News from the College of Education & Human Development

Getting Involved

March 30, 2007 in Philanthropy

by Todd Wetzel
Alumna Alice Houston Helps CEHD Find Ways to Improve Education
“Building relationships is key, and knowing how to listen, understand and structure are skills I use in the business world every day, ” says Alice Houston “75GE.

Houston”s love of education is in her blood. Her affiliation with education in general, and UofL in particular, can be traced back to her mother, Helen Anthony Kean Johnson, who graduated with distinction from Louisville Municipal College in 1931 with a degree in English. She later served and taught courses as supervisor of guidance counselor practicum and trainees during the summers at UofL.

Alice HoustonIn yet another connection, Alice”s husband, Wade, earned two degrees at UofL–a bachelor”s in health and physical education in 1966 and a master”s in guidance and counseling in 1973–and served as an assistant basketball coach under Denny Crum during much of the 1970s and 1980s.

Houston first became involved with the university herself in 1971 when she accepted a job in the Office of Minority Affairs. There, she says soon learned that she enjoyed being on a college campus.

Soon after arriving at UofL, she agreed to co-teach a course in Pan-African studies. Although the experience motivated her to earn a master”s degree in college student personnel services from UofL in 1975, she says she knew after just one semester behind the lectern that she was not cut out for teaching.

“But that experience reinforced my earlier personal experiences that the right person in the classroom could make a difference,” she says–by not only sharing knowledge and information, but by instilling confidence and helping students with everyday life skills.

“There is no more critical role than teachers and educators,” Houston adds. “The ability to read, write and articulate your thoughts is the foundation of what you need to succeed in whatever you do.”

Houston worked at the university in various positions, including associate director of financial aid, before leaving in 1988 to join the family business, Houston-Johnson Inc. Today she is executive vice president of the warehousing distribution and logistics firm. Its customers include General Motors, Dana Corp. and Ford Motor Co.”s Kentucky casino online Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly Plant.

Houston, who was honored as the College of Education and Human Development”s 2004 Alumni Fellow, is once again becoming more involved in education. She is on the university”s board of overseers and co-chairs–along with CEHD Robert Felner–of its University/Community Partnership Advisory Board. The board advises President James Ramsey on how the university can best work with local agencies and community organizations to address community outreaches in education,economic development, health and social services.

Working at and earning a degree from UofL created a “special bond” between Houston and the university, she says.

“Coming from both of those perspectives, you want to see your university be respected and play the role it should play in the community in terms of service, research and education.

“Education is the foundation of all that we do, even in business, which is why I am getting more involved, ” she adds.

Houston met with Felner and others at the college to discuss initiatives on two areas close to her heart: urban education and literacy. She intends to introduce Felner to teacher friends who have taught in low-income area schools and let him learn firsthand the challenges they face. The result could be new programs that help current teachers work through these challenges as well as to draw more teachers to those schools.

“A lot of my friends are educators in the public school system,” she says. “As I see them retiring, I believe we will experience a void of all teachers–but especially African American educators. We are losing a whole generation of teachers who were dedicated to students and the field of education.”

While Houston does not know where her involvement in the college will take her in the future, she feels strongly about continuing her association.

“I believe it is the responsibility of UofL and the College of Education and Human Development to help our commonwealth”s public schools develop that pool of devoted, talented, motivated teachers, particularly in the urban areas that are being hit hardest,” she says. “I want to help the college establish core initiatives to meet this and other needs in the community.”