Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

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.

Margaret Hughes (’57)

Margaret Hughes, 84, died on Wednesday, April 28 in Fairfax at the Fairfax Nursing Center at the end of many years living with dementia. Born in Beaumont, Texas she was predeceased by her loving parents Herman Bundy Hughes of Voth, Texas and Inez Withers of Buna, Texas and her wonderful brother, John Hughes, of Houston, Texas. She is survived by her daughter, Melissa Foynes of Fairfax and son, Ron Robinson of Texas, as well as her granddaughter, Giselle of Fairfax.

Growing up, Margaret loved spending time with her many aunts, uncles, and cousins in Beaumont and in the Bayou City. After graduation in 1954 from San Jacinto High School in Houston she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Houston. An active member of the Psi Zeta Chapter of Chi Omega sorority she mentored many young women and served as a Leader in raising scholarship funding. She loved teaching First Grade and spoke fondly for many years of the wonderful children in her classes. In 1958, she married Thomas Robinson of Amarillo and eventually left teaching when expecting her first child as was the custom at the time. She spent many happy years raising her children, volunteering with the Texas Dental Association, Chi Omega and the Junior League. An avid learner, cook and lover of the arts she attended lectures and travelled extensively in Europe.

Hughes Otto Baker (’71)

Hugh Otto Baker March 15, 1937 April 27, 2021 A memorial service for Hugh Baker, 84 of Crockett, will be held at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, May 8, 2021 at First United Methodist Church in Grapeland. Rev. Wade Harman will be officiating. Mr. Baker passed away Tuesday, April 27, 2021 in Crockett. He was born March 15, 1937 to Seymour and Violet Kellermeyer Baker in Yonkers, New York. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Grapeland. He attended Friendswood High School where he was an All American running back. He received his engineering technology degree from the University of Houston. After his retirement from engineering he and Donna moved to the Crockett area from the Spring/Conroe where he became a part time rancher. He also liked flying model airplanes. Mr. Baker is survived by his wife Donna; his daughters: Karen J. Carlton (Kenny) and Peggy J. Keep (Travis); his son: Mike R Baker (Lisa ); grandchildren: K. C. Carlton (Eileen), Justin Carlton (Amanda), Jacob Carlton (Laurie), Daniel Baker, Stephan Baker, Kayla Altizer, and Keylee Altizer; and great grandchildren: Avery Carlton, Brystal Carlton, Arriana Ochoa, Jasper Carlton and Molly Carlton and great-great grandchild: Julios Ochoa. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother Phillip Ross Baker; and grandson Thomas Edward Keep.

Jesse P. Jackson (’57)

Dr. Jesse P. Jackson was born January 19, 1933 in San Antonio, Texas, and passed away on April 20, 2021.He grew up in Medina, Texas, excelling in both academics and sports. He went on to play basketball at Rice University. After completing his undergraduate work, Jesse received his doctor of optometry at the University of Houston. He practiced at Texas State Optical for many years before opening his own practice in 1982 in San Antonio, serving thousands of patients before semi-retiring in 2010.Jesse had many hobbies throughout his life, namely sailing, flying his own personal aircrafts, playing tennis, golf, and, most notably, fishing the many lakes in and around Texas. He was also an avid Dallas Cowboys and San Antonio Spurs fan. He is survived by his wife of over 40 years, Bonnie Jackson; children, Scott Rowe, Alan Jackson and wife Mary Ann; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; brother Louis Jackson and wife Shirley; numerous nieces and nephews; and many other relatives and close friends.

Floyd L. Jennings (JD ’96)

Floyd L. Jennings, Ph.D., departed the felicity of this life on 4/21/2021. Born in 1940, he was, throughout his life, engaged in a perpetual quest for knowledge, entering undergraduate school at age 16, and earning a B.A. (1961) from McMurry University; a B.D. (1964) and S.T.M. (1969) from Southern Methodist University, the J.D. from The University of Houston in 1996, and the Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1972. At age 51, he began studying law having become interested both in health law and forensic evaluations. Quixotic in style, he was nonetheless caring as a clinical psychologist, thoughtful and ethical as an attorney, radical in his theology as a minister, and careful (though not prolific) as a writer. He was an immensely complicated and neurotic soul, driven to engage in many activities, studies, and work simultaneously. Sometimes distant and pompous in manner, he was also very tender-hearted and had a deep mischievous streak that surfaced unexpectedly. His interests were wide-ranging, and he delighted in switching from discussion of curricula for training attorneys as mental health specialists to a conversation about 16th-century Protestant reformers or the papacy in the 14th-century, to comment on means of tuning a Colt 45 pistol for optimum performance, or the efficacy of some new psychotropic drug, or the impact of some recent court decision on healthcare, or new case law regarding competency and sanity in Texas. Sometimes wrong, he was rarely without an opinion which he was not reticent to share. Dr. Jennings practiced clinical psychology in Houston since 1978; he was for many years a consultant for mental health agencies and a long-time adjunct faculty member in the Dept. of Psychiatry at UT Med School in Houston. In 2008 he accepted a position with the Office of County Court Administration, and in 2010 with the newly-formed Harris County Public Defender, dealing with the problems of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system which he said was his most challenging vocational experience. He was the author of some 50 publications. He was active in numerous professional organizations and past-President of both the Southwestern and Houston Group Psychotherapy Societies; and a fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He was also a retired United Methodist minister and served some fifty years in that capacity (being involved at a general church level with design of criteria for evaluation of clergy). As well, he examined clergy candidates for The Episcopal Diocese of Texas and served from 1982 to 2010 as a psychologist to the Harris County Sheriff’s Reserve. Dr. Jennings’ survivors include his wife of many years, Shirley who, he often said, tolerated his many eccentricities with grace; children, Sherry Scott of Houston, Glenn Jennings and wife Michelle of Austin, LeAnne Buffington and husband Matt of Tulsa, and Lynne Jennings of Cypress; grandchildren, Abby Reiners and husband Anthony, Taylor Castillo and husband Jesse, Tatum Buffington, and Sydney Davidson; and great-grandchildren, Titan Castillo, and Maverick Reiners. He loved life, enjoyed jeeping, sailing, skiing, and traveling; but much more than these, he loved his wife and children. Rarely critical he would but say with mild frustration, “I would prefer that you would…”. In recent years, interested in ethics and law, he lectured to mental health professionals; in addition to, inflicting some misery on his staff in the mental health division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. Services will be held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Rd., Houston, Texas 77027, at 11:00 a.m. on 6/12/2021; with Dr. Tom Pace, Dr. Charles Millikan, and Dr. Chappell Temple, pastors, officiating.

