Clear Lake Area Chamber gets Spaceport Update

September 3rd, 2019

Megan Johnston found herself surrounded by Clear Lake Chamber Directors Jonathan Cottrell, Doug Meisinger and Jacob Bigger, from left, as the chamber luncheon gets underway at the Clear Lake Hilton.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Ellington Airport General Manager Arturo Machuca is a busy man these days. Not only is there an airport to run, but there’s a Spaceport in the making.

And, there before him was a ballroom full of Clear Lake Area Chamber members waiting for an update from him during the chamber’s monthly luncheon at the Clear Lake Hilton.
Most remembered how Houston had received its license from the FAA to become the nation’s ninth spaceport back in June of 2015, but what was next?

Machuca explained that Ellington had already started on Phase 1 after the Houston City Council had approved spending $18.8 million to provide the ground level infrastructure – the streets, fiber optic and communication facilities, water, wastewater and electric power – to attract aviation and commercial space travel companies to the Houston Spaceport.
Meanwhile, several companies have expressed an interest in being a part of the spaceport. One or two look so promising Machuca could hardly keep from sharing the details. He said he is expecting to have some news very soon. Bay Are Houston Economic Partnership said recently that they are working with six companies interested in setting up operations at the Spaceport.

“Already there is Intuitive Machines developing lunar landing space systems and also testing propulsion machines,” he said. Intuitive Machines became the first Spaceport tenant and is already hard at work preparing to create its Nova-C lunar lander after receiving a $77.1 million NASA contract to send the spacecraft to the moon with a payload of experiments from the space agency and several private firms.

“These things take time,” he said, but as of now, “Everything is looking really good.”

Movers & Shakers: Bryan Bogle

October 1st, 2018

Name: Bryan Bogle

Occupation: Vice president for Information Systems & Technology at AMOCO Federal Credit Union and Clear Lake Area Chamber chairman

Hometown: Fort Worth

Current home: Clear Lake

Family: Wife of 20 years – Shari, Daughters Megan (15) and Nicole (10)

My favorite writer is: Tom Clancy – Got to meet him in 2002

Someone I’d like to meet: George H.W. Bush

If I could switch places with someone for just one day, I’d choose: Elon Musk

My favorite performers are: George Strait and Rush

I like to spend my leisure time: Flying, riding road/mountain bikes, computer gaming

If I could travel any place, I’d go to: The mountains in/around Switzerland, Austria, and Germany

My favorite meal is: Fajitas

As a youngster, I wanted to grow up to be: An airline pilot

You’ll never catch me: Sitting around waiting for things to happen

The thing that bugs me the most is: Complacency

My favorite movie is: A Few Good Men

Few people know: I worked at the Pentagon for almost two years as an Army Reservist after the attacks of 9/11

Clear Lake Area Chamber gets update on education

August 1st, 2017

Dr. Greg Smith, Clear Creek ISD superintendent, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, from left, presented an update on education when they addressed the Clear Lake Area Chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

By Mary Alys Cherry

We try not to brag but how many communities have education facilities on a level of those in the Clear Lake Chamber’s membership area?

Not many, we all know, and each year when education officials update the chamber membership, the news just gets better and better.

UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith were back for the second year in a row with some of the year’s highlights and what’s ahead at the chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club.

As he nears retirement, Dr. Staples reported that UHCL’s two new buildings on the Clear Lake campus will open in Fall 2018 with the new classroom building on the Pearland campus to open in Spring 2019, going on to praise Dr. Smith and San Jac President Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “You should be proud to have them heading their respective institutions,” he said.

And, as UHCL thrives as a four-year university and he completes his final year there, he said he got quite a thrill to see the students who initially started the bilingual classes years ago at McWhirter Elementary School – a UHCL/CCISD joint venture — graduate this past June.

He also took time to remind the community that “we must address the number of economically disadvantaged students. In 1995, 11 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged. Today that total is 27 percent.”

Teri Crawford proudly told the crowd that San Jac had recently been awarded a $100,000 prize as it was recognized as a Top Five Community College in the Nation and was a finalist for the third time for the coveted Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for “achieving strong student success outcomes in learning, marketing and equity.”

This year, San Jac has 30,741 students enrolled – 6,598 full time and 22,400 part time – and awarded 4,139 degrees and 2,881 certificates.

And, UHCL is not the only one undergoing new construction. Seven new buildings are underway at San Jac, she said, including a Engineering and Technology Center, a Cosmetology Center and expansion of the Fire House on the South Campus and a classroom building, Welcome Center and Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on the Central Campus with the North Campus getting a Cosmetology and Culinary Center.

Dr. Smith opened his comments by praising Dr. Staples for all his work and noting that he was instrumental in launching and Dual Language Immersion Program at McWhirter Elementary and how proud all were as the first bilingual class graduated. “The program continues to thrive and has expanded to four other schools.”

