Author Archive

Larry Gatlin (’70)

He’s Now ‘Professor’ Larry Gatlin And He’s Teaching Songwriting
Pam Windsor
Contributor
Nashville-based music, entertainment, and feature writer.
Jan 29, 2023,01:28pm EST

Larry Gatlin and his brothers Steve and Rudy are collectively known as the Gatlin Brothers, and they’ve had a long list of megahits through the years. Their list of familiar songs includes the GRAMMY-winning “Broken Lady,” “All the Gold in California,” and “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You),” and many more. And Larry Gatlin has written every one of them.
He’s also written songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Rich, Johnny Mathis, and others. And he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame four years ago.
Now, Gatlin is getting the chance to teach what he knows about songwriting to college students in his hometown of Odessa, Texas. Last Monday (January 23rd), marked the first night of the eight-week Master Class he’s teaching on-site at the University of Texas Permian Basin. He couldn’t have been more excited.
“It really was one of the most moving moments of my life to see those young people there who wanted to learn,” he says.”
It’s not the first time he’s taught students in a classroom setting. Years ago, he was invited to share some of what he knows with students at the University of Texas. He was supposed to talk about music, what goes into performing, and the elements of putting a show together, but it kept coming back around to songwriting.
“I put everything together and visited with these young folks and it turned into what they wanted to talk about. And they’re the ones who moved it into the direction of songwriting.”
He’s since gone into other schools from California to London, England to touch on the topic, but this time he’s actually getting to teach a full-length course. He’ll be guiding students both in-person and online to start writing songs of their own.
“The main thing I’m going to do, I’m not going to lecture, I’m going to tell them a few things to help them learn the craft of writing songs. Like the other night I told them, ‘If you write a song about heaven, when you sing ‘hea…VEN,’ the melody goes up on the second syllable (lifting upward as in the direction of heaven). If you’re writing a song about hell, the melody goes down.’ Little things like that.”
Gatlin, who attended the University of Houston on a football scholarship and majored in English, has a deep appreciation for the English language, as well as American literature. It’s served him well as a songwriter and he plans to encourage his students to read the classics.
He gives an example of how a book report he was assigned in high school on John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath, led to one of the Gatlin Brothers biggest hits.
“Thirteen short years later, I was stuck in the traffic jam from hell, right in front of the Hollywood Bowl in California in LA,” he recalls. “ Right in front of me was a 1958 Mercury station wagon with an Oklahoma license plate. And I said it to myself, these poor Okies are coming to California to try to get rich and famous. They look like the Joad family from “Grapes of Wrath”, and they’re going to find out that all the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name.”
In the “Grapes of Wrath,” the Joads, a family of tenant farmers in Oklahoma facing hardship during the great depression, head to California in hopes of a better future.
“About an hour later, after I’d written that down,” Gatlin says, “I wrote that song in eight minutes in the Warner Brother parking lot in Burbank. And six months later it was the No. 1 country song in the world. Ain’t God good?”
Gatlin says he’ll point out how music brings people together, noting “we get married to music, march off to war to music, get inaugurated to music, and graduate to music.” It can also influence others and bring about change.
“If you don’t think Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Buffy Saint-Marie, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell and David Crosby, if you don’t believe those people helped end the Vietnam War, you’re crazy. They sang songs, got people together protesting the indecency of it, and brought people into the streets.”
Music can also inspire, and Gatlin will celebrate and highlight the work of friends and fellow songwriters throughout the course.
“Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, who I think is the greatest wordsmith since William Shakespeare,” Gatlin says. “Mickey Newberry, Roger Miller, Dottie West, and Dolly Parton. If you want to listen to what real life is like, go listen to “Coat of Many Colors,” that Dolly Parton wrote. It’s one of the most incredibly well-written and poignant songs ever, about a poor kid growing up in the hills of Tennessee and making it all the way to the top.”
Gatlin says his overall goal is to support and encourage the next generation to dig deep, and write the kind of songs that mean something to them.
“My most important job is to listen with my good ears and my good heart, hoping these students know I love them, and throwing down my guitar and clipboard and picking up the pompoms to cheer for these young people and encourage them. That’s my deal.”

Pam Windsor
Nashville-based music contributor to Forbes.com.

Staci LaToison (’03)

Houston Hospice Appoints Staci LaToison to Board of Directors

HOUSTON, TX (Jan. 23, 2023) – Houston Hospice announced the appointment of Staci LaToison to its Board of Directors. Following this appointment, the Board will comprise of 14 members, four of which are officers and an additional six are advisors.

