaster of emotion. As a leader,
my job shifted to both acknowledge
and provide the solid ground from
which to navigate those emotions by
setting a clear, strategic plan. The
pandemic ended up being the biggest
trial of my ability to align the team
quickly — and it certainly required a
shift in my approach.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
We saw a dramatic rise in the leadership
capabilities of some of my colleagues,
which gave us the space to rethink
our company structure and push more
leadership responsibility to those
closest to the work. Our plan is to
continue this natural progression, and
actively seek opportunities for leaders in
the company to truly step up and shine.
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
When I started my company, it was just
me, a typewriter I had bought from a
local thrift store, and a phone book.
However, as my business began to
thrive and grow, and I began hiring
employees to help take over the
workload, there was a massive shift.
I was no longer responsible only for
my success, but for the success and
careers of other people who believed in
what I was doing enough to join me. I
never would have imagined the gravity
of that responsibility, but it was certainly

Travis S. Crabtree (’00)

UH Law Center alum Travis Crabtree was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO awards. He is President of Swyft Filings


What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? Empowerment
works. Empowerment has been one
of our core values since day one. We
help empower our customers to start
their own businesses, and we empower
our employees through trust and
communication. After the pandemic
started, we began doubling down, and
it’s the resiliency of our team that got us
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
Before the pandemic, we believed we
had to make a choice between being
customer-focused and team-focused.
We’ve now learned the best case for
success is becoming both. It doesn’t
have to be a binary choice — we
can support both our team and the
customer. We’re continuing to find
ways to combine the two to support
customers and employees at the same
time. We serve an incredibly diverse
set of small business customers, and
we found we could support them while
also providing fun activities for our
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
Just because someone has a “high title”
doesn’t mean they know everything. We
go through the same processes at the
executive level as the rest of our team.
There are lots of things you don’t know
out there and you just have to figure
it out. We encourage an atmosphere
of admitting when we don’t know
something and arming people with the
power and tools to learn the answers.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? Hire people
smarter than you, learn from them, and
feel comfortable delegating things to
them. This goes hand in hand with who
you hire. If you’re afraid to delegate
to someone, you don’t have the right
person. Manage your leadership by
building up your team and being able
to move on from one task to the next by
leaving it in good hands.

Ali Dhanani (’90)

Bauer alum Ali Dhanani  was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Award.  He is CEO of Haza Foods LLC

The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style?

I learned not to
take anything for granted. I started to
appreciate everything in life, especially
my family, friends and people who
work with me and for my company. It
shed light on how at the blink of an
eye, things can change and nothing is
in our control.

What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?

Before, I would never have thought of
allowing people to work from home;
however, I plan to continue allowing a
hybrid model of coming to the office
and working from home.

What is your leadership philosophy?

Empower your people and set them up
for success. You take care of them, and
they will take care of your business!

What advice would you give to
emerging leaders?

Have passion for
what you do. Work hard, as there are
no shortcuts to success. Be patient and
stay humble.
How do you relax/unwind?

Family,prayers, exercise, food, music and

Who would play you in a movie?

Robert Downey Jr! I feel he
has a serious side, yet a bit of light
heartedness, style and swag — and,
of course, he does play my favorite
superhero: Iron Man!

Anthony L. Marre (’06)

UH Law Center Alum Mr. Anthony L. Marre was a recipient of  the HBJ most admired CEO Award. He is managing shareholder at Wilson Cribbs + Goren.


The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the
pandemic and how did that affect
your leadership style? I learned that
one of the most critical aspects of
being a good leader is having empathy
for your fellow human beings. The
pandemic affected everyone in a unique
way — I’m not sure any two people
had the same experience. Listening,
understanding, and accommodating
the needs/concerns across the entire
spectrum of pandemic experiences was
very necessary. I tried to make sure I
spoke to each employee personally at
different times during lockdown. We
tried not to talk about work, but just
about their experiences and how they
were handling things. I always tried to
end the conversation on a positive note.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
Our entire team of attorneys meets
every Monday to go over our active
list of real estate deals. In the past,
we have all crammed into our large
conference room for lunch together.
However, during the pandemic, we
opted to host the meeting over Zoom,
which proved to be very effective. We
barely fit in the conference room as it
was, and since the beginning of the
pandemic, we have added more to
our team. So, it makes sense to keep
the meeting virtual. We are also going
to continue to be flexible with remote
working arrangements.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? I learned early
on that you can never be too close to
the action. I think young professionals
tend to want to go hide in their office,
keep their head down, and just do the
work they were hired to do — they’ll
figure out how to lead later if they
ever get the opportunity. Try to resist
that temptation and put yourself in a
position to see your senior-level people
in action. You will learn so much just
from listening to them talk on the
phone to clients, referral sources,
suppliers, and other colleagues.