After noting that a record number of seniors had graduated this past June, and reporting on remodeling work at both Clear Lake and Clear Creek High Schools, he went on to tell of several students who had overcome incredible problems to become a success. “We work to instill a set of core values in our students. To be respectful, trustworthy and understand what it means to roll up your sleeves and give back.”

In his closing remarks, he had some very good news for taxpayers: Instead of a 4.5 cent tax increase for the year because of the recently passed school bond, “due to property value growth, it looks like we will not need to increase the tax rate for the year.”
That brought smiles all around the ballroom.

Clear Lake Chatter: What fun it is to party every day!

January 1st, 2017

NO DOUBT about it – the Bay Area loves to party, and what better time than the holidays?

Actually, the wee set got the parties started with the Bay Area Houston Ballet’s Breakfast With the Sugar Plum Fairy at South Shore Harbour Resort and the Bay Area Museum Guild’s Toyland Fantasy breakfast at Bay Oaks Country Club.

What fun it was to watch the little ones in their party garb, dancing around and wearing smiles a mile wide.

Bay Area Museum Guild President Brandie Corrao welcomes Lunar Rendezvous Queen Madelyn Chicester and Festival Capt. Alex Struss to the Guild Holiday Open House at the museum.

And then the parties began with Museum Guild members opening the museum doors Sunday, Dec. 4 for their annual Holiday Open House, where President Brandie Corrao joined Co-Chairmen Ava Galt and Jan Larson in welcoming the crowd that included Taylor Lake Village City Councilman Tony Galt, Matthew and Angie Weinman, Delicia and Alex Struss, Cindy and Dave Kuenneke, Anita Fogtman and Emmeline Dodd.

Lunar Rendezvous Queen Madelyn Chicester joined the party, as did Festival Capt. Alex Struss with the Clear Lake Sound Waves providing entertainment.


UH-CLEAR LAKE kept up the beat, hosting its big annual Holiday Reception Dec. 7 at Bay Oaks Country Club, where retiring President Bill Staples and his wife, Darlene, were on hand to welcome the happy crowd.

Area Legislators Dennis Paul of Clear Lake and Ed Thompson of Pearland were among the crowd, as were Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, attorneys John Gay and his wife, Becky Reitz; Marilyn and Glynn Lunney, Alan and Peggy Hill, Theresa Presswood, Marilyn and Charles Sims, Ken and Nedra Gurry, Kippy Caraway, Mary Ann Shallberg, Rob and Karen Barbier and Rhonda Thompson.

Plus, Science and Engineering Dean Zbigniew T. Czajkiewicz, College of Education Dean Mark D. Shermis, Business Dean William T. Cummings and Human Sciences and Humanities Dean Rick J. Short.


Michelle Richardson, Kelli Baliker, Diana Shuman and Ondi Lyon, from left, share a light moment as at the Clear Lake Area Panhellenic Holiday Brunch at the Shuman home in Bay Oaks.

CLEAR LAKE Panhellenic kept up the beat the next day, Dec. 8, with Diane Shuman hosting the sorority alumnae group’s big annual Holiday Brunch at her home in Bay Oaks.

Diane, in a bright red outfit, joined Brunch Co-Chairmen Judie Ferguson and Sue Ellen Jennings, both wearing colorful Santa hats, and Panhellenic President Jill Reason, wearing white, in welcoming the festive crowd.

Among them were Peggy Clause, Lisa O’Brien, Jennie Hampton, Jo Cat Bruce, Michelle Richardson, Sue Broughton, Judie Ferguson, Kay Lee Benoit, Ondi Lyon, Ruth Beecher, Ellen King, Karen McCorkle, Diane Overman, Jo Nell Hunter, Kathie Wiley, Barbara Dickey, Judie Raiford and Kelli Baliker.


BAY AREA HOUSTON Economic Partnership members gathered at Lakewood Yacht Club later that day with Mayors Glenn Royal of Seabrook, Johnny Isbell of Pasadena, Carl Joiner of Kemah and Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point in the crowd that filled up the ballroom.

Joining them were State Rep. Dr. Greg Bonnen, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin and a host of business men and women celebrating the holiday season.

Plus, UHCL President Bill Staples,  San Jacinto College Chancellor Brenda Hellyer and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith.


JOHNSON SPACE CENTER Director Ellen Ochoa hosted another big party with a number of city officials and aerospace executives joining her and her husband, attorney Coe Miles, Friday, Dec. 9 in JSC’s Building 9 for some good conversation and an update that included noting that we have had a continuous presence on the International Space Station now for 16 years.

