Your Gifts at Work

Archive for the ‘Donor’ Category

Culture, Comfort and Class: Jackson Hicks and Houston Public Media

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015


“’Prince of Parties’ is fun,” Jackson Hicks says of his press-given moniker, “but may be a bit of an overstatement.”

By Joelle Jameson

“’Prince of Parties’ is fun,” Jackson Hicks says of his press-given moniker, “but may be a bit of an overstatement.” The title is understandable, however, in light of the some 15,000 events his catering and event-planning outfit, Jackson and Company, has gracefully executed since its formation in 1981 — especially since it isn’t uncommon to spot a current or former U.S. president in attendance.

After 35 years, Jackson and Company is still going strong under Mr. Hicks’ watchful eye, and is preparing for several events, including“A Celebration of Reading” to benefit The Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation. Past events include lavish galas and receptions such as the opening of the Menil Collection, the Wortham Center and the George Bush Presidential Library, as well as the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. “When you have the history we have of serving distinguished guests, you learn to take care of people in a more refined way,” he explains. “We learn in the present tense.”The result? All guests feeling like royalty.

Hicks’ own “palace,” so to speak, is located in a historic district of Houstonand shared with two English Cocker Spaniels, Montgomery and Winston. Built in 1905 and listed on both the National and Texas Lists of Historic Places, the house embodies an eclectic combination of period antiques and contemporary design elements to achieve a sense of balance and comfort.This appreciation for design and history spreads to the full service event venue Hicks operates in downtown Houston, The Corinthian. Formerly a grand bank, the reimagining of the space has preserved all its neoclassical glory.

One can easily picture these venues as a setting for a Houston Public Media (HPM) TV 8 program. HPM, a community service of the University of Houston, is home to KUHT, which was established in 1953 as the nation’s first public television. The PBS network is considered essential “appointment” viewing in the Hicks household. After years of supporting Houston Public Media Foundation with smaller gifts, Jackson Hicks has made a major gift to support the Foundation and HPM’s TV 8, as well as a legacy gift, which will support the Foundation’s focus areas of arts and culture, education, news and public safety for the Houston community and southeast Texas for many years to come.

Hicks has been serving Houston in many different capacities since he arrived in 1969, founding Jackson and Company as a later response to the gap he witnessed during his years of working in the field. “Most all events were limited to event halls, country clubs, hotels and smaller parties in people’s homes,” he says, describing hosts’ efforts to rally neighborhood household staff to assist with whatever occasion arose. Working in the gourmet food and wine department at the then newly-opened Neiman Marcus in the Galleria granted him the knowledge of what its high-end clientele was seeking: individualized, upscale and flexible entertainment options. “Catering until then was mostly barbecue — good barbecue, but it was much more casual,” he recalls. “We envisioned a full-service catering and event planning service to provide a higher standard of service, and I knew it would be well-received because I was talking to people who were giving parties all the time. Even in our first month, we did a residential party for 500 people. ”

Houston was only intended to be a brief stop for Hicks on his way to graduate school, but after spending the summer in the city, he decided to stay. “I found Houston’s energy and vitality particularly appealing,” he says. He also respected and benefited from a Houstonian way of life, which he describes as more of a “meritocracy” than other large cities. “I was only about 21 when I started working at Neiman Marcus, which at the time had a very large wine operation. But I had some knowledge of wine, and our sophisticated clients respected that,” he says. “In other cities, I don’t think they would have been able to get past my age.” He credits that meritocracy as part of the reason Jackson and Company has thrived. “If you’ve got a good idea and are working hard to put that idea forward, generally I think you receive a very positive response in this community,” he says. “The city has been so generous and supportive of us; it’s really quite gratifying.”

Originally from Oklahoma, Hicks drew inspiration from the hospitality displayed by his mother and both his grandmothers from a very young age. “They focused on making their family and friends comfortable, and paid attention to details,” he says. Those are the tenets of his business, and are the backbone of Jackson and Company’s commitment to hospitality. “It’s not just taking care of people, it’s pampering people, and anticipating their needs before they even realize them,” he explains. “It’s a commitment to making people feel comfortable in their environment.” Hicks also remembers lessons in “thoughtfulness” in regard to service learned at Neiman Marcus from Mr. Stanley Marcus himself, as well as his supervisor at the store whom he eventually joined at a new business, Henry Kucharzyk. “I learned the appropriateness of how one entertains.”

Music is another of Hicks’ passions; throughout earning his bachelor’s degree in social sciencesfrom Baylor University, he studied voice and participated in the Baylor A Cappella Choir as a soloist. Although his professional path changed, his appreciation for great performances has not. “We are so lucky in Houston to have a first class opera, symphony and ballet,” he remarks, also naming the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts as some of his favorite Houston arts institutions. “We have such a high quality of leadership in the arts, as well as performers.” In addition to Houston Public Media, Hicks also provides support to the Houston Grand Opera Studio and the Young Artists Program at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, as well as Rice’s Graduate Opera Program.

