When Mike Hainkel (’78, M.S.Acy. ’79) was invited to host a Los Angeles Highlight Houston event on May 16, he worried that his wife, Jill, may want to forgo the evening. That date was, after all, their 29th wedding anniversary. “But when I told her, she was absolutely excited to celebrate with Cougars on our anniversary,” he recalls. “Even though she is an Oklahoma State Cowboy, she’s adopted UH as her family.”
The Hainkels were two of many spirited Coogs who gathered to visit with each other and to hear President Renu Khator speak about the University’s accomplishments and goals. Mike, who is the Executive Vice President & Chief Tax Officer at Lions Gate Entertainment, hosted the reception at City Club Los Angeles. He says that anytime President Khator is in the house, it is a memorable occasion. “There are too many great things happening at UH to pick just one,” he says. “I love that we will be dedicating more funding to a medical school building than the football stadium, and how we are interacting with the surrounding neighborhood. I’m also glad we’ve taken the step to making our athletics program truly competitive, and obtaining a Phi Beta Kappa chapter makes me proud. President Khator’s vision for the University is absolutely amazing.”
Mike’s memories of campus life read like a UH history greatest-hits album. He remembers walking past Shasta’s habitat on his way to classes, and seeing her handlers take her out on the lawn for exercise. He saw Otis Birdsong play basketball at the beginning of his UH career, and by the end, he was going to Phi Slama Jama games. He watched football games in the Astrodome and tutored some of the football players, with whom he still keeps in touch. He even saw the Eagles open for the Allman Brothers at Robertson Stadium in 1974 — “that was before everyone knew who they were, and when the Allman Brothers came out, we were all cheering for the Eagles to come back!”
But of course, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the lessons he learned in the classroom, his fraternity and from working full-time while enrolled as an undergraduate. “I fondly remember the forty hours a week that I spent in the law library, and how much I learned in graduate school,” he recalls, naming recently retired Professor Jim Pratt as a key source of inspiration. “I was so well-prepared for opportunities that came along because of my education at Bauer College of Business.”
Those memories and more came flooding back recently, when he and Jill visited campus in April for Sigma Nu’s 60th Anniversary Gala. “Kristin Burch at the UHAA did a tremendous job co-planning the event,” he says. “The development on campus is unbelievable. I think all alumni should visit campus and stay on campus if possible,” he continues, noting the campus Hilton’s great service and “killer value.” He recalls his early morning walks around campus during their stay, specifically remembering the signage lining the walkways between buildings, heralding the hallmarks of a vibrant campus, full of activity. “You can get a real feel for how much progress we’ve made, and it brought back a lot of good memories at the same time,” he muses. “It energized me about what we’re doing, and what a great investment it is to support UH.”
While visiting, Mike was also able to sit in a graduate-level advanced corporate tax class and share his insights during the class discussion, and Mike and Jill caught a baseball game against the University of Central Florida — “a really exciting game, and the only baseball game we’ve been able to see in person this year.” They also felt fortunate to have the opportunity to have lunch with the two business students who benefit from the scholarships they fund. “It was a lot of fun, and I was very impressed with the students,” he says, noting that he also received scholarship support while in graduate school. “My education continually placed me in the right situation at the right time. It dawned on me that it was time to return the favor.”
Between cheering on the Coogs at games (or while watching them on TV or an online broadcast) and supporting UH students, Mike and Jill were happy to have the opportunity to gather with fellow Coogs in L.A., anniversary or not. “These receptions accomplish a sense of unity far better than we could on our own,” he says. If alumni are unable to make the trek to campus, Highlight Houston and other alumni events can at least bring the all UH’s exciting initiatives a little bit closer.