Amanda H. Tullos (’03)

Hines College of Architecture alum Amanda H. Tullos was a recipient of the HBJ Most Admired CEO Award. She is CEO and principal at GreeNexus Consulting LLC.


The Q&A can be found below

What was the biggest lesson you
learned about yourself during the pandemic and
how did that affect your leadership style?

The pandemic revealed how we deal with multiple
emergencies at one time; and our
ability to see how they connect.
What changes made during the
pandemic do you intend to keep?
We will continue to work in the cloud
for those that prefer it. We changed
our weekly calls to half developmental
topics and half check-ins, instead of
dividing our team into smaller groups,
like what many businesses suggest. I
want to keep us as a focused whole,
even if only a few folks check in every
other week. This gives us time to learn
together and be a resource to each
other for solutions.
What has surprised you the most
since becoming a top executive?
The mindset change has surprised
me the most. When I first started the
company, I felt the need to be the
subject matter expert on all things
sustainability, but over time, I learned
to delegate and be the leader so
that others can grow. My focus is on
breaking barriers to growth for both
the company and our team.
What advice would you give to
emerging leaders? Care about your
team. Find out who they are, what they
love, and what their goals are. Each
person is unique and has their own
goals. Remember that everyone is free
to leave your company and should be
appreciated as such!

Esthermae L. Rooke (’45)

Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep, just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.” Following her favorite song, Esthermae Litherland Rooke, 96, of Kerrville, Texas, peacefully passed away on July 6 at The Wesleyan in Georgetown, living independently until the last few weeks and leaving behind a rich legacy of memories and a deep love for her family and friends. She was born in Houston to Louis Owen and Nettie Litherland on October 9, 1924 and grew up as a big sister to Joyce and Lou. At Stephen F. Austin High School, she was a newspaper editor and bugle captain of the Scottish Brigade drill team. (Although she hung up her bugle, she continued to attend reunions there into her nineties.) During high school, she met David Rooke at a church youth group, and they were married on June 2, 1945 at Epworth Methodist Church, a day after graduating college. They were inseparable, leaning on each other for over 64 years, moving to Lake Jackson, Texas in 1946, then to Midland, Michigan for 8 years, and making their final move to Kerrville, Texas in 1982 to retire (although “retire” was never in her vocabulary). The first woman college graduate in her family, Esthermae graduated from The University of Houston, and became the first biology teacher at the then Freeport High School. She was an endlessly creative Mom of four sons, Cub Scout den mother, faithful Church leader and volunteer across many ministries, and P.E.O. sister. She received the Silver Fawn award from the Boy Scouts of America for her dedicated service over many years. Esthermae was a child of The Depression and never threw anything away that could be used for a greater purpose. Many were the tuna fish cans transformed into magnificent centerpieces, and she could magically turn cut-out letters and into handmade notes and poems with just scissors, colored pens, Elmer’s glue, and her beloved IBM typewriter. Family was her Heaven on earth, and her tireless arms wrangled a 10-year span of sons and their very different needs (celebrating three birthdays in the first week of April!). She made sure every holiday, from her favorite Halloween to Texas Independence Day to The Kentucky Derby, was always dressed up, and somehow, she made all the days in between just as festive. On birthdays, everyone waited in anticipation for that inevitable phone call and rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.” It will be missed. Every special moment hung like a charm on the ever-growing gold bracelet that she wore like a noisy celebration around her wrist. Esthermae was preceded in death by her husband David, her parents, uncles and aunts (of which her name was made by combining two of them), her younger brother Louis Owen Litherland, Jr., and her niece, Julie Goode. Survivors include her four boys and their spouses: Eugene and Cheryl, Mark and Jana, Paul and Debra, and Bruce and Julia; her sister Joyce Lindler-Hale and sister-in-law Becky Litherland; her grandchildren Thomas, Anna, Stephen, Alison, James David, Austin, Emily, Maegan, Melisa-Beth, Eleanor, and Travis and their families, including 15 great grandchildren; and nieces and nephews Vicki and Tim Scheddel, Steve and Cheryl Litherland, and Joel and Lynn Goode. All of us have been touched and shaped by her supportive smiles and hugs, those countless cards and poems, the spontaneous shuffle, ball, and change, cheers of “Go, Spurs, Go!”, singing hymns and big band songs with her in her last days, and the infinite gift of her favorite verse from Psalm 118: “This is the day The Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” We will rejoice and honor her life at a public memorial celebration at 3 pm on Sunday, September 5 at the Kerrville First United Methodist Church in Kerrville, Texas, with Dr. Donna Magee officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to the Kerrville First United Methodist Church, P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, Schreiner University Litherland-Rooke Endowed Scholarship Fund, or a charity of your choice. For memorials to the P.E.O. Educational Fund, go to “Giving Opportunities” at or mail to: P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund P.E.O. Executive Office Treasurer’s Department 3700 Grand Ave. Des Moines, Iowa 50312 For memorials to the Schreiner University Litherland-Rooke Endowed Scholarship Fund, go to . Under Designations, select “Other” and then enter “Litherland-Rooke Endowed Scholarship Fund” in the box. Or mail to: Schreiner University Attn: Advancement 2100 Memorial Blvd. Kerrville, Texas 78028

