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Saturday, September 30, 2023


UH champs take the field

NASA astronaut and UH alum John "Danny" Olivas can remember a time when he looked forward to intramural basketball and football games as a welcomed diversion from the daily grind of grad school life. Now over a decade later, he’s taking the field as a distinguished alumnus.

Olivas was one of many honored as a part of Champions Day at the Cougars’ 38-27 home-opener victory against Colorado State on Saturday.

"Champions Day is a celebration of all the University of Houston champions in the last year. Not only (to) recognize champions in athletics but in other different areas as well (and) to remind everyone that we are champions here at the University of Houston," Director of Marketing for Athletics Lee De Leon said.

During the game Olivas, a 1993 alumnus, was escorted onto the field with Interim President John Rudley where he presented items to Olivas that he took aboard in June on his first mission, STS-117, on the space shuttle Atlantis.

One of the items included was a UH t-shirt.

"The shirt was a shirt that I actually wore while I was in orbit. I wanted to take something (so) that the rest of the world could see where I came from," Olivas said. "(I) brought that back and figured that hopefully the kids that are going to school here will see that and understand that it’s all within their potential to achieve whatever they want to achieve."

STS-117 was a construction and repair mission in which Olivas and others delivered the second starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

Olivas also took a UH flag with him on Atlantis, which launched June 8 and landed June 22.

To show his gratitude to his alma mater, "Flying the flag was a way to say thanks to the university," Olivas said.†"Being given the opportunity to†pursue my Masters degree provided me with the other opportunities that eventually brought me to this point in my career. It was the least I could do."

Other champions honored at the game included consumer science senior and reigning Miss Texas USA Crystle Stewart, as well as World Lightweight Boxing Champion and UH-Downtown political science junior Juan Diaz.

Legendary Phi Slama Jama basketball coach and College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Guy V. Lewis was also honored before the game.

Champions Day also acknowledged other sports besides football – such as softball and track and field – that won Conference USA championships last year.

"It’s a great feeling. It really is. I mean, finally we get recognized for being champions," senior pitcher Barbie Love said.

Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, Olivas wants students to see his story as an example of how dedication can help them achieve their dreams.

"I want to encourage the students here at the university. All the potential that they have really lies within them and anything they want to accomplish in life is going to be up to them to decide." Olivas said. "Be willing to work hard. It’s not going to come easy but just with hard work and perseverance they can achieve anything they want to."

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