Familiar faces in the crowd included Mayors Jon Keeney of Taylor Lake Village and Louis Rigby of La Porte with their wives, Lynn and Marlene, Jacobs Technology Senior VP and GM Lon Miller, Barrios Technology President Robbie McAfoos and his wife, Victoria, and Clear Lake Area Chamber President Cindy Harreld DeWease and her husband, businessman Jeff DeWease.

Plus JSC Deputy Director Mark Geyer, who brightened up the party when he arrived in one of the most colorful jackets we’ve ever seen.


Assistance League Holiday Reception hostess Cecilia Dismukes, right, joins President Dee Cover, left, and Reception Chairman Elizabeth McCarty before the annual party at the Dismukes’ lovely home.

ASSISTANCE LEAGUE members were all wearing big smiles as Cecelia Dismukes hosted their big annual Holiday Reception at her home in Kemah’s Waterford Harbor.

ALBA President Dee Cover and Chairman Elizabeth McCarty joined the hostess in welcoming the arriving crowd, which included Yvonne Perrin, Pam Bungo, Melanie Lovuola, Kathy Panneton, Justine Powell, Badiha Nassar, Kim Barker and Lisa Holbrook.

Others you might have spotted were Brunella Altemus, Becky Richey, Barbara Groh, Katy Bastedo, Kathleen Courville, Mari Stockard-Young, Leslie Schwanke, Dee Wolfe, Janet Vallelungo, Elaine Rister, Barbara Weitenhagen, Jean Simms, Mary Vaughn, Brook Cimas, Betty Walcott, Sandra Kelver, Cookie Derderian, Amy Wortham, Betty Stoub and Joyce Alderman.


Houston Symphony League Bay Area President Mary Voigt, center, looks on as Dana Puddy, left, and Alice Steele prepare for the holiday party.

HOUSTON SYMPHONY League Bay Area members gathered at the home of Vicki Buxton in Clear Lake for their annual Holiday Reception, chaired by Special Events Coordinator Carole Murphy.

Buzzing around the Buxton home, you probably would have bumped into President Mary Voigt, Dana Puddy, Pat Biddle Kahl and Alice Steele and former Presidents Jim Moore and Patience Myers – just a few of the many who dropped by for the holiday celebration.

OTHERS joining the party-go-round included the Clear Lake Area Chamber and League City Regional Chamber Holiday Receptions at their offices, Recherche Christmas Brunch at Lakewood Yacht Club, Bay Oaks Country Club and Lakewood Yacht Club holiday parties for members and on and on…

Police give pointers on how to survive shooter

November 1st, 2016

League City Police Lt. Cliff Woitena, center, accompanied here by League City Mayor Pat Halliey, left, spoke recently at two local seminars to educate the public on how to deal with an active shooter. The first, on keeping sacred spaces safe, was hosted by Houston Methodist St. John Hospital with about 60 clergy and religious leaders attending and was led by the Rev. Richard Maddox, right, director of spiritual care at St. John. The second at South Shore Harbour Resort, and hosted by the Clear Lake Area Chamber and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, open to the public. 

League City Police Lt. Cliff Woitena, center, accompanied here by League City Mayor Pat Halliey, left, spoke recently at two local seminars to educate the public on how to deal with an active shooter. The first, on keeping sacred spaces safe, was hosted by Houston Methodist St. John Hospital with about 60 clergy and religious leaders attending and was led by the Rev. Richard Maddox, right, director of spiritual care at St. John. The second at South Shore Harbour Resort, and hosted by the Clear Lake Area Chamber and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, open to the public.

By Mary Alys Cherry

With shootings becoming a part of our lives most every day and many losing their lives to deranged gunmen in mass shootings, several local organizations decided to offer help to the frightened public – setting up two public seminars.

Clear Lake Area Chamber and Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership hosted one in the South Shore Harbour Resort’s Marina Ballroom while Houston Methodist St. John Hospital hosted another to help both the public and the clergy deal with the problem. The hospital hosted nearly 60 clergy and religious leaders, representing 30 local churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, for an informative session on “Active Shooters in Sacred Spaces.”

League City Police Lt. Cliff Woitena conducted both seminars, offering advice on what to do in case one is confronted with an active shooter. “The problem is everywhere,” he said.

“We can’t prevent it, but we can prepare for it,” he said, pointing out that it is important to calm down, to take a deep breath and try to relax – no matter how hard that may be. This helps get our brains functioning better, improves our stress response, he explained.

Some things to remember if you find yourself in a place with an active shooter: Run, hide, fight. Forget your personal belongings – they can be replaced. If you hear noise that sounds like firecrackers, it isn’t. People don’t shoot off firecrackers in schools, malls, offices. It’s likely gunfire, and, if you can’t get out safely, find a hiding place. Get behind a large object. Turn out the lights and try to stay calm.