“We are pleased to welcome Staci LaToison to the Houston Hospice Board of Directors,” said Joyce T. Salhoot, MSW, MHA, board chair of Houston Hospice. “Staci’s wealth of knowledge in the strategy, innovation, and investment industries will be an asset to Houston Hospice’s board of directors as we continue to empower families and underserved communities who are in need of quality hospice care.”

Staci LaToison (’03) is an award-winning entrepreneur and venture capitalist with a passion for supporting women and diverse founders. Named one of Houston Business Journal’s 2022 Women Who Mean Business Honorees, LaToison is the founding partner of Dream Big Ventures, as well as a limited partner of Mendoza Ventures, Portfolio, Urban Capital Network and Soften Venture Fund, where she serves on the advisory board. She is an angel investor of Angeles Investors with additional investments in Agility Bank and Specs AI Optometry. LaToison’s background includes a 22-year career at Chevron, where she served in leadership in China, Angola, and Houston, including innovation and strategy management.

In recognition of her business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit, LaToison was named Entrepreneur in Residence for Divan’s “Women in Tech” accelerator where she mentored women-led startups.

LaToison earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from the University of Houston, where she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences. She also earned an MBA in International Business from the University of St. Thomas. In addition, she completed the Columbia Business School Venture Capital and Private Equity Senior Executive program, where she now serves as a Global Ambassador. In her personal time, she volunteers in the community and is the co-chair of the Discovery Green Gala on the Green.

About Houston Hospice
Houston Hospice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides uncompromising, compassionate, end-of-life care to patients and families across 13 counties Texas, regardless of their ability to pay. Established in 1980, Houston Hospice is the oldest, largest, independent, nonprofit hospice in Greater Houston and a member of the Texas Medical Center. For more information visit houstonhospice.org.

Umesh Kumar Verma (’80)

Umesh Kumar Verma passed away surrounded by his loving family on Monday, the 26th of December 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio following a courageous battle with cancer. He was 65 years of age.
Mr. Verma met his wife, Preeti, while returning home to Mumbai to visit his parents and was immediately taken in by her eyes that sparkled when she smiled. After marriage, they moved back to Houston and had three “strong, independent, well-educated yet compassionate” daughters, Reva, Neha, and Kara.

Mr. Verma moved from India to the United States at the mere age of 17 to obtain his Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Houston. After starting out at Brown & Root and Shell Oil, he pursued his entrepreneurial passion and founded his cybersecurity firm, BLUE LANCE. Thirty-three years later, it has become a leading global provider of IT security audit and compliance automation software, helping companies safekeep their digitally managed assets.

Mr. Verma was also an active community advocate and supporter. He was passionate about helping improve the lives of people with diabetes, serving the American Diabetes Association as Chair of the Houston Community Leadership Board (CLB), Chair of the Finance Committee, 2017 Secretary/Treasurer for the National Board of Directors, and 2020 Chairman of the National Board of Directors. He also served on the executive committee of the Houston Diabetes Resource Center. In addition, he has served as Chair of the Center for Houston’s Future and founded the community organization Cyber Houston, which hosts the annual Houston Cyber Summit, aiming to connect business leaders across small and mid-sized businesses with industry experts to become cyber resilient.

A funeral service honoring Mr. Verma’s life is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Sunday, the 8th of January 2023, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. For those unable to attend the service in person, virtual attendance may be accessed by visiting Mr. Verma’s online memorial tribute at GeoHLewis.com and selecting the “Join Livestream” icon in the service section.

(Kindly note: In respect and honor of Mr. Verma, the family requests that attendees wear the color white, thank you.)

Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception to be held in the adjacent grand foyer, parlor, and Republic Wine Room.

A cremation ceremony is to follow, via an escorted cortege, at the Chapel of Eternal Peace Crematory on the grounds of Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery in Houston.

In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions in Mr. Verma’s memory may be directed to the American Diabetes Association at http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR?px=16787986&pg=personal&fr_id=13321

Please visit Mr. Verma’s online memorial tribute at GeoHLewis.com, where fond memories and words of comfort and condolence may be shared electronically with his family.

Alex C. Varkey (PharmD, ’05)

Dr. Alex C. Varkey, (PharmD, ’05) has been elected to serve as the 2023-24 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) President-elect. He will be installed as the 169th President of APhA in March 2024. Founded in 1852, APhA is the only organization representing and advancing the entire pharmacy profession in the United States.

