Alum's legacy of giving stimulates community, access to education

April 2, 2019 | George Mattingly II

Alum's legacy of giving stimulates community, access to education

As a financial expert, Michael Landolt knows that making a sound investment takes careful planning, some degree of risk and passion. This has held true for not only his career, but his life’s path. A native of Illinois, he left home for Clear Lake to finish his college education and pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut, but quickly learned his chances of going into space were slim. Still, he held tight to his career aspirations and soon discovered his calling when he enrolled at University of Houston-Clear Lake.

As an accounting student, he learned the complexities of the finance industry and outside the classroom, he learned that investing was not limited to only business, but included people as well.

“I always loved cost accounting, and I grew to become friends with Dr. Don Kyle,” Landolt said. “He took the time to get to know me, and we talked about everything. He shared what he had achieved in his life so that I was able to relate to him and share my aspirations.”

Landolt graduated in 1985 with a bachelor of science in accounting and passed his Certified Public Accountant exam the following year to start his career at Penzoil Co. He credits much of his success to his relationships with Kyle – a professor of accounting and charter faculty member who died in 2013 – and Professor Emerita of Accounting Joan Bruno.

As he settled into his career, Landolt and his wife, Ann, dedicated themselves to serving the Bay Area Houston community. Ann, a UHCL distinguished alumna, grew up in Baytown with close ties to the area as a third-generation owner of Wismer Distributing Co., an Anheuser-Busch distributor in East Harris County. She led several community activities, including the Lunar Rendezvous Festival – a local event supporting education, the arts and historical preservation in the Bay Area – and UHCL Alumni Association Bayou Ball. Additionally, she served as a member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Committee and on boards for the UHCL Alumni Association, Today’s Harbor for Children, and Bay Area YMCA.

Michael, a UHCL distinguished alumus, served two terms on the Seabrook City Council. He is a board member for the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library and Chairman of the Lunar Rendezvous Festival.

“Higher education is a passion for me and my wife, and a big reason why we got involved in these different areas of the community,” he said. “We want to support anything that gives people a platform to learn more and earn a degree or certification that will help them in the future. It’s something we want to inspire in others.”

This philosophy for supporting education and their own experience as students converged in the early 1990s when the Landolts established the M.L. Wismer Scholarship Endowment, named for Ann’s father. At the time, it was the largest individual scholarship endowment in the university’s history.

However, the endowment was more than just a scholarship; it was the Landolt’s way of investing in their community.

“Ann already had a footprint in the area through her work as a beer distributor,” Landolt said. “Since this was in the name of her father, we wanted the funds to stay within the area so that we were really giving back to the customers, employees and their families who helped fuel her business. It was our way to give back to our community.”

The original endowment was awarded based on academic criteria, and gave weight to students who lived in East Harris County, where the Landolts knew many who needed financial support to go to college. For Landolt, giving back was about giving access to education.

“A majority of the students were first-time students. Hearing their stories, I learned that many of their families didn’t understand why they wanted to go to college. Despite that, they still had good work ethic and sheer determination to get their education. Through this endowment, I feel we’ve helped many get over the financial and emotional hurdle to finish their degrees.”

Since then, the endowment was expanded to help cover costs of living and inflation over time for recipients. Over the past 25 years, the funds have supported more than 100 students. Still, the Landolts continue to support university initiatives, including the Model Arab League Student Organization, Beverly Kyle Fowler Scholarship Endowment, William A. Staples Hawk Advantage Scholarship Endowment, and the Kathy and Mike Reeves Hawk Advantage Scholarship Endowment. Additionally, the Landolts have supported emerging opportunities in the arts, constitutional literacy and alumni events at UHCL.

“UHCL is essential to the development of the area and I applaud the growth of campus. Ann and I want to continue to support the university that has given us so much and helped us achieve our goals.”

To learn more about how to support UHCL, visit www.uhcl.edu/giving. For information about scholarships, visit www.uhcl.edu/scholarships