OLLU alumni making the mark at H-E-B

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2012


 Michele Aguilar

 Jenina Hernandez


 Dona Kotzur 

 DeeAnn McFarlin


 Sonia Q. Canales

 Jermaine Williams


 Karissa Ybarra

Michele Aguilar flunked college Algebra three times at a community college. Today she works with numbers for a living at H-E-B.

She arrived at Our Lady of the Lake University in the early 90s feeling like a failure. She left a mathematics miracle: an A-student, a member of the Dean’s List, a product of the wondrous teaching of Sister Ann Petrus, CDP, PhD.

“I was struggling with math courses at San Antonio College,” says Michele, Credit Receivables Supervisor in the H-E-B accounting division. “I went from failing three times there to making an A-minus in Sister’s class at The Lake. Sister gave me the confidence I could complete my degree and not be at the bottom of my class.”

Michele (BA Accounting ‘96, MBA Management ‘06) arrived at H-E-B two years after earning her bachelor’s from The Lake. She is one of a number of OLLU alumni serving at H-E-B, one of the nation’s largest independent food retailers.

At OLLU, Michele discovered a hidden talent. After acing accounting courses, a professor told her, “I think you’re an accountant.” Michelle thought she was too outgoing to work with numbers. But on the advice of the professor, she took some careers tests, which confirmed her professor’s assessment.

OLLU prepared the way for a number of alumni at H-E-B. Associate Online Editor Jenina Hernandez (BA Communication Arts ‘08) was getting ready for finals projects as a senior when a four-alarm fire ignited at OLLU. She thought professors would accept shorter papers or perhaps cancel projects. They didn’t.

“Imagine our shock when we were still expected to turn in the work regardless of what happened,” Jenina laughs. “Looking back, I can relate this to working professionally. No matter what obstacles get in your way, be they professional or technical, you are still expected to do your job.”

DeeAnn McFarlin, HEB Assistant Store Director, earned her MBA in Management in 2011. “My experience at OLLU equipped me with crucial skills needed to be successful in the business environment,” she says. “OLLU allowed me the opportunity to stretch my capabilities to new heights, and taught me to set high expectations for myself.”

As Diversity Manager for H-E-B, Sonia Quirino-Canales executes her department’s charitable giving and works to strengthen relationship with diversity advocacy groups and community-based organizations. She earned a master’s in organizational leadership in 2007 and says: “I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t utilize something I learned from my master’s program in my current role.”

Mike Pardoe (MBA Management ‘02) serves as Project Manager for Information Technology. He received invaluable knowledge at The Lake. “The most important preparation the OLLU MBA program provided was looking out for the big picture and how all the aspects of a company’s operation work together in synch to meets its customers’ needs,” Mike says.

Jermaine Williams (BA Communication Arts ‘04) serves as H-E-B Operations Leader, Austin West Area and credits the University for shaping his future. “OLLU impacted my life and career by helping me to understand how to serve others more than myself,” he says.

Sophia Padilla (BA Accounting ‘99) received the tools at OLLU to succeed as H-E-B’s front end services accountant. “OLLU gave me the skills, time management, experience, and confidence which prepared me for the work world,” she says. “I’m a trusted advisor for a great company called HEB.”

OLLU alumnae Jenina Hernandez, DeeAnn McFarlin and Sonia
Quirino-Canales are among the many Lake graduates working
for H-E-B.
Other OLLU alumni who work for H-E-B include: Dona Kotzur (BA Marketing ‘97) director of customer service, San Antonio West; Gerardo Ramirez (BBA Human Resource Management ‘99, MBA Management ‘04), customer service representative in the Laredo 5 store; Karissa Ybarra (BBA Human Resource Management ‘05), sourcing manager for drugstore, beauty and general merchandise; and Cathy Harm, Director of Retail Operations SA/West Region (MBA Management ‘98).

Michele Aguilar will complete 14 years of service at H-E-B in October. Her department handles in-house credit the company offers to non-profit organizations and businesses. “I supervise our corporate gift card department,” she says.

She marvels at the turn of events that led to a career in accounting and management. Once a struggling math student, she left OLLU with a testimony of Divine Providence.