Spotlight on AIM Alumni

AIM Commemorates Mike Cemo Featured

Jan 23 2024

 Michael J. "Mike" Cemo, 78, of Houston Texas, passed away on December 25, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca and children, Stephanie and Jason.

Mike joined AIM in 1988 and retired in 2004. During Mike's life, he made significant contributions. His larger than life personality impacted so many people, and he brought his passion, energy, sense of humor and fun to everything he did, impacting people and organizations, including his community, AIM and his alma mater.

"Mike’s legacy is indeed large," said Bob Graham. "He certainly was a major factor in AIM’s success. In fact, I kind of divide AIM’s history from its founding to it’s merger with Invesco into two eras – the pre-Mike Cemo era and the Mike Cemo era. Certainly AIM had established a reputation in the institutional money market fund in the pre-MC era, but it was the acquisition of some excellent equity funds in 1986 and Mike’s joining AIM that took AIM to a whole new level. Mike knew what it took to successfully market retail funds through brokers and advisors and built AIM into a marketing powerhouse. Mike was full of energy and that energy infected the whole company."

"Plus Mike was a lot of fun. He was one of the funniest people most of us had ever met. He would keep us in stitches with his stories, including many on himself, such as during his band days. I especially enjoyed the times I got to travel with Mike on road shows or board meetings or sales events, etc. He would always keep everybody thoroughly entertained."

Mike's joining AIM took AIM to a whole new level

Bob Graham


The award represented the sum total of all of AIM’s hard work for the 90’s…..most likely to not be replicated in something as volatile as the financial markets

Gary Crum

Baron's recap of the 90's represented the culmination of all parts of AIM’s teamwork..from Cemo’s sales efforts to our investor services and our various investment teams

Gary Crum

"There are so many stories about Mike that it is hard to pick out just one or two. One thing that sticks in my mind though is what I believe was the first time I met Mike. We had recently acquired the Charter, Constellation and Weingarten Funds and Ted had asked Mike to have lunch with him, Gary and me, so that he could give us some advice on how to market the funds. I remember we had lunch across the street at Tony’s (it could have been Maxim’s at the time) and Mike was very gracious about giving us retail fund amateurs (at the time) some helpful advice. Little did any of us know at the time Mike would end up at AIM with us."

Mike would keep us in stitches with his stories

Bob Graham

Dawn Hawley had the pleasure of working with Mike from his first days at AIM in 1988 through his retirement and thereafter on the Cougar Investment Fund at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, through 2019. "Our phone conversation in October 2023 was to remind him he needed to be ready for the next AIM Alumni gathering," said Dawn. "As always, he was upbeat and said he was working on it - with that lilt in his voice that always made you smile."

A favorite memory of Dawn's is from Mike's 44th birthday. "The day before his birthday, we had one of our graphic arts experts enlarge a picture of Mike's face" remembers Dawn. "We made copies and passed it around to everyone on the floor to make their own personal "Mike Cemo" masks. When Mike walked onto the floor that morning there was a sea of Mike Cemo's looking back at him - everyone participated - Mike Cemo everywhere you looked! Can you imagine that - Mike loved it and could not believe what we had done - and of course, we did it because we all loved Mike! Although we had many Mike Cemo's that day Mike was one in a million who will be missed."

A number of tributes are shared on the AIM Funds Facebook page. The University of Houston C.T. Bauer College of Business commemorated Mike and the story about Mike from fall 2007 is a heartwarming walk down memory lane.

Mike had a lilt in his voice that always made you smile

Dawn Hawley

Simon Hoyle shared that the service was beautiful. "As many of you know, Mike was an alumnus and HUGE supporter of UofH," wrote Simon. "Their academic representatives expressed genuine gratitude for his contributions. He's made an impact that will live on for a long time-through the lives of others. A feat few people may think to do, and far fewer accomplish. We heard stories from his high school/ college buddies- including amusing ones related to his days in his band, and his love for fast cars.

Patti Terrill Hefley and Jim Salners shared heartwarming and entertaining stories. Jim recognized AIM for being an environment well beyond the walls of a mutual fund company. We started (and continue!) to be a closely knit community that is family of another kind. Think about that. Most people never work for a company that turns into that experience. Jim nailed it by alluding to the fact the care factor went as far as setting up an FB page for us to stay connected. Mother AIM I guess you could say. Jim was great and shared his personal story about AIM, how he got there and what it meant to him, and Patti shared a number of funny stories and some personal ones, too. So glad they were there representing us. Two of the best."