But the study of music has been beneficial in other ways. “You learn in musical training, among other things, to always be prepared — if one walks into the studio unprepared, your teacher might throw you out,” he says with a smile. “You learn discipline, and techniques to control your nerves and stay centered, or else it will show in your performance.” This demeanor shines through while running what can often be challenging events. “People are always surprised that I stay so calm,” he says. “But they have to understand, the preparation happened a long time ago. It’s important; if they see that I am relaxed, the guests will be more relaxed.”

Hicks sees his passions of entertaining and the arts reflected in HPM’s local, national and international television programming, such as “Masterpiece” and “Great Performances.” He has a penchant for British culture and history, which is often the subject of “Masterpiece” programs. “I certainly have an interest in the traditions of British etiquette and style of entertaining, especially in the Edwardian era,” he says. “I appreciate the ritual of dining, the precision and formality, and its structure. There’s very little of that in our society.” He also harbors an interest in exploring the historical context of those traditions. In that vein, the locally produced and nationally syndicated “Manor of Speaking,” a “Downton Abbey” talk show that often discusses the history and traditions its characters employ, is a new favorite for Hicks. But, that is to be expected of a man who reads etiquette books “as if they were novels.”

Hicks decided to increase his giving to Houston Public Media Foundation after “an epiphany” regarding his priorities. “I felt I was now in a place to give more significant support, and I wanted to support something I really care about. I think HPM programming is a great asset to our community, and has been for a long time.” Additionally, Hicks appreciates having the opportunity to include the Foundation in his estate planning. “Testamentary gifts are a great way to give to organizations you care about.” The present is certainly staying busy for Jackson and Company, with the “organized chaos” of catering and event planning running strong. Hicks’ partnership with Houston, no matter what the capacity, is certainly one made to last.

Navigating New Generations of Success: Randy Pike

Posted on: April 23rd, 2015


Randy Pike is passionate about helping those engaged in energy education at the University of Houston

For Randy Pike (M.B.A. ’93), there’s nothing quite like the peacefulness and tranquility of sailing beneath a full moon. That’s one of the reasons he named his sailboat the Moondance. That, and because the moniker is a nod to the famous Van Morrison song of the same name. Pike is somewhat of a music aficionado. He spent his high school days as a drummer in garage bands and his college years at Vanderbilt University playing gigs at fraternity parties and Nashville bars. “The Eldorados, my fraternity band, played our very own version of the James Brown song, ‘Cold Sweat,’” he remembers, “which I chose as the name of my first offshore sailboat.” Upon moving to Houston, he was captivated by Rockefeller Hall where he saw many live shows, eclectic in their range– from Gregg Allman to Dizzy Gillespie. One of his favorite bands, he recalls, was the Houston rhythm and blues band, Luther and the Healers. “I lived in a Montrose bungalow at the time, close to all the clubs—and I would just see everything I could!” he said.

His passion for education, however, led him to define a considerably larger legacy at the University of Houston – one that honors his roots and inspires future generations to succeed. While music has been an integral part of Pike’s life, so has sailing. Pike has been sailing since he was a 6-year-old in Venezuela, where he spent his childhood. Sailing will play a big part in his early retirement—he plans to embark on a year-long trip along the coast of the southern United States, rounding the tip of southern Florida and then up the coast as far as Massachusetts later this fall. He will then spend the winter exploring the islands of the Caribbean. He enjoys the ports, the many characters he encounters and the local wildlife in the places he visits, and he always finds a friendly place to “drop anchor.” Pike has discovered that it behooves him to keep his “mind and body busy, as a retiree.”

Pike is fond of his boat and certainly worked hard to obtain it, in both his academic and professional careers. When he casts off this fall, he’ll spend most of his time in front of the helm, guiding his way toward new adventures. If a captain is one who guides, Randy Pike is a captain in the fullest sense of the word. He not only guides his own career and retirement successfully, but also guides young engineers toward their own goals and success by providing them with the means to attend the University of Houston, and he does it with finesse and acumen.

Pike and the University of Houston’s EMBA

His retirement is well-earned after 31 years in the engineering industry at the Shell Oil Company. He ascended through the ranks, thanks in large part to the University of Houston’s Executive Master of Business Administration program from which he received his graduate degree in 1993. The learning environment and the constant weekday studying helped him to hone skills that opened up even more opportunities at Shell. “Receiving my EMBA,” he says, “helped me learn the ‘language of business’ and strategic planning.”

