Howard "Howie" Lorch

The Goodwill Ambassador for University of Houston

As a wealth adviser for 55 years, Howard “Howie” Lorch (‘67, M.Ed. ‘68) has built a strong reputation for knowing which investments will deliver strong returns for his clients. Lorch considers his degrees from University of Houston one of his first savvy investments.  

He has been a passionate alumnus and generous donor for over 55 years. In recognition of his contribution to the alumni community, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2020. He’s proud to share that he has attended nearly every University of Houston basketball and football home games since he graduated, having had season tickets since 1969, and still wears red every Friday. 

Lorch with Coach Willie Fritz and his wife Susan at their first UH basketball game

Lorch with Coach Willie Fritz and his wife Susan at their first UH basketball game

“I always try to wear something with University of Houston on it when I go out of town,” he reports. “I want to be the Goodwill Ambassador.” 

Mike Pede (‘89), Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations at University of Houston, describes Lorch as “the poster child for what a distinguished alumnus looks and acts like.”   

“Howie Lorch is the exact kind of alumnus that Ezekiel Cullen envisioned when he founded UH for the working men and women of Houston. Be successful, be humble and give back to help the next generation to do the same.” 

Lorch with his immediate family and Shasta at a UH basketball game

Lorch with his immediate family and Shasta at a UH basketball game

Despite his stellar reputation as an alumnus, Howard Lorch may not be who you picture when you imagine a UH student from the 1960s. For one, he isn’t originally from Houston. The son of Holocaust survivors, he grew up in Schenectady, New York. He first arrived at UH in 1962 in a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible filled with four other incoming freshmen. Back then, most cars didn’t have air conditioning, so he experienced his first taste of Houston humidity when he arrived. He remembers thinking, “This shirt feels real heavy and wet.”  

So, how exactly did a kid from upstate New York end up here? The answer is basketball. 

Lorch managed his high school’s successful basketball team. Under his management, they achieved a near-perfect record, only losing one game in three years. Even more fortunate for Lorch, his coach hustled to find college scholarships for many of his team members. The coach wrote to Coach Guy Lewis, University of Houston’s basketball coach at the time, and asked if they might have a scholarship for an excellent basketball team manager. Coach Lewis confirmed they could provide Lorch with some financial support, especially since Lorch was such good friends with Pat Riley, who was a high school junior that year, and Coach Lewis felt by having Lorch on the team, he might be able to recruit Riley. However, Riley ended up going to Kentucky with legendary Coach Adolph Rupp. 

Lorch jumped at the opportunity to go to University of Houston. He explains that growing up “we weren’t financially well off, to put it mildly.” As a result, he learned to work hard. “From cutting yards to shoveling snow to managing two paper routes, I developed a work ethic and commitment to my own success.” He was willing to throw himself into the role of basketball team manager if it meant he received financial aid.

His immense gratitude for the school taking a chance on him inspired him to give back.

“As soon as I was financially stable, in the late 80s and early 90s, my wife Jamie and I started contributing.”

They gifted a lifetime endowment through his firm, as well as a commitment for a full scholarship through the Athletic department. In 2016, they joined the Ezekiel W. Cullen Society.

When Lorch arrived in that convertible back in 1962, he had no idea that he would have a front row seat to the university’s radical transformation. When he arrived, University of Houston had 9,000 students. After the university went public, enrollment increased by nearly 50%. That summer, UH desegregated its sports teams.  

“Every other school in the Southwest Conference followed our lead and integrated once they saw the impact that Black athletes had on elevating our athletic endeavors,” Lorch remembers. “UH were the innovators. We were the first ones willing to take the first bold step. We went from a totally segregated university to one of the most diverse universities in the country today.” 

The desegregation of the UH basketball team was how Lorch met his lifelong friend and basketball star Elvin Hayes. When Hayes toured the campus, he stayed with Lorch. He enjoyed the experience so much that he requested to room with Lorch when he signed with UH. Hayes and Lorch remained roommates until Hayes married during his senior year. 

“We were the Odd Couple,” Lorch jokes. “People didn’t expect to see a 6’9” Black guy from Louisiana and a 5’7” white kid from Schenectady, New York together, but we were pretty much inseparable. We were best buddies back then and still are today.” 

Lorch with Elvin Hayes

Lorch with Elvin Hayes

Don Cheney and Lorch

Don Cheney and Lorch

His positive experience managing University of Houston’s basketball team informed Lorch’s understanding of how important athletics are to building a strong community. “It’s an American tradition. Sport. It brings people together. Athletic events bring people back to the campus. The more we can do with athletics, the more we bring people back to campus.”  

After saying this, he took several minutes to describe the football game from the night before. (Ed. Note: The October 12th football game versus West Virginia Mountaineers.

The thrilling game last night, we were big underdogs. UH Cougars, we fought ‘till the very end, and we were able to win the game in a fashion that’s never been done before. From losing to winning in 12 seconds on a Hail Mary pass. Things like this make me proud of my university and give me a chance to come back and celebrate with former classmates and new Cougars.”  

Lorch’s excitement about UH athletics is infectious. Katina Jackson (‘90), the Associate Athletic Director, believes his enthusiastic involvement encourages other alumni to participate more often, and he often calls her with ideas or suggestions of ways to improve events, communications and fundraising. 

Lorch sees UH as capable of having a major impact outside of athletics. “It’s the university of the city of Houston. As the city and the graduates get more involved in pursuing greatness, over the next 50 years we’ll become one of the top universities, not only in the country, but in the world. We’ve got that kind of potential.” 

Lorch has made it clear that he intends to contribute as much as he can to UH’s bright future. He credits his time at the University of Houston as setting him up for a successful life, and he intends to pay that gift forward.  

"Success is not just what you generated in life," he asserts. "It's also what you do to help others in their quest for success."

Lorch with the next generation of his extended family

Lorch with the next generation of his extended family