Wortham House more than presidential residence
In a serene community along South Boulevard lies the Wortham House, home of President and Chancellor Renu Khator.
Donated by the Wortham Foundation Inc. in 1986 on behalf of Lyndall Wortham, the home was estimated at $1.2 million. Renovations to the home that could change the historical appearance are handled by the Wortham House Committee, which was started by the University’s Board of Regents.
“There was a group of regents who had a concern that the Wortham House was a very important fixture of the University of Houston and that there ought to be some oversight to preserving its historical significance. … It’s always been a president’s residence, but it’s also been a historical landmark, and there was concern that we needed to maintain, preserve the historical features of the house,” said Carroll Ray, chair of the Wortham House Committee.
“The Wortham House is used regularly now for events, sometimes multiple times a week. Not all events are attended by the president. Occasionally there are community events in the house. It’s used to provide event space for the University.”
By contract, the UH System chancellor is required to live in the Wortham House. An exception was made for William Hobby, chancellor of the UH System from 1995 to 1997. Ray said when Hobby was visited by the Board of Regents to accept the position, he said, “Well, I’ll agree to (be the chancellor) under one stipulation — if I don’t have to live in that house; I live just across the street. I promise I will try and take good care of it; I just don’t want to move.”
When the home was broken into and items were stolen in 2011, added security measures were found to be of necessity, prompting the committee to approve $90,000, according to a Wortham House Projects document. The case remains active. The committee was also consulted when, after Hurricane Ike, it was suggested that storm shutters be placed on the windows of the home in the event of future hurricanes. The project required more than $21,000.
Maintenance requests, such as chiller replacements, are not brought before the committee. Neither was the implantation of an AC unit to the chancellor’s doghouse.
Such renovations and repairs are paid for from funds that include gifts, endowment funds and local funds, but not from state appropriations or tuition and fees, Bonnin said.
Khator lives in the upper level of the home, with the first floor reserved for public events. The UH System provides her with clerical and custodial staff, insurance, housekeeping, utilities, maintenance and repair so she may better serve in her role as chancellor and president.
“I think the Wortham House is a very special place, and the University is fortunate enough to have it. And I do think it does give the president such tremendous opportunities to have events, honor and single out individuals and groups,” Ray said. “It’s a real benefit overall to the University. I’m very grateful that the University is willing to support this home, and it’s worthy of being supported.”