Play Ball

Alumnus, Astros owner, reflects on successes

As a young boy growing up in New Orleans, John Havens, LSU geology alumnus of 1978, cheered for the Saints and the Houston Astros and frequently asked – more like begged - his father to take the family on road trips to Astros games. He began to dream of one day owning a major league professional team. Today, as vice chairman and the second largest owner of the Houston Astros, president of Seismic Exchange, owner of Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, an LSU supporter and a community activist, he credits much of his success to his parents and the values and ethics they instilled in him.

Havens' parents, PC and Dee, are from South Mississippi and were living there in the late1940's when PC heard that there were jobs available to work on seismic crews in Houma. He did not know anyone in the town, but the appeal of a new job led him to the place that would become his family's home for the next 12 years. He and his sisters, Debbie Havens Patrick and Cathy Havens Cary, were born in Houma and grew up mostly in New Orleans.

PC Havens started Seismic Exchange Inc. , or SEI,  in February 1975. The company, now led by John as its president, has the largest 2-D seismic database in the United States and one of the largest 3-D seismic U.S. onshore databases as well. SEI has more than 300 employees and locations in Houston, New Orleans, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Denver. 

Among the most important lessons he has learned from his father are to treat all people -regardless of their position - the way he would like to be treated, to keep his word and most important, to do the right thing all the time so that he never has to look back. Havens said that his mother is very driven and has the "eye of the tiger." When she put her mind to achieving something, she worked relentlessly to accomplish it. These fundamental lessons laid a foundation for John's future success.

John wanted to go into a field that closely resembled his father's career, so he studied geology at LSU. One of his most memorable experiences was attending the six-week LSU Geology Field Camp outside of Colorado Springs, Colo. Professor John Rovik was fun and colorful but had high expectations of his summer field camp students.

Membership in Kappa Sigma was also a defining experience, one Havens says led him to mature as he became an active member and balanced high expectations and the trust of his fraternity brothers, especially through his role as rush chairman. He remains close friends with many of his classmates, and he is fortunate to license seismic data to many of them. One of the most influential has been Billy Harrison (geology 1976 and 1979), Havens' fraternity brother, who mentored him in geology. He notes that Billy's father, Frank (geology 1950), is a great example of someone who, like his own father, has lived life in a manner in which he "never has to look back" because he always does what is right.

Terri and John Havens
John and Terri Havens met through John's sister, Cathy, who was Terri's big sister in the Tri Delta sorority at LSU.

Havens' family has many LSU connections. His older sister, Debbie, obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees in kinesiology in 1973 and 1975, respectively, and taught tennis at LSU for several years. His younger sister, Cathy, graduated in journalism in 1981. She introduced Havens to her little sister in Tri Delta, now his wife, Terri Authement, (advertising 1982). Terri, John and their three children, Prentiss, Davis and Mallette, lived in New Orleans before moving to Houston following Hurricane Katrina.

As a lifelong Saints and Astros fan, owning a professional sports team has long been a dream of Havens', and it was very high on his bucket list. Drawn in by the subtle strategies and the fact that one can sit back and relax while watching a game with family or friends, professional baseball has become his favorite sport over time.

Through the Young Presidents' Organization, or YPO, and Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, the California luxury health spa that John and Terri bought and began renovating in 2000 to present, John met and soon became good friends with Jim and Franci Crane. In 2011, Jim became the lead investor in the purchase of the Astros and invited John to participate. The deal was finalized this past November. Havens, as the second largest owner in the Astros, is now the team's vice chairman. Several of the other owners are also fellow LSU alumni. His role in the organization will evolve over time, but he is already actively involved in the Astros in Action Foundation and in recruiting season ticket holders and sponsors for the team.

"No matter where you come from or however humble your beginnings, if you hang around good people and lead your life in the right direction, good things can and will happen," Maven said to current LSU students with big dreams. "There are no short cuts in life. The real secret to success is hard work and becoming immersed in your field and be the best you can be, in whatever field you are in. As you achieve, never forget who you are at your core and those that help you along the way."

These days, Havens feels blessed beyond anything he ever expected. From sharing his life with Terri to raising a family, owning a major company and health spa, renovating unique old homes, and becoming Vice Chairman of the Astros, he considers everything he is doing now to be "lagniappe." Along the way, he has often reflected on his modest upbringing and is most proud to have remained the same person as he was growing up and through college.

That leaves us with just one question for Havens: When will the Astros change its spelling to Astreauxs?