A self-described dreamer, her leadership and outlook now seem to be the contagious success moving the University of Houston forward.
Finding time in her busy schedule, Dr. Khator sat down with ABC13 in late April as preparations for this year's graduation were underway. For those walking across the stage with a U of H diploma, being a Cougar has changed.
"If you do come, you'll have to go with 'Go Coogs.' That's our sign," said Khator, her pride beaming.
From potential students to soon-to-be alums, Khator has become somewhat of a rock star on campus. Students learn who Dr. Renu Khator is during their first week of classes. She visits every freshman class and personally gives students her email.
5 Rapid Fire Questions With Dr. Renu Khator
As president and chancellor of the UH system, Khator is the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive research university. She originally came to the US as part of an arranged marriage, knowing not a word of English.
"I learned my English from watching I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith Show, Dick Van Dyke," she said.
Her husband supported her educational dreams as she earned a masters and PhD from Purdue University. She has the same kind of hopes for every student on campus.
"When you have people who are coming from underprivileged background or low socioeconomic background -- I don't dream average or low for them. That's not good enough," said Khator.
Under her leadership, in the past decade the university has broken enrollment records, achieved Tier One Research status in record time and is in the middle of a $1 billion capital campaign as the school's athletics teams continue to be a part of the national conversation.
As for her family life, academics are in the family. Khator's husband is associate dean of the Cullen College of Engineering. The mother of two daughters with doctorate degrees says it's her passion and mission that keep her going.
"I hope when the students leave from the University of Houston, I hope they leave with that kind of pride, esteem and confidence that they can do anything in this world," said Khator. "I think the best thing I like that I feel could be part of the legacy is when I hear from people I'm so proud to be a Cougar."
12 things you didn't know about Dr. Renu Khator
- What's one thing you can't live without? Family
- What do you order on your pizza? Jalapenos
- Favorite movie? It's a Small World, the first English movie I ever saw
- What is your spirit animal? Dog
- If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could have only one item, what would it be? A really thick book
- What food could you eat for the rest of your life? Lentils
- What's your backup career? Owner of a bed & breakfast
- What's your favorite restaurant? Pondicheri
- What time do you go to bed/wake up? 11 p.m./6 a.m.
- What was your first car? Pontiac Tempest (Bought it for $350 in 1975)
- What is your guilty pleasure? A glass of very dry red wine
- Do you have any pet peeves? People talking on cell phones in public places
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