Author Archive

Stacey Neal Mayfield Combest (’87)

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Stacey Neal (Mayfield) Combest to the Texas Commission on Special Education Funding for a term at the pleasure of the Governor. The commission studies, discusses, and addresses specific policy issues and develops recommendations to address issues related to special education funding.

Stacey Neal (Mayfield) Combest of Huntsville is an ADR Certified Mediator and a member of the Texas Association of Mediators. She is a parent and guardian of a son with severe IDD. She is legislative director for the Denton State Supported Living Center Family Association, legislative committee member of Parents and Allies for Remarkable Texans, and the former President of Texans for State Supported Living Centers. She is a Texan advocate for Voice of Reason and previously served on the Long-Term Care Subcommittee reporting to the Committee for Children with Special Needs (SB 643), and she continues to educate our state legislators to successfully pass pro-disability legislation. Stacey received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Houston and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Texas Dallas College Of Law.

Thomas Fenske (’76, ’77)

Thomas Fenske is the author of of six novels and one cookbook. He is originally from Texas but currently lives in North Carolina. His TRACES OF TREASURE Series follows Sam Milton and Smidgeon Toll, somewhat reluctant treasure hunters. THE HAG RIDER is civil war historical fiction about a young boy’s experiences after enlisting in the Confederate Cavalry, all the while under the protection of a slave’s witchcraft. HARMON CREEK explores a decade’s-old murder in rural Texas and the sordid conspiracy that follows. HARMON CREEK is his first novel in the crime/true crime genre, inspired by the mysterious death of his wife’s great-uncle. HARMON CREEK will be available from Amazon or any local bookstore in June 2022

Thomas Fenske

Wayne Joel Jones (’75, MBA ’80)

Wayne Joel Jones was born on October 14, 1942, in Washington, DC, to the late Allen O. and Catherine L. Wright Jones. He transitioned to be with the Lord on Sunday, May 1, 2022.

On June 6, 1982, Wayne married Laverne O. Doggett. From their union, one beautiful daughter was born, Kimberly Elizabeth Jones.

During the early years of his life, Wayne attended East Calvary United Methodist Church, which later became Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. In 2019, he confirmed his acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Wayne was educated in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Based on his top math scores in Washington, DC, he was allowed to attend McKinley Technical High School. Upon graduation in 1960, he attended Howard University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1966. Subsequently, he received a Master of Business Administration in Business Management from the University of Houston in Texas in 1980.

Throughout high school, he was a dedicated member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). He continued participation in ROTC at Howard University. After graduation from college, he was commissioned as an engineering officer in the Army Reserves. In 1966, he was activated and served one tour of combat in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, earning a National Defense Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal. Wayne remained in the U.S. Army Reserves and was honorably discharged as a Captain in 1973.

Upon returning home from Vietnam in 1968, he resumed his career as an electrical engineer, working in various companies including Westinghouse [Maryland], General Electric [Pennsylvania], Gulf Oil [Texas] which later became Chevron [Georgia]. After his retirement from Chevron, he accepted a chief engineering position with the Maryland State Government, Mass Transit Administration where he remained until 2012.

Wayne was always serious minded (even as a child), dedicated to his family and his work, and purposefully progressing to the next level in life. Growing up, Wayne delivered newspapers with his red wagon throughout the neighborhood and the DC Jail. He was a Boy Scout who reached the level of an Eagle Scout that provided him the exciting opportunity to attend the National Scout Jamboree. As an adult, he loved dining out at the best restaurants, traveling to various countries throughout the world, and examining the stock market to keep updated on his investments.

Wayne leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Laverne; daughter, Kimberly; two sisters, Judy Jones Carter and Sharon Jones; his best friend for 67 years, Johnie McCoy, and Johnie’s wife, Chandra; and a host of other relatives.

