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Spotlight on AIM Alumni

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 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.

 

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 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.

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 will be held at the University of Houston - AD Bruce Chapel on Thursday, January 11th at 1:00PM. There will be a reception to follow at the Cougar Club inside TDECU Stadium. Kindly, park at the TDECU stadium at 3700 Cullen Blvd. in lot 12A and walk over to the chapel. 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.

Hello. My name is Mandy Stein and I am the founder of Neema International, a nonprofit organization in Tanzania committed to breaking down the cycle of poverty through grassroots education-based projects that synergize environmental and economic sustainability with creative learning and community engagement. 

Making Education a Right, Not a Privilege

In Tanzania, Neema is working to make education a right and not a privilege. The mission is to create happy, healthy, well-rounded children who will go on to become successful and productive members of society— leading their country to a better and brighter tomorrow. The school that Neema founded, Uru Community Pre and Primary School is the first step to dismantling the crushing cycle of poverty so many children here are born into. Here is a video that clearly explains the barriers to educational success for children in Tanzania and what Neema international has done to be a part of the solution.  Click here to watch the video

The School Neema founded is the first step to dimnaltling the crushing cycle of poverty

Mandy Stein

As our school is only a pre and primary school, Neema International’s Education Sponsorship Program continues to sponsor these students to attend various high quality private schools in Tanzania for secondary school, high school, and through to the completion of their university studies. Neema has graduated 20 students who are now gainfully employed and living life to their fullest potential. From Uru Community Pre and Primary School to our Digitruck and sponsorship program, the range of learning opportunities are growing everyday at Neema! This video shares the resilience of Uru students persevering to learn and graduate, and continue to higher education and gainful employment. 

The AIM community has been unbelievably generous and supportive of Neema

Mandy Stein

The majority of our funding comes from private individual donors in the United States and Canada. Every time you donate to Neema, a deserving child is able to envision a future of health, happiness and independence. 

Ways to Support Neema International

100% of all donations go directly to our projects in Tanzania and are fully tax deductible in the United States and Canada. Read the Neema International Gift Giving Instructions make donations directly on our websitesponsor  a child and last but not least, here is an itinerary that I personally put together for individuals to come and visit Tanzania and see our projects next summer. If you are interested, but the dates do not work for you, please let me know as we have other tentative dates! 

Even as a young girl, I knew that I was destined for a life of service. I wanted to help empower others, provide opportunities for people in need and to use my privilege for good. I believe in treating others the way that you want to be treated, and I try my best each and everyday to embody this philosophy.

Following my second year of university, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania for a volunteer abroad trip. After one short week in the country, I met a group of children in a remote village who changed the course of my entire life. It was on that day in June of 2011 that the dream of Neema International was born. Following graduation I moved into a home in that same Tanzanian village, located at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where I still live with my adopted son Baraka and our four rescue dogs.

Neema grew tremendously over the next few years, opening its own school and residential facility for orphaned and/or vulnerable children in the village of Uru. The complex issues surrounding access to education and overall development in the community led me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University. Following graduation, I returned to Tanzania more determined than ever to see Neema’s mission through. 

Neema has graduated 20 students

Mandy Stein

Today, Neema International is going strong with four education-based projects that support over 250 children and young adults, and provide jobs for over 60 Tanzanian men and women. For us, this is not a charitable endeavour, but an investment that has the potential to bring a thousand-fold return in lives empowered for generations to come. I sincerely hope you will join us on this incredible journey in creating a brighter future for Tanzania’s promising youth.” 

Here is a LINK  to our organizational profile that fully explains the work that we do, the dire situation surrounding education in Tanzania, and how you can help make a sustainable difference. 

Your help makes a sustainable difference

Mandy Stein

Thank you all for your endless love and generosity. We wish you and your families a healthy and happy holiday season and a wonderful 2024. Sending all our love from Tanzania!!

 

Love always, 

Mandy Stein

 

In 2024, Dress for Success Houston is celebrating 26 years of empowering the women of Houston and honors the more than 1,700 women veterans served through their Women Veterans Program in its 10th year. DFS Houston offers women Veterans a holistic program, providing stability and resources as they transition from military to civilian life through comradery and connection. Dress For Success Houston's objective is to create change by equipping thousands of Houston-area women each year with the resources needed to attain long-term employment and success – ultimately building skilled leaders in our community. We are grateful to them for once again making parking spaces available to us on the day of our happy hour. Note this year the happy hour is on a WEDNESDAY as that was the day we could obtain some parking!