Ms. Ieva Szentivanyi (M.A ’91)

For the past 22 years or so UH Alum Ieva Szentivanyi has been studying and transposing ancient Latvian poetry into English. This is significant as these poems have been identified by UNESCO as non material cultural treasure and thus worthy of being brought to the attention of more people as part of Western Civilization. Her first volume “Dainas, Wit and Wisdom of Ancient Latvian Poetry” was published in 2018 with 450 of these quatrains generously supported by her explanatory commentary. The second volume she anticipates to see shortly, and she is currently working on Volume 3.

According to Ieva, who earned her Masters degree in Applied English Linguistics from UH, “These poems contain the essence of an old and gentle culture in the words of the people of that day. They speak of all their experiences, including the misery of serfdom and wars, the joy of beauty, a festival, or a good harvest , and their trust in God. There is even a daina that coolly describes observing a UFQ! The ethics is higher than in the Commandments.”

This poetry had not been previously transposed into English because it was popularly accepted as impossible due to the differences in the structure of the two languages. There were only a few translations that retold the main point, without attention to rhythm, or syllable count or expressions of affection for all. Ieva’s goal is to transpose some 2000 dainas, a small fraction of the million plus, in hopes they will inform and amuse us and expand our appreciation of the wisdom of our ancestors.

Gwendolyn Lewis (MBA ’81)

Gwendolyn Smith Clapp Lewis passed away on April 22, 2021 in her home in the
care of family and friends; including her beloved husband Richard Evans Lewis
and best friend Heather Giancarlo. Gwen was born on May 12th, 1935 to Hazel
and Louis Smith in Narrowsburg, New York.
Voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in High School, she followed through in every
detail throughout her life. After obtaining a degree in Accounting at the University
of Rochester, she moved to New York City to become the only female
accountant in a large firm. In New York, she met her husband Charles Clapp,
then moved to Houston, obtained an MBA degree from the University of Houston
and worked for many years as a CPA. She was a long-time member of the
National Junior League and The Harris County Heritage Society.
Following Charles’ death, she met and married Richard in 1993. Gwen liked to
tease that she had children the easy way: by marrying into a family of six
children. All of Richard’s children appreciated Gwen’s sage advice, friendship,
love – and especially the loving companionship she shared with their father over
the last twenty-eight years.
For nearly twenty years, Gwen spent summers volunteering at the Rocky
Mountain National Park in Grand Lake, Colorado. She was a proud Master
Gardener and enjoyed surrounding her home with colorful plants and flowers,
often with custom arrangements she created herself. Gwen was an excellent
cook and loved entertaining friends and family. Her favorite books were
cookbooks which were earmarked throughout and filled with personal notations.
Gwen’s meals were always enjoyed over beautiful table settings with lively
conversation and wonderful food.
She is survived by her husband Richard Lewis; sisters Eileen Smith Leto of
Southern Pines NC and Patricia Smith Hanrehan of Washington DC, her six

children through Richard; Amy Lewis Branch of Golden CO, Elizabeth Lewis
Pratson of Chapel Hill, NC, Stephen Lewis and Evan Lewis of Kingwood, TX, and
Richard Lewis II and Wendy Lewis Carnegie of Austin, TX, as well as their
spouses, fifteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren, nieces and nephew. She
is preceded in death by her parents, previous husband Charles Clapp and her
brother Louis Smith II.
A memorial will be held at a later date at Memorial Drive United Methodist

Mr. Bill Hickl (’86)

Bill Hickl, Class of 1986 and a Partner with the Accounting Firm of BDO, was recently promoted to Office Managing Partner – Houston Tax. Bill has spent his entire 35 year career in Public Accounting since graduating from the University of Houston with a BBA in Accounting.

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.