Mike was one of our biggest gifts, and we had many

Simon Hoyle

Patti was Mike's assistant at American Capital and when Mike moved to AIM, she followed two weeks later. "Mike was brilliant, funny, fearless, dynamic, a marketing genius, a philanthropist and friend," said Patti. "I always knew that our connection was more than “boss /assistant”. The Cemo family treated me as one of their own. He made work fun – when he got a new idea in his head, his energy was off the charts. How could we not get excited too? When he retired in December 2003, I decided it was time for me to retire as well. I stayed an additional six months and retired in June, 2004. I spent a few hours with him and Becky the week before he passed and I will always be thankful for that gift. I’ve always said that I had the best seat in the house – right between Cemo and Salners!"

I've always said I had the best seat in the house - right between Cemo and Salners! 

Patti Hefley

Andy Beal shared a picture of Mike Cemo rockin' it out at Bachelor's Gulch in Vail.

Patrick Fleming shared that Mike was one of the first people I met when I joined AIM in 1991. He had an employee party at his beach house and he took the time to talk to me, a part timer who worked in the mail room. He was a very kind and generous man.

Jim Salners wrote on Facebook that Mike Cemo was the leader of a rather talented group of salespeople at AIM and their in-house support. "He was the epitome of the phrase “he’s forgotten more about mutual funds than most people ever knew”. I was lucky to call him, boss. He lead our sales team at AIM for a decade and a half, that saw AIM become the “Vortex of Mutual Fund Money”. Mike was tough but extremely fair. He ran a very tight ship but rewarded excellence. There are many, many of us who worked for him, whose lives and families were changed forever. Thank you, Boss."

Greg Stock shared that there would not have been the growth and friendships at AIM without Mike. "He treated everyone at all levels and departments with the upmost respect," said Greg. "You add in his friendships with everyone and his good heart and you know why AIM had its growth for decades!!!Great Man with passion and respect.  RIP Mr. Cemo! Your are already missed by so many of us from AIM!!!"

Lanny Sachnowitz shared that Mike was instrumental in taking AIM to another level of growth and accolades, and he was so proud of and left a wonderful legacy at the University of Houston. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Mike was a graduate of St. Thomas High School and earned his degree in economics from the University of Houston in 1968. During his professional career, he spent 18 years as Senior Vice President of Marketing at American Capital Management, followed by 15 years as President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM Distributors, Inc., the retail-marketing arm of AIM Management Group Inc., as well as a director of AMVESCAP PLC. In 1996, Mike received the distinguished national honor in the mutual fund industry of being named Marketer of the Year by the Financial Times.

In honoring Mike’s legacy, we not only celebrate his achievements but the enduring positive impact he made as well.

UH System Chancellor Renu Khator

Outside of his career, Mike had an extreme passion for his alma mater, the University of Houston. He felt it was important that the city of Houston have a top-tier business school to offer its students. With that said, he was instrumental in laying the groundwork that would become the C. T. Bauer College of Business. For those efforts, in 2001 he was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to the UH System Board of Regents where he served from 2002 – 2008 and was Vice Chairman of the Board for two years.

In 2002, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Bauer College of Business.

During Mike's life, he made significant contributions to his community. Those contributions include board memberships in the C. T. Bauer College of Business, Founder of the Cougar Fund, University of Houston Foundation, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Society of the Performing Arts, the Association for Community Television, Houston House Foundation, MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Houston Center for Photography, and the Ronald McDonald House-Houston. In 2000, he and his wife Rebecca founded the Michael and Rebecca Cemo Foundation donating to causes promoting higher education and aid to veterans affairs, local food insecurities and animal welfare.

In his early years, Mike was a member of two bands, The Jim Askins Combo, started at St. Thomas High School and the Sixpentz, which produced six records, one reaching the Billboard 100. Mike's probably the only University of Houston regent to ever crack the Billboard Top 100. He always said, "I did it to get girls."

Mike was a proud man, but never boastful, an incredible storyteller and visionary. He was also a fisherman and outstanding photographer. He was charismatic, with a generous and infectious energy that would command and light up any room. The contributions he leaves behind will be his legacy. He was loved by many and will be missed immensely.

A memorial service and reception was held at the University of Houston - AD Bruce Chapel on Thursday, January 11.  In lieu of flowers, please donate to either the University of Houston Athletics or the C.T. Bauer College of Business. University of Houston System, Gift Processing and Records, PO Box 867, Houston, Texas 77001.

To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.

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