To support dress for success with a donation, click here. Since 1998, DFS Houston has been the catalyst for positive change in the lives of more than 47,000 Houston-area women eager to break the cycle of poverty. They have grown beyond the suit and offer over 20 career education programs, job search services, and scholarship initiatives. These programs provide life-changing, practical solutions that enable women to see themselves as images of success. Last year, DFS Houston served over 2,500 women through 15,153 units of service, resulting in 54% of women landing a job.

In 2024, they will impact the lives of more than 2,800 women, of which over 350 are women Veterans.

AIM Alumni can be proud of their role in helping DFS Houston achieve this success. As Susie Cunningham, one of the co-founders of DFS Houston, along with Nancy Levicki explains:
“Nancy and I founded DFS Houston in 1998 and we honestly had nothing.

We would never have gotten off our feet without AIM

Susie Cunningham

Each year, DFS Houston empowers hundreds of women Veterans like Renae, a United States Air Force Veteran who was juggling through a divorce, bankruptcy, and mental health challenges when she learned about the Veterans Program. Renae hesitated to join because she wasn't looking for a job. Yet, as she listened to women in her first workshop, she realized that their stories were hers and that she had found a permanent community. She shares that DFS Houston gave her a place to connect and grow. Her enhanced confidence landed a new role as Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Griensenbeck Architectural Products.

Susie Cunningham shared that DFS Houston would "never have gotten off our feet without AIM". "Nancy and I met with Patricia Lewis (Executive Director of AIM Foundation) right at the beginning and she loved this idea and continued to offer us advice on what we should do and who we should talk to," said Susie. "She also gave us advice on grant writing. I remember one of the things she told us was never to forget to bring pictures. She felt the before’s and after’s of these women spoke volumes about what we were trying to accomplish. She was right! Some of our friends at AIM made significant financial contributions to help us get started Also, at this time, an AIM office in San Francisco closed down and the next thing that happened for us was that AIM offered us both their furniture and computers. We really had a beautiful office with very nice furniture thanks to AIM. So AIM was very important to the launching of Dress for Success Houston. In addition, many families of AIM have continued to support us with donations, personal involvement as volunteers and board members for over all of these 25 years. Dress for Success Houston owes a big thank you to AIM.”

Angie Eason joined AIM in 1998 and says she “grew up at AIM”. “I was around employee number 800,” said Angie. “It was an incredible growth year. During my early years at AIM, I got married, had both my children and made friends whom I remain close to today. There was great camaraderie at the firm, and I learned what it was like to work in a big company.”

Angie currently works in Human Resources at Comcast in Houston and has served on the DFS Houston board for over a year. Angie first learned about Dress for Success when her sister would give her gently used suits and clothing. “When my sister passed away, we gave her business clothing to Dress for Success,” said Angie. “I thought DFSH were ‘just about the clothes’. But after donating, I learned more about what they do and now I am honored to serve on their Board. In her role at Comcast, Angie represents the company on the DFSH Board. “At Comcast, we are about empowering women, and we support the broad work DFSH does to support women. This includes helping veterans transition into the workforce, providing job skills training, mentorship and even providing transportation vouchers to remove any barriers to getting assistance.” Angie has personally seen how one woman earned her PhD thanks to the support from DFSH. The organization looks at the holistic woman, the sisterhood of providing life skills.

Angie started in HR at AIM, and moved to the transfer agency. She experienced how women were getting real opportunities at AIM, and she had women to look up to, and to emulate. “I was encouraged to try new things and I was supported by my leaders. This helped me throughout my career and I carry through these experiences today. It was a great time in my life and shaped how I work today.”

Kristy Bradshaw and her husband, Chris have been involved with Dress for Success since 2012. Kristy is a member of the Advisory Council, and her husband Chris was on the Board of Directors for 10 years, and is currently on the Advisory Council.

We believe strongly in the power of education and the role of women in lifting up families

Kristy Bradshaw

"I became involved with DFSH 15 years ago by joining Women of Wardrobe (WOW), their young professional group. Lauren Levicki Courville is a dear friend, and she brought me into the organization. I was on the WOW board for many years and then joined the advisory board. My husband, Chris, was on the board of DFSH for a number of years and became their Chair."

We both believe strongly in the power of education and the role of women in lifting up families, specifically that changing the trajectory of the lives of the clients that DFSH serves, changes not only their immediate families but also their surrounding community.