Most likely places of occurrence are 1. Businesses 53 percent of the time; 2. Educational facility, 24 percent;  3. Outdoors, 13 percent; and Other, 12 percent.

“You need to be prepared; you need to have a plan. It takes the police an average of three minutes to get there,” Woitena said, “and they want you to make the best use of your time while they are on the way.” Playing dead may work one time, but is not the best way to save your life, he added. “Don’t hide and hope under a desk either.”

Situational awareness of surroundings is the key. See where the exits are if you are in a large facility – a mall, a school, a supermarket or an office building. If you’re in a room, lock the door, put something against the door, turn off the lights, get out of sight and turn off your phone.

And remember: first responders are not there to help the injured; they are looking for the shooter. Just be patient. Help will arrive. You can survive.

“And, if by chance you are shot, don’t give up. You don’t have to die. Make a decision to live,” Woitena urged. “And, mostly likely you will.”

Educators update Chamber on the state of education

August 1st, 2016

Speakers UHCL President Bill Staples, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith, from left, stop for a photo as the Clear Lake Area Chamber program comes to an end.

Speakers UHCL President Bill Staples, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith, from left, stop for a photo as the Clear Lake Area Chamber program comes to an end.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The state of education in Bay Area Houston is quite good and better than most places.

Clear Lake Area Chamber members got an update from Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and University of Houston-Clear Lake President Bill Staples, at their monthly luncheon, held at South Shore Harbour Resort.

Each told of recent successes at their schools and stressed the importance of working together.

“It has been a headline type of year for CCISD,” the superintendent said, noting that the district has been recognized as one of the top school districts in the Houston region by Children At Risk, that CCISD had been named a top workplace in Houston for the fourth year by the Houston Chronicle while two students were excelling at the International Science Fair.

One of them, Clear Brook High junior Syamantak Payra, received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and a $50,000 scholarship for developing a low-cost electronically-aided knee brace that allows an individual with a weakened leg to walk more naturally after seeing his uncle struggle to walk with a prosthetic leg.

Going on to tell how students are using their math and science skills to build boats, wetlands, an aquaponics farm – even a galley table for the International Space Station, Dr. Smith added, “We want your children to not just read about the world, but experience and positively impact it as well.”

Currently, CCISD has 41,000 students attending its 40 campuses, 5,000 employees and 2,800 graduates in 2016 and a 98 percent graduation rate.

Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy Harreld DeWease and Chamber Chairman Roy Green are happy with the turnout for the State of Education Luncheon at South Shore Harbour Resort.

Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy Harreld DeWease and Chamber Chairman Roy Green are happy with the turnout for the State of Education Luncheon at South Shore Harbour Resort.

San Jac Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford’s community college works daily with both area school districts and colleges, so it was only fitting that she was the middle speaker.

And, she couldn’t help but brag a little about SJC’s very successful early college high school program which started with CCISD’s Clear Horizons Early College High School. Since its first class graduated in 2009, it has sent several hundred students out into the world with both a high school diploma and an associate degree earned while still in high school.

Since then, San Jac has added Pasadena, Sheldon and Galena Park ISDs to the Early College Program, with many among the 4,969 students transferring to four-year institutions in 2014-15.

“More and more students are entering college,” she said, adding that SJC today has 30,000 credit students. It awarded 2,682 degrees and certificates in 2006-07, compared with 6,156 awarded in 2014-15 – an increase of 129.5 percent.

“Today we are ranked as one of the top 100 community colleges in the country, including No. 2 in granting associate degrees in science technologies/technicians, No. 7 in granting associate degrees to Hispanic students and No. 17 in associate degrees across all disciplines.”

Dr. Staples also had plenty of good news to share with his educational partners and the business community: UHCL has been named one of the Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News and World Report, and enrollment is growing.

In addition to 234 in the 2014 freshman class, UHCL added 250 freshmen in 2015 from 72 different high schools – the top five, CCISD schools. Of its 4,500 transfer students this past year, 2,500 students came from San Jacinto College.

But his really big news was about buildings UHCL will break ground for in 2017. Among them are a $65 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and Classroom Building and a $38 million Recreation and Wellness Facility – both at UHCL. A third building – a $24.6 million Health Sciences and Classroom Building is planned at the Pearland campus.

“We are also looking into the possibility of building more student housing on the UHCL campus.”

Other initiatives include expansion of services at the Center for Autism; start of its third doctoral program, a doctorate in psychology; a pre-engineering track for undergrads and a partnership with UTMB on an MBA program for medical students.

“By education, business and government working together – and you have two of the best in Dr. Smith and Dr. Hellyer – we can make a real difference in the lives of our students and in our communities,” he said, with both of his fellow speakers quickly indicating Dr. Staples should be on any list of the best.

Bay Area Houston Magazine