Billy Wayne Rawlinson (’69)

Billy Wayne Rawlinson, of Beaumont, walked through the gates of Heaven on Sunday May 8, 2022 at 5:40 pm. He left us peacefully with wife Barbara and son Lance by his side. He is free of pain at last. His suffering is over.

A 6th generation Texan, Billy was born in Houston to Mary King and B.H. Rawlinson on July 26, 1938. He was good natured, easy going, patient and intelligent. A giver, not a taker. He was self-disciplined and never smoked or cursed.

Billy’s parents divorced when he was six. He had an older sister and two older brothers that were already on their own. That made him the man of the house for his mother and baby sister Sharron. He took the job seriously. When he was eight he got a paper route with a bicycle he bought on a payment plan. He bought his own school clothes and helped his mom financially. Billy attended Milam Elementary, Washington Junior High, and Reagan High School where he was a good student and made lifetime friends.

On January 15, 1960 Billy married the love of his life- Barbara Lynn Foster. In spite of all the challenges, they had a wonderful 62 years together.

Billy received a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Houston while married, working full time, attending night school, fathering 3 sons, and buying 2 houses.

Billy worked for Foxboro/Invensys in Houston. In 1972 the family relocated to Beaumont, TX as he was promoted to Branch Manager. He retired after 46+ years. He also had a small business in which he calculated thermowells. Billy was a lifetime member of the Instrument Society of America (ISA).

Billy had a passion for cars. He bought his first car at 13, before he knew how to drive. It was the beginning of many funny stories growing up with his buddies in his west end neighborhood of Houston. Those were his mechanic learning years. In his late teens he drag raced in the newly established Gulf Freeway Racetrack in his 1954 Ford. In Beaumont he continued his hobby, restoring classic Mustangs, Camaros, and a ’57 Thunderbird.

Billy was an avid dirt biker. On Saturdays, a trailer of 5 dirt bikes would take off for a weekend of family fun. The family were members of ‘Gulf Coast Trail Riders’ and enjoyed many good times with friends.

Billy was community minded. As Pack Master of Pack 122 (Sallie Curtis Elementary School) Billy was also involved with Boy Scouts and Indian Guides.

Billy umpired for West End Little League and was a director from 1978-1981. He was also director of Amelia Senior League in 1982 and 1983.

In 1983, a brain tumor left Billy seriously disabled. After 6 months in the hospital, he came home to the reality that his life had changed. With the help of God, family, and friends he took on his new challenge. After 3 years of learning computers and intense therapies he was able to go back to work at Foxboro, first computer training and then as a proposal specialist.

Billy soon missed being active and discovered a new world of recumbent trikes and cycling friends. He was known from then on as “Three Wheel Bill”. His cycling friends always keeping an eye on him, it was a joy to feel the wind again on his rides around Beaumont and other parts of Texas and Louisiana. Always an achiever, he proudly completed the MS150 from Houston to Austin five times.

Bitten by the cycling bug, in 2006, Billy established the Southeast Texas Hike & Bike Coalition. Its dedicated members worked to teach children bicycle safety and promote safer biking in Southeast Texas. The coalition was instrumental in the creation of bike lanes and signage around Beaumont, bike lanes and sidewalks on Calder Avenue from downtown to the west end, a 7 mile trail from Kountze to the Big Thicket National Preserve Visitors Center, the Gulf Terrace Hike and Bike Trail and the Folsom Hike and Bike Trail. They also put on the annual Big Thicket Bike Tour.

Billy was preceded in death by his parents, sister Peggy Fields, brothers Ray and Perry Rawlinson, and great nephew Blake Jaksa. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Foster Rawlinson, sister and brother-in-law Sharron and Gary Karter. Sons: Lance Rawlinson and wife Pam , Todd Rawlinson and wife Stephanie, Brent Rawlinson and Fiancée Ann, Grandchildren: Justin Weeks and wife Heather, Rush Rawlinson and Fiancée Kelsey, Chase Rawlinson and Olivia Rawlinson. Great grandchildren Norah and Collin Weeks, 6 nephews and 2 nieces, great nieces and nephews and a host of beloved cousins and Foster in-laws.