Kristy was a part of the Dividend Value team for fourteen years, and left the firm in August 2020. "For the past 2+ years, I've been serving on a number of non-profit boards (Houston Ballet, Hermann Park Conservancy, Dress for Success Houston, Southern Smoke Foundation, River Oaks Baptist School). I recently joined the Nationwide Mutual Fund board and have greatly enjoyed getting back in the investing world but from a different capacity than before," said Kristy.

 

Janice Wheelwright Griffin started volunteering with Dress for Success decades ago when she worked at AIM. “At first, they did a suit drive at AIM in which I participated, and then I began volunteering at their center,” said Janice. “I taught financial literacy classes, or I would help out as needed.” Financial literacy became my passion because at AIM, we were educating advisors and teaching them to educate their clients. I thought everyone should know about mutual funds, saving for retirement, and yet this information is not readily available. Having two working class parents, I was taught to get a good job and save my money. I was not introduced to a world about investing or how to save beyond bonds.”

The emphasis placed on education and training was phenomenal. I soaked up so much. We were always learning

Janice Wheelwright-Griffin

Janice is currently a Financial Coach at Houston Community College and remains active in the community, including her involvement with Dress for Success. Mr Bauer was about the people are the product and the product is the people. The emphasis placed on education and training was phenomenal to me. I soaked up so much. We were always learning, and everything expanded our learning and knowledge. To this day, it is one of the greatest places I have worked.” Janice is also involved in the Young Life program which is hosted by Women’s Resource. “I go into public high schools and talk to students about financial literacy,” said Janice. “A cohort of students interested in financial literacy join in freshman year and go through to their senior year. Lunch is provided by Women’s Resource and I participate in the career panel and teach budgeting classes.”

 

Your (AIM Alumni) generosity throughout the years enabled us to empower more than 46,000 women

Kelly Moneyhan, Director of Development, DFS Houston
"While it all started with the suit 26 years ago with our incredible Co-Founders, Nancy Levicki and Susie Cunningham, we have evolved because of their passion, learning our women’s needs, and our incredible supporter’s investments to support our continued growth" said Kelly Moneyhan, DFS Houston Director of Development. "While we partner with United Way and government agencies, we do not receive funding through them. It is through your commitment, support, and passion AIM Alumni, that we will continue to empower the women of Houston. Your generosity throughout the years enabled us to empower more than 46,000 women with professional attire, and programs such as Financial Literacy, Health and Wellness, Scholarships, Mentoring, and Veteran Workshops. We are proud to be much more beyond the suit."

We are proud to be so much more than the suit

Kelly Moneyhan

 

Rosanne Dillon

August 20, 2023

RDillon

Rosanne Rygiel Dillon, 62, passed away on August 20, 2023. You can leave a tribute on her Legacy.com page and read daughter Madison's loving Facebook post here. Madison shares that "I do not know where I could possibly begin to describe my Mom, but I am sure you all already know that she was a crazy, wonderful, amazing and passionate woman. She accomplished so many things in her life and helped me accomplish so many things in my life as well. I am so grateful to call her my Mom and it still doesn’t feel real that she is gone."

Jonathan Schoolar shares that his first contact with Rosanne was trying to set up her interview for an equity trading position. "She very much wanted to come in but was delivering a sailboat, from Hong Kong to the U.S., as I remember," said Jonathan. "She finally arrived at the office with two black eyes, the result of catching the boom on a gybe. I knew then she would have no trouble handling our trading contacts. She was tough, smart and loved AIM and her colleagues."

Dillon

 

Ronnie Stein remembers that Rosanne was at the firm when he joined in 1993.  "All the investment people knew her well" said Ronnie. "She was there before AIM grew like it did in the mid '90s so she was a real fixture. Everyone knew Rose. When I got there, she was one of four traders and we grew to almost 30. Such a tragic loss. She was very passionate and strong. She always was looking out for AIM’s best interests!"

You are invited to join in celebrating Rosanne’s abundantly full life on November 11th at 11am. The Memorial Service will be held at St. James Lutheran Church in Houston and Madison's Aunt, Lisa Rygiel, will be officiating the service. "She is a Vicar at a Lutheran church in Colorado and was kind enough to offer to lead the service and assisted me in finding a venue for the service," said Madison. "Your presence at my mother’s service and support during this time would mean the world to me. However, if you are unable to attend in person I do plan to have the service live streamed on my mother’s Facebook page."