Dr. Varkey will be the first Indian-American to serve as APhA President in its 170+ year history.

More information can be found in the press release linked here:
https://www.pharmacist.com/APhA-Press-Releases/apha-announces-results-of-2022-board-elections

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Jennifer Teague M.B.A. ’01

It was because of some fantastic UH faculty that I figured out I wanted to be a professor one day and the field of global business had my heart. I am so grateful for the foundation laid as part of my UH MBA studies!

LinkedIn is: www.linkedin.com/in/drteague

Dr. Jennifer Teague (UH, MBA ’01) recently received the 2022 Purdue University Global “Organization Builders” Award, which celebrates significant and innovative growth at the university. Purdue Global (PG), part of the esteemed Purdue University system, offers degree and certificate programs to more than 35,000 remote adult learners. On December 15th, a select group of PG faculty and staff received recognition for their impact, innovation, best practices, and measurable outcomes with G.L.O.B.A.L. Distinction Awards.

Dr. Teague, a graduate faculty member and program lead for Global Business in the School of Business and IT, is regarded as a visionary who has demonstrated persistence, consistency, and leadership in the development of an equity-focused Education Abroad program for nontraditional adult learners at a remote institution. This program differentiates PG from other large virtual universities while also fulfilling its land-grant mission by providing an avenue for global and virtual travel that most nontraditional students may not be able to otherwise experience. What started as a concentration in two specific programs (MBA and MS in Management and Leadership) has grown to a graduate concentration, standalone undergraduate and graduate offerings, a Global Business microcredential, and an alternate globalized MBA capstone course. All PG Education Abroad opportunities also provide participants with an opportunity to earn the AFS Global Competence Certificate, which is a distinguished mark of advanced intercultural skills.

“The opportunity to recognize members of our faculty and staff who have been recommended by their peers is one of the highlights of the year,” Purdue Global Chancellor Frank Dooley said. “It is the efforts of individuals and teams like these, and so many more, that have helped Purdue Global continue to prosper. They are symbolic of the passion demonstrated by all our employees, and it is a pleasure to honor them.”

Full release: https://purdue.university/3WvxiI4

Judy Haveson Cohen (’86)

Judy Haveson Cohen (’86) released a new book on September 28, 2022.

The publisher description follows:

Growing up in 1970s and 80s suburban Houston, Judy Haveson is funny, sarcastic, and fiercely loyal, especially to her family, friends, and big sister, Celia. When she suffers a series of unimaginable traumatic events, her seemingly idyllic childhood comes to a halt, changing her life forever.

In Laugh Cry Rewind, Judy takes readers on her journey of self-discovery, sharing funny, touching, and heartbreaking stories from her childhood all the way to the birth of her son. Her experiences serve as a reminder that while life is not always fair, ultimately, the choice to surrender or keep on living is ours. Her message to others who have experienced loss or tragedy is this: stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let life go on, and good things will be waiting for you on the other side of the pain.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/laugh-cry-rewind/id6443235191

On November 10, 2022, Judy returned to UH to share her story with a class at Valenti School of Communications.

Alice (’65) and Charles (’65) Sicola

Charles and Alice met in October 1964 in the “Old Cougar Den”. They were married in October 1965. The attached photo was taken on the bench where “they did some courting on campus”. Well, 57 years later they still do their best to get back to Houston for Homecoming. The 2022 Homecoming Game was windy and a bit chilly but Alice and Charles enjoyed watching the COOGS win! Charles and Alice are proud UH Alumni Association Life Members and love their alma mater.

Thomas Moy (’71)

The Arizona Historical Society was pleased to announce that this year’s winner of the Don Bufkin Award for best conference paper on territorial Arizona is Thomas B. Moy’s submission, “Solving a Riddle: Uncovering Chinese Monopoly of Tombstone Laundry Industry.” Moy is a former teacher, principal, and warden with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. His articles have appeared in the Journal of the Wild West History Association.

Jamica (’99) and Michael (’00) Johnson

Hello!

I married my Cougar sweetheart.

Jamica (’99) and Michael (’00) Johnson

Gretta Gorsie Karker (’90) and George Karker (’88)

My husband, George Karker (1988) and I Gretta (Gorsie) Karker (1990) met at UH at a Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity party in Feb. 1987. He was a brother there and I later became a little sister.

We have been married 31+ years now and still love going to UH games. Eat’em Up Coogs!!

Loved seeing the Matches Made at UH pages in the latest Alumline newsletter. My husband actually suggested sending in this photo.

Thanks so much and Go Coogs!