Thankful to Students, Faculty, Staff, and Many Other Supporters For Contributing to The Houston Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO Selection?

ceo awards

By John Willis, MIAT  College of Technology Houston Campus President

Early last week, I received some news that truly left me speechless and humbled: I learned that I was selected by The Houston Business Journal and its panel of judges as a “Most Admired CEO.”  I was nominated by Laura Pennino for the 2021 Most Admired CEOs of the greater Houston area.  Some of you know Laura. She serves as our Public Relations consultant for the Houston campus, and she is one of MIAT’s biggest supporters.

I write this blog not to brag, but instead to express my deep appreciation to every person and group of people who have contributed to helping me to secure this most humbling designation. I truly believe these types of awards are not due to individual merits, but more so a reflection of an organization and the people who are part of it.  I am especially thankful to three very busy people who wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf —  MIAT’s board chair Victor Maruri, Managing Partner of HCP & Company; Titus Hubbard, MIAT Houston campus Director of Education;  and Leisa Holland-Nelson, vice president and chief marketing officer of ASTOUNDZ who also is the past chair of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink Campaign I could not have asked for three more genuine letters of recommendation.

This award is an affirmation of the great things we  do collectively as a career college — not about me.  One aspect of this award examined how our organization navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.  I am extremely grateful that, despite the daily changes and obstacles that we faced, our staff maintained a laser sharp focus on making a difference in our students’ lives with a commitment to progressing them toward graduation and employment in the safest manner possible.  The collective efforts of our students and our MIAT team of instructors, program leaders and staff members in every department demonstrated amazing resourcefulness and resiliency  during a very difficult 2020 and early 2021.  Each of you is a Most Admired MIAT Supporter in my mind and heart!  Thank you again for all that you do! I am  privileged every day to serve as the MIAT Houston Campus president. I am honored to work with everyone who is part of our campus family.

I am also grateful to Jennifer Paugh, MIAT’s Canton campus president, who walked every step of the COVID-19 crisis with me over these past 18 months.  She has led remarkable growth and change at her campus as well  over the past six years.  Navigating the last 18 months was truly a team effort. I could not ask for a better peer, colleague, and friend.   

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Community engagement was also among the criteria for the Most Admired CEO nomination.  I am proud of the fact that our MIAT family and many others rallied to support me and the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink Campaign, the  Houston Food Bank’s food drives, the YMCA’s Operation Backpack,  Women in Aviation International’s Girls in Aviation Day, and other causes that impact thousands of people.

For those interested in learning more, please check out this comprehensive list of Houston area CEOs who are being recognized in August at a virtual ceremony, which will be broadcast live:


As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to email me any time at and please visit our Web site at  for more information on our school and our programs.