Billy was an adoring father and taught his sons to work hard. He loved his family so much and being Poppa to his grandchildren was one of his greatest joys.

Words can never express the gratitude the family has for all the help, care, and prayers everyone has given to Billy over the years.

A memorial service for Mr. Rawlinson will be 11:00 a.m., Saturday, May 21, 2022, at Broussard’s, 2000 McFaddin Avenue, Beaumont, Texas 77701, with Pastor Fred Kelm officiating. His cremation arrangements were handled though Broussard’s Crematorium, under the direction of Broussard’s, Beaumont.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Redeemer Lutheran Church 4330 Crow Road, Beaumont, Texas 77706 or Some Other Place, 590 Center Street, Beaumont, Texas 77701.

Complete and updated information can be found at

Published by Beaumont Enterprise from May 16 to May 17, 2022.

Jaroslav Rysavy (M.B.A. ’98)

In February 2022, Jay celebrated his 15-year anniversary with United Airlines and was upgraded to Captain on Airbus 320.

Jay began private pilot flying lessons in 1998 a few months after Commencement in May 1998 for his MBA in International Business with Honors. He completed the degree and flight training, all while working full time at M W Kellogg Company as an electrical engineer in sales for downstream projects (where he was known as Jarek). He joined a regional airline in 2003 and was hired by Continental Airlines in 2007. Jay previously worked for Ralph M Parsons in Pasadena, California after immigrating from the Czech Republic in 1990 where he graduated with a EE degree in 1988 from ČVUT in Prague.

Jay is type-rated on all United aircraft (Boeing 737, 747, 757-767, 777, 787 and Airbus 320. He was naturalized in 2000. He and his wife, Era N Ford, were married in 1995 and reside in Houston.

Daniel O. Wong (’83, M.S.C.E. ’85, Ph.D. ’88)

Daniel O. Wong (’83, M.S.C.E. ’85, Ph.D. ’88) will be honored as the 2022 Engineer of the Year on 2.25.22.

Daniel O. Wong, Ph.D., P.E. is President and CEO of Tolunay-Wong Engineers, Inc., headquartered in Houston with 10 offices in Texas and Louisiana. He is a licensed engineer in Texas and has published a dozen peer-reviewed technical papers.

After arriving from Macau (a former Portuguese colony in China) in 1980, Daniel Wong graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S.C.E. in 1983, an M.S.C.E. in 1985, and a Ph.D. in 1988. He has a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Dr. Wong was the recipient of the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus from the University of Houston (2009) and was inducted into the UH Academy of Distinguished Civil & Environmental Engineers (2011).

He is an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Dr. Wong has been appointed by the Governor to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2021. He is also a past gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers as a member (2006-2013) and Chairman (2013-2020).

He is a member of Texas Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers and American Council of Engineering.

He is the receipt of the John B. Hawley award from ASCE Texas Section in 1990, the Young Engineer of the Year by TSPE Houston Chapter in 1993, and the Distinguished Engineer from Texas Engineering Foundation (2016).

Dr. Wong is a former At-Large Councilmember for the City of Sugar Land (2002-2008). He served on the Board of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Board of Texas Municipal League. Active in Fort Bend County, he is an officer for the Fort Bend Economic Development Council. He is a former board member of the Fort Bend YMCA and the Fort Bend American Heart Association.

He and his wife, Mei, reside in Missouri City, Texas.

David Keller (’74)

David Keller was awarded the Key to the City of Greenville by Mayor Knox White on April 26, 2021 for his 9 years of service on the Greenville City Planning Commission, including four terms as Chairman.

Rudolph Zepeda, Jr. (’66)

Served with the USAF in Southeast Asia with the rank of Captain in 1969.. Received an MBA from the Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management in 1972 and an MS from Nova Southeastern University in 1991. Began International Banking career with First City National of Houston in 1973 and moved to Miami in 1981 to manage a foreign bank. Retired after 23 years with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta as Senior Foreign Technical Assistance Advisor and Directing Examiner. Currently Commander of American Legion Post 31 in South Miami, Florida.

