» Cy-Fair People & Places » CyCreek HS Inducts Six to
Wall of Honor

CyCreek HS Inducts Six to
Wall of Honor

| July 1, 2017

(L-R): Committee members Nate Gordon, Cy Creek HS Associate Principal; Cy Creek art teacher Lori O'Donnell; retired Cy Creek principal Jim Wells; 2017 Wall of Honor inductees Mike Smith, Dr. Jeff Ullom, Dr. Keith Wright, Thomas L. Ryan, and Maj. Chris Knaute along with the parents of absent honoree Dr. Susan Collins, and principal Vicki Snokhous.

(L-R): Committee members Nate Gordon, Cy Creek HS Associate Principal; Cy Creek art teacher Lori O’Donnell; retired Cy Creek principal Jim Wells; 2017 Wall of Honor inductees Mike Smith, Dr. Jeff Ullom, Dr. Keith Wright, Thomas L. Ryan, and Maj. Chris Knaute along with the parents of absent honoree Dr. Susan Collins, and principal Vicki Snokhous.

Former Students Recognized For Outstanding Lifetime Achievements And Contributions

Six alumni were inducted into the Cypress Creek High School Wall of Honor during a recognition ceremony at the school on May 16.

The Wall of Honor recognizes outstanding lifetime achievements and significant contributions made by former students dating back to the opening of Cypress Creek in the 1976-1977 school year.

A Wall of Honor committee consisting of current and former principals, counselors and Cypress Creek staff selected the following five graduates to be inducted into the 2017 class: Thomas L. Ryan, class of 1983; Maj. Chris Knaute, class of 2003; Mike Smith, class of 1985; Dr. Keith Wright, class of 1986; Dr. Jeff Ullom, class of 1990; and Dr. Susan Collins, class of 1994.


Thomas L. Ryan serves as Chairman and CEO of Service Corporation International (SCI), North America’s largest provider of funeral and cemetery services that has more than 2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries in 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Ryan serves on the board of trustees for the United Way and the Greater Houston Partnership, and is involved in numerous other partnerships. His company and its 24,000 employees provide funeral, cremation and cemetery services to hundreds of thousands of families each year.

“When I was at Cypress Creek, I had three basketball coaches – Norman Pasche, Jim Wells and Nate Gordon – who, over the course of four years, had a tremendous influence on me,” Ryan said. “They taught me about commitment to a team, the importance of everyone’s role and the power of a team working together. They taught me about the definition of success, which is where preparation meets opportunity.”


Maj. Chris Knaute was a state-ranked swimmer for the Cougars who continued to swim after receiving an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, serving as the men’s team captain while being twice named Mountain West Conference Swimmer of the Year and NCAA All American.

After completing his time at the Air Force Academy, he attended U.S. Air Force Specialized Pilot Training and began piloting T-6 Texan and T-1 Jayhawk aircraft. While stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, he piloted more than 2,000 flight hours in the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft supporting combat operations over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He also flew 990 combat flight hours spanning five deployments from 2010-2013. His military decorations include five Air Medals, The Aerial Achievement Medal and two Air Force Commendation Medals for Distinguished Military Service and Combat Support Operation.

“I would like to thank all my teachers and administrators I had along the way,” Knaute said. “This isn’t something that happens solo. One thing I learned early in the military is you never stop learning, you never stop your education. Continue to use the knowledge you learned in one area and put it to success in another area. I have been fortunate to have success in a lot of areas in my life. A lot of times the failures stick out more than the successes, but always try to remember the successes. Don’t lose sight of that.”


Mike Smith was a diver for the Cougar aquatics program who was later a two-time NCAA qualifier and six-time SEC semifinalist at Auburn University. After college he continued diving professionally for shows at Astroworld and in Las Vegas at Magic Mountain and the MGM Grand.

He transitioned into a career as a Hollywood stunt man, doubling for actors including Mel Gibson, Ethan Hawke and Christian Bale. Smith has earned 102 film credits including films such as Nightcrawler, Mission Impossible III, Spider-Man and The Fast and the Furious.

“I am very honored by this award. This high school and this area of Houston were such a big part of my life growing up,” Smith said. “My advice to the graduating seniors is that you are going to have adversity in your life, but you have a choice in every situation you are confronted with. You can either play the victim or you can be a fighter. I was adopted, my mom had cancer. I could have made a million excuses for why I couldn’t succeed, but I never let my situation define where I was going.”

Dr. Keith Wright graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in biochemistry and received his Doctor of Medicine degree with high honors from the UT Medical Branch. Over the past two decades, he has received many accolades as a pioneer in the field of bariatric and general surgery and research.

The chief of surgery and anesthesiology at Nix Medical Center in San Antonio, Wright is acknowledged as a dedicated professional surgeon who knows how to motivate those he is mentoring and cares deeply for his patients. He currently serves as a consultant for medical companies Allergen Inc. and Apollo Endosurgical, providing insights for new surgical products and techniques that will impact patients all over the world.

“What I took away from my education here at Cypress Creek was my teachers, especially in math and sciences, who instilled a fascination of science and a sense of discovery I wanted to continue throughout my career,” Wright said. “A lot of the procedures, equipment and medication we use today, for the most part, were not invented when I was in medical school. If you go based on past experience and knowledge, you’re out of date. Stay with it, and have that sense of discovery.”


Dr. Jeff Ullom is a highly regarded and well-known theater professor, historian and author who serves as a tenured associate professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. He has been nominated several times for the Carl Wittke Excellence in Undergraduate teaching by his students. Ullom was chosen to work at the Actor’s Theatre in Louisville during its 20th anniversary of the Human Festival, which features new plays and new playwrights. This experience led to his first published book, The Humana Festival: The History of New Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

His second book, America’s First Regional Theater: The Cleveland Play House and Its Search for a Home, solidified his reputation as a nationally distinguished theater historian. As a result of his authoritative work in his field, Ullom’s publication was used by PBS as the foundation for its national production entitled America’s Theater.

“I cannot describe the amount of influence this school and [late theatre director] Marilyn Miller has had on my life. The biggest reminder is that I, too, became a theatre teacher,” Ullom said. “Those of it out, and that’s OK. Find out who you are and what you have to contribute.”


Dr. Susan Collins received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Syracuse University and was a doctoral intern at Yale University. She was recruited by the University of Tubengin because of her outstanding academic record and fluency in German. She conducted research and clinical work there before returning to the University of Washington as a research fellow, working with the late world-renowned substance abuse researcher Dr. G. Alan Marlatt, who popularized mindfulness-based and harm-reduction treatments for substance abusers.

She now has 20 years of experience in this field and serves as a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Washington-Harbourview Medical Center where she codirects the Harm Reduction and Treatment Center.

“Susan has told me that some of her teachers here at Cypress Creek helped prepare her for her role by teaching her about the human experience – our hopes, our challenges, love, compassion, fighting for what is just and morally right. That is what she tries to do every day,” said her father, Jack Collins, who accepted the award in her absence.

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