Michael J. Cemo Hall

More on Michael J. Cemo

A Conversation With Michael J. Cemo (’68)

by Trevor N. Mitchell, from the Fall 2007 issue of UH Magazine

Michael J. Cemo (’68)

Alongside his wife, Rebecca, and children, Jason and Stephanie, Cemo broke ground on the Michael J. Cemo Hall
in 2008.

Cemo’s investment in UH Bauer will provide expanded opportunities and programs for students for generations to come.

He’s probably the only university regent to ever crack Billboard’s Top 100. He went on to make his mark in the world of corporate finance. He was at the helm of AIM Distributors, Inc.; and he worked under the tutelage of the legendary Charles T. “Ted” Bauer.

Since retiring in 2004, he says his life is more action packed than ever—with his family, his community involvement, his interest in photography, and the support for his alma mater. Earlier this year, he made a decision that will have an impact on future generations of Cougars—a lead gift of $3 million to help fund a lecture hall and academic center that will bear his name.

The University of Houston Magazine recently had a conversation with UH System Regent Michael J. Cemo (’68).

Growing up in Houston?
I graduated from St. Thomas High School. My father, with a fourth-grade education, worked on the family farm. He became a barber and worked for forty-two years at the Milby Hotel. My mother was a housewife. We lived a modest and very good life in the Montrose area. The best thing my dad left with me was a little shot of poverty, which got me going in the right direction. I had no choice in terms of getting a good education.

Why UH?
In order to play in my band and pursue my degree, I needed a top-quality engineering school that was in Houston, and the University of Houston was the best choice. UH fulfills a need for so many people in this city by offering a great education in your own backyard. [Cemo changed his mind and earned a degree in economics with a minor in mathematics.]

Michael J. Cemo Hall?
It’s a great honor. I feel very fortunate to be able to help fund a portion of this great new building. The thing that’s most encouraging, however, is being a part of the Bauer College of Business, which has done a fabulous job at becoming one of the finest business schools in the country. I’m asking all of my alumni friends to consider giving to this enterprise. We’d love to have more people on board with us as we move forward.

Being a regent?
It’s been the most important and interesting thing that I’ve ever done—besides raising my family. After my term is over, I look forward to working with the university wherever they’ll let me.

Secret of success?
I got all the breaks that one would hope to get. I’m happily married and have two great kids. I got a great education from UH and had a tremendous opportunity in two companies to build them from scratch.

Michael and Rebecca Cemo Family Foundation?
It’s a general giving foundation that spends most of its funds on higher education. We’re dedicated to working with other organizations to fund educational projects for returning war heroes, especially those who have been severely injured or wounded. My wife also is dedicated to animals and loves to work with the SPCA and other organizations that support animals.

Billboard’s Top 100?
Besides school, the band was my primary job. Our band, Sixpentz, produced seven records nationally and some did really well. We were very popular in Houston and one of our records made it onto Billboard’s Top 100—number 99 for about a week. “Summer Girl” was our biggest hit, and it really put us on the circuit. We headlined in Galveston once and drew a crowd of 5,000 people.

What’s on your iPod?
It’s funny, but I actually like to listen to my own band, light jazz, classical, and Italian opera. There’s nothing prettier than a Puccini opera.

One word to describe yourself?
Energetic! As an Italian, I’m passionate about what I do. When I get involved, I’m in it all the way.

How’s retirement?
My life is full. I’m involved with different charitable organizations. [Cemo serves as chair of the UH Endowment Committee and is on the boards of the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Society for the Performing Arts.] My association with the board of directors of the Bauer Cougar Investment Fund, that’s run by students, is a lot of fun. And, I spend a lot of time during the summer at our bay home in Galveston—fishing, boating, and doing photography.