Mohammed Abdul Quadeer Siddiqui (MS ’64, PhD ’67)

Dr. Mohammed Abdul Quadeer (MAQ) Siddiqui passed away on August 19, 2021 at home, surrounded by loved ones. He was 84 years old.

MAQ was born in Hyderabad, India and was the second oldest of fourteen siblings. As a young adult, he frequented the local United States Information Service (USIS) office where he voraciously read LIFE magazines and consumed information on life in America. He became fascinated with cowboy movies, the Beatles, and U.S. politics. It was also at the USIS library where MAQ first learned about DNA in a textbook, piquing his interest in the human body and biology.

After graduating from Osmania University with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, MAQ decided to pursue a career in scientific research – a decision that was met with hesitation as his family expected him to attend medical school. MAQ applied to multiple graduate programs in the United States and Canada and ultimately accepted an offer from the PhD program at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.

To help finance his travel to the United States, MAQ worked as a field clerk for the local municipality’s Department of Agriculture, a job that required him to visit rural farmers and convince them of the benefits of using chemical fertilizers. Generally weary of the wilderness, MAQ was not fond of trekking to remote areas with no electricity and ample wildlife.

MAQ departed for America in December 1960 aboard the Neptune cruise ship, where he was to work on board in return for discounted fare. However, MAQ had only packed formal dress clothes which were inappropriate for his assigned job of cleaning the pool deck. After seeing him play table tennis, MAQ’s supervisor offered him a position scheduling and managing table tennis matches among the guests, in addition to providing lessons.

The Neptune sailed from Cochin, India to Genoa, Italy after which MAQ took a train to Calais, France and crossed the English Channel by boat. In Dover, England, he was completely unprepared for the winter weather and spent extra shillings to turn on the heater in the bed and breakfast where he was staying. After two days, MAQ flew to New York and stayed at a YMCA near 34th street. He then traveled to Houston, Texas, arriving at his destination 33 days after leaving India.

In Houston, MAQ found work as a gas station attendant but was fired on his first day for not knowing how to pump gas in unfamiliar American cars. He then started running biological samples between collection sites and the laboratory at the University of Houston, before eventually getting hired as a research assistant within the University’s Department of Biology. MAQ dove into his studies and found his passion in molecular biology, concentrating his doctoral research on the mechanisms by which antibiotics inhibit protein synthesis. MAQ was awarded a PhD in Biological Sciences in 1967.

MAQ completed post-doctoral work at the University of California at Berkeley amongst an inspiring scientific community of renown researchers. In 1969, he accepted a position at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey where he rose to the rank of Full Member in the Department of Biochemistry. MAQ’s research at Roche focused on the role of small RNA in protein synthesis and other physiological functions. In 1975, his laboratory became the first to isolate and clone a cardiac muscle gene.

In 1987, MAQ was appointed as the Chairman and Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Under his leadership, the Department grew to include over 30 researchers and secure $5 million in annual funding from the National Institutes of Health. MAQ also served as the Director of SUNY Downstate’s Center for Cardiovascular and Muscle Research. MAQ and his team conducted novel research to understand the molecular signaling pathways related to myocardial hypertrophy. His work led to two patents and formed the basis for future discoveries into the causes of left ventricular dysfunction and congestive heart failure.

Throughout his career, MAQ worked alongside several notable figures including Nobel Laureates, Dr. Severo Ochoa and Dr. Robert Furchgott. MAQ published over 150 papers and multiple book chapters on his research, many of which have greatly influenced the field of molecular cardiology. He was invited to speak at conferences and symposia across the United States in addition to Canada, Chile, Venezuela, China, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Switzerland, India, Czech Republic, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands.