In the final third of his career at Shell, Pike spent six years working within the company’s subsea engineering division. His career always consisted of a good balance of tried and true projects mixed with new experiences and exciting techniques. “In a word, my job has always been challenging,” he states. From working offshore, working on wells as a production engineer and executing a four-year stint in Rio de Janeiro as a Completion Engineering supervisor, he eventually became the Production Engineering business lead on the Enterprise Architecture program for Shell Oil’s Onshore Gas Division. “Enterprise Architecture” is defined as a single integrated architecture that defines how data is collected, stored and reported. “It was a great decision, going to work for Shell,” he concludes. “I’ve always liked people and I got to work with engineers from a lot of different disciplines through my work.”

Philanthropic Spirit

Pike wanted to share his accumulated wealth with the University of Houston. Through a UH Points of Pride mailing he received in 2013, and through the patient counsel of both his attorney and Assistant vice president for gift planning at UH, Lisa Holdeman, he realized just how a scholarship endowment could help financially challenged students become world class engineers. He was surprised to learn that there are only a handful of subsea engineering academic programs in the world. This includes UH’s subsea curricula that, in 2012, became the first and only higher education degree program established in the United States.

Pike recognized immediately how critical funding was, especially considering that Houston is the “energy capital of the world.” If years in a highly specialized niche such as subsea engineering taught Pike anything, it was that subsea protocol was technologically more advanced than the processes used for land wells – and that industry would be well served by specialized training at the university level.

Once Pike decided to focus his gift in engineering, he was certain his legacy would include paying tribute to his father and mother who provided him with an exceptional education. His mother, the first child in her family to attend college, became a teacher and then later a flight attendant. It was on a flight to Caracas, Venezuela that his mother and father, a native Houstonian, met. It was their steadfast belief in the power of education and their adventurous spirit that led Pike to his rewarding career in engineering — and initiated his love of sailing.

Creating an Endowment

Pike directed his sizable bequest to the Allen G. and Cleo V. Pike Scholarship Endowment in the Cullen College of Engineering. This gift, in honor of his supportive parents, is set as a source of scholarship funding for financially challenged students who wish to learn engineering in Houston.

Now, committed to meaningful generosity and supporting his alma mater, Pike is passionate about helping those engaged in energy education at the University of Houston. He is interested in providing funds to a pioneering institution, one in need of resources and one with the demonstrated ability to provide those resources to deserving students. As the Energy University, the University of Houston is at the top of that list.

Professor Carp Boosts Political Science Department with a Planned Gift

Posted on: August 27th, 2013

robert carp

Professor Robert Carp, Ph.D. taught more than Constitutional Law to Patrick Hanley while the latter was an undergraduate student at the University of Houston. Carp also taught Hanley how to think and discuss just as a lawyer does. Reading case studies instead of a text book, students found Carp’s class to be exponentially more difficult than any other course—and more enlightening. Reading texts directed at seasoned lawyers as an undergraduate was challenging, but it prepared Hanley for his Law School career at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Looking back, Carp’s teaching focused more on “robust discussions than argument,” discussion being an element Hanley felt was often overlooked in Law School. It is a skill that has served him well in the years since, working as an analyst in hospital regulatory compliance for medical research at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Carp is a seasoned professional academician, as Professor Kenneth Manning, his long-time collaborator knows. Professor Manning has co-investigated a database on federal district court decision-making and co-authored the quintessential textbook, “Judicial Process in America” with Carp and Ronald Stidham. Manning was a hard-working, 27- year-old graduate student of Carp’s nearly 20 years ago, and he eventually followed in his mentor’s footsteps to become a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Neither Manning nor Hanley were surprised at the news that Carp had funded an endowed chair in the Political Science Department at University of Houston. Through a planned gift, Carp will empower UH’s Political Science Department to attract or retain a professor with a national reputation. According to Professor Susan Scarrow, also in the Political Science department at UH, this allows the endowed chair to travel to conferences to present research, to purchase computer software and hardware, to hire a research assistant and may be used to provide a summer research stipend for the person who holds the chair. This gift will effectively underwrite a professor and, as Manning puts it, “will raise the overall reputation of the Political Science department, and in turn, the whole of UH.”

“His generous gift is entirely keeping with his extraordinary character,” says Manning. And above all, there is an overwhelming feeling that professor Carp is sensible. “He’s going to do something good with it,” he says simply of Carp’s gift. And with planned gifts, an individual can leave a percentage of their estate—1 to 100 percent—so that no matter how the size of their estate changes over the years, gifts to family and charities remain proportionate.

Manning says it will be a prestigious honor for anyone who can say, “I was hired to fulfill the Carp Endowed Professorship.” The message of this particular gift, adds Hanley, is that “there is a belief that to be a philanthropist, you must be part of the 1 percent. Professor Carp’s gift shows that we all have the opportunity to invest in things that are important to us.”