Giving Back

The News Magazine of HCU

HCU alumni Jess Rogers Dunham and Cary Dunham to co-chair 2023 Spirit of Excellence Gala

Giving back to their alma mater is second nature for Houston Christian University (HCU) alumni Jess Rogers Dunham and Cary Dunham. Members of the Linda and Archie Dunham family, the couple has been generous in their support of the University through the years. The pair will join forces as co-chairs of this year’s Spirit of Excellence Gala to raise funds for scholarships for students, marking the first time an alumni couple has chaired the bi-annual event. The tented gala will take place on the HCU campus on Thursday, Oct. 26, featuring emcee Deborah Duncan of KHOU-11’s Great Day Houston and Dallas Jenkins, creator, director and producer of “The Chosen,” as the evening’s keynote speaker.

“We are excited to have Dallas Jenkins, creator of “The Chosen,” deliver the keynote speech at this year’s Spirit of Excellence Gala as Dr. Sloan presents the University’s highest awards -the Spirit of Excellence Award and The President’s Award -to the night’s honorees,” said Jess Dunham. As dedicated alumni of HCU, serving as gala chairs is a special honor and another part of a unique journey that began after the two met while serving on the Developmental Board for the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise at the University. “We are grateful for the role HCU played in allowing Cary and I to cross paths and later marry,” said Jess Dunham.

Looking back, each is also thankful for the strong academic and spiritual foundation that the University provided. HCU was on a quarter system when Cary Dunham was a student enabling him to work during the day and take classes at night to finish his Business Management and Marketing degrees in 1993. Between work and his studies, he also found time to support the Husky athletic teams as a cheerleader, an experience he truly enjoyed.

His wife, Jess, earned two degrees from the University – a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media and Speech Communications in 2000 and a Master of Education in Secondary Education in 2002. She worked in education as a teacher for 7 years and then launched a boutique tutoring company in 2009 catering to Pre-K-to-College students.

While pursuing their studies, each valued the University’s family atmosphere, small class sizes and the opportunity to develop one-on-one relationships with professors. “I enjoyed not being just a person or a number but having the opportunity to develop personal relationships with my professors at HCU,” said Cary Dunham, particularly noting the impact Dr. Rusty Brooks, one of his favorite professors, had on his life. His wife echoed his sentiments on the distinctive qualities that set HCU apart from other educational institutions.

“The professors that I met there and the internships I had are things that set me up for life. I owe that all to the University,” said Jess Dunham. During their time at the University, the couple also welcomed the opportunity to be around like-minded students and faculty with shared faith and values.

“I think that the professors and the staff that the University hires are critical to helping guide and produce wonderful graduates. Having professors who encouraged you to live in a Christ-centered way was invaluable,” said Jess Dunham. With preparations underway for the 2023 Spirit of Excellence Gala, the Dunhams are excited to oversee this prestigious night of recognition and to participate in a special cause that will raise funds for scholarships for students.

“It’s just an honor for both Cary and me,” said Jess Dunham of their roles as co-chairs. “I owe everything, every honor, everything I’ve ever accumulated since I left HCU, to the University. Raising scholarships for students is something near and dear to my heart and will make this a special night to remember.”

Cary Dunham is president/CEO of NPH Development, a Houston-based development company. He is also the EVP of Dunham Properties and sits on the board at Memorial Hermann Northwest. His wife, Jess, is the president/CEO of TutorVille, a boutique tutoring firm for Pre-K-College students that customizes each student’s educational plan to fit their needs and learning style. She is also the founder/CEO of TutorVille Franchise, a franchising company that works with franchisees nationwide to invest in TutorVille in other cities. And, in 2022, she founded the TutorVille Foundation to provide scholarships to students battling cancer and has supported numerous organizations to support the needs of children.

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