MAQ was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2003. When commuting from New Jersey to Brooklyn was no longer an option, MAQ continued to work from home, mentoring students over the phone and via email. He retired from SUNY Downstate in 2014.

MAQ’s natural mentorship abilities extended to family and friends as well. He regularly sent money to his family in India, beginning from his time as a loan-assisted student at the University of Houston. One by one, he paid the way for each of his twelve siblings to receive an education and move to the United States. MAQ was a patient and open listener for anyone that came to him for professional or personal advice. He provided heartfelt guidance to numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

As a scientist, MAQ was keenly aware of the nature of a progressive condition like Parkinson’s Disease. He faced a degenerative diagnosis with dignity and fortitude, never once allowing it to become a crutch.

MAQ was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends from near and far, especially during the final years of his life. He will always be known as a brilliant, soft-spoken academic and avid tennis and cricket fan with a dry sense of humor and penchant for desserts. First and foremost, MAQ will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and dear friend.

MAQ is survived by his wife of 37 years, Samena Siddiqui; daughter and her husband, Norain and Montgomery; son and his wife, Umair and Flor; granddaughter, Serena; in addition to eight brothers, three sisters, and many nieces and nephews. MAQ is preceded in death by his parents, Mohammed and Quaderunissa; elder brother, Afzal; and younger brother, Akhlad.

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Parviz Ghavami (Ed.D. ’03)

Parviz Ghavami / January 10, 1943-June 14, 2020

Parviz Ghavami was born in Shahr-e Kord, Iran on January 10, 1943 to Ali Agha Ghavami and Nosrat Ghavami. He was one of 7 children, and the only engineer in the family, getting a Bachelor of Science from Sharif University of Technology. His career began as a mechanical engineer working in the petroleum industry in Iran and the former Soviet Union (now Russia). In the late 1970s, despite having a stable career doing what he loved, Dr. Ghavami decided to take a gamble on the American dream, and emigrated to Portland, Oregon, where he would earn his Master of Science from the University of Portland on August 10, 1979. He would later move to Harlingen, TX, where he was a college professor in Math and Science at Texas State Technical college for 25 years. He was never one to stay satisfied with knowing “just enough,” though. So he continued to educate himself, all while raising his son by himself, and would earn himself additional advanced degrees from the University of Houston, the University of Texas Pan-American, and most recently, Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His hard work and self-sufficient mentality came to fruition when he earned his Professional Engineer license in 2010 from the State of Texas. This allowed him to start his own engineering consulting firm which certified buildings in the area for safety and structural integrity. He is survived by his son Reza, and his dear companion of over 20 years, Mary. Parviz was passionate about gardening, traveling, and cooking traditional dishes of his motherland. He also translated several science fiction books from English into his native Farsi language. His last publication was an English-language college textbook, Mechanics of Materials.

When Parviz Ghavami passed away after a one-year battle with cancer, his son, Reza Ghavami wrote this tribute to the University of Portland where Parviz earned his first of many degrees:

“I would like to share the remarkable story of a proud UP alumnus, my father, Parviz Ghavami, who took his last breath on Sunday, June 14, 2020. He is probably the prime example of the American dream, emigrating from Iran with my mother in the late 1970s, and finding his new home in Portland, where he would earn his master of science in mechanical engineering in 1979. I was born in Portland in 1978, so I must express my gratitude to the University for the opportunity given to my father to pursue his dreams and provide for his family. Before his passing, Dr. Ghavami ran his own civil engineering consulting company. Before that, he taught math and science at a technical college in Harlingen, TX, where he spent most of his life. His professional engineering degree is what made it possible to start his own consulting work, and he always told me he owed the University a lot of gratitude for giving him the education and skills to realize his goals in life. My dad was my best friend in life and an inspirational hero that I owe all of my success to. Thank you for accepting him back then and giving him a gateway into this country and a better life.”

In November 2020. Reza drove to Portland from Dallas, TX, to inter his ashes at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.