Bonnie Labdi (PharmD ’02)

UH alum Bonnie Labdi started a new position as the Clinical Director of Oncology at Agilum Healthcare Intelligence, an analytics company based out of Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Bonnie has 19 years of experience in clinical pharmacy practice, providing evidence-based care to oncology patients in a wide variety of healthcare settings. As a member of Agilum’s Clinical Solutions team, Bonnie utilizes her knowledge and experience in developing, promoting, and providing pharmacy and analytic consulting services to clients, who are then able to provide the highest level of care for their patients at the lowest possible cost.

Prior to joining Agilum, Bonnie maintained a clinical practice at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. While at Hermann, she held an academic appointment as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School. Bonnie previously practiced at other healthcare facilities in the Houston area, including the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Bonnie has written several articles for peer-reviewed journals, authored textbook chapters, and presented research at national and international medical conferences. She is an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, among others, and has held various leadership positions within these organizations.

Bonnie received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy. She completed both her pharmacy practice residency and her specialty practice residency in hematology/oncology from Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas. Bonnie is certified by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties in oncology and maintains her license to practice pharmacy in her home state of Texas.

Michael Kenneth Vest (’78)

Michael Kenneth Vest
JULY 6, 1954 ? FEBRUARY 19, 2020
Obituary of Michael Kenneth Vest
Michael Kenneth Vest was born on July 6, 1954 in Roanoke, Virginia and passed away on February 19, 2020 in Houston, Texas and is under the care of Memorial Oaks Funeral Home.

David Baluk (J.D. ’11)

Attorney David Baluk Named to Texas Rising Stars for 2021

(Houston, TX) Attorney David Baluk of the Houston personal injury
law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner has
been recognized on the Texas Rising Stars list for 2021. This marks
David’s fourth consecutive year to be included on this annual list,
which is published in the Texas Rising Stars issue of the Super
Lawyers magazine and Texas Monthly magazine.
Attorneys named to the Rising Stars list go through the same
extensive selection process as Super Lawyers and are selected
based on nominations, independent research by Super Lawyers, and
peer evaluation by practice area. To be eligible for inclusion,
attorneys must be under the age of 40 or in practice for 10 years or
less. No more than 2.5 percent of eligible attorneys are named to
the Rising Stars list, which indicates that David is among a
prestigious list of top young lawyers in Texas.
David has been practicing personal injury in Texas for the last 10 years and is admitted to practice
in the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the United
States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. His legal practice at Abraham Watkins focuses on a
wide range of personal injury matters, including catastrophic injuries, workplace injuries, product
liability, premises liability, wrongful death, and 18-wheeler, commercial vehicle, and automobile
David is a magna cum laude graduate of Washington and Lee University. After graduating with a
degree in Economics and being inducted into Omicron Delta Epsilon, an International Economics
Honor Society, David moved to Texas and attended the University of Houston Law Center. During
law school, he served on the board of the Houston Journal of International Law, earned the honor
of Editor of the Year, and was a Law Clerk at Abraham Watkins, where he received his first
exposure to plaintiffs’ personal injury work.
Following graduation from the University of Houston Law Center, David practiced at two
prominent trial law firms in Houston, a plaintiffs’ firm and a defense firm, where he litigated cases
in over 23 states and obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and favorable settlements on behalf
of his clients. He now applies this experience and the skillset he honed in courthouses throughout
the United States to his cases at Abraham Watkins which he joined as an Associate in 2021.
Please join Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in congratulating David Baluk on
being named to the Texas Rising Stars list for 2021. To learn more about David or to contact him,
please email him or call 713-222-7211.