$7M gift to help Autry renovation
Alum’s donation will go toward sports facility facelift
BY B.J. ALMOND AND CHUCK POOL
Rice News staff/Rice Athletics staff
A $7 million gift from Rice University trustee and alumnus Bobby Tudor and his wife, Phoebe, will allow the school to move forward with a major renovation of Autry Court, home of the Rice Owls men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams.
The Tudors’ gift goes toward a $24 million renovation that will reconfigure and modernize Autry Court’s seating layout and support facilities. At the same time, the adjoining offices and locker room complex will be demolished and replaced by a new structure. Preliminary work on the renovation will begin in July. Noted sports architectural firm Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum has been retained to design and implement the renovations.
”Rice basketball and volleyball games draw enthusiastic supporters from within and beyond our campus,” said Rice President David Leebron. ”Autry Court is 57 years old and long overdue for a major renovation. We are grateful to Bobby and Phoebe Tudor for making it possible for Rice sports fans to support the Owls in a more comfortable setting.”
Athletics Director Chris Del Conte said, ”The Autry Court situation was far and away the most pressing issue that was on the table when I came to Rice. Students here have access to the finest academic facilities in the country. Thanks to the Tudors’ gift, our student-athletes and fans will soon be able to make the same statement about our athletic facilities.”
Del Conte said the Athletics Department’s long-term financial health depends on revenues generated by Autry Court. ”This renovation project addresses those needs,” he said.
Bobby Tudor was elected to the Rice Board of Trustees last year. He graduated from Rice in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in English and legal studies.
”Phoebe and I and are pleased to contribute to the growth and vitality of student life at Rice in this way,” Tudor said. ”I chose Rice as my university because I felt it was one of the few places in the country where I could have the best of the two worlds that mattered most to me — a first-rate undergraduate education and Division I athletic competition of the highest order.”
Tudor described Rice as ”a beacon in the world of college athletics” for its commitment to the idea that athletic and academic success are not mutually exclusive and for the quality of the student-athletes that Rice produces.
”We are keenly aware, however, that without continued investment in our facilities and programming, we could lose this special distinction,” Tudor said. ”This gift is meant to reflect both appreciation for what Rice has meant to our family, as well as a vote of confidence in the mission of being the very best place in America for committed student-athletes.”
Tudor, who also has a degree from Tulane Law School, recently retired as a managing director of Goldman, Sachs and Co., a full-service international investment banking and brokerage firm. He is currently the principal in Tudor Capital LLC, an energy investment and merchant banking firm. While a student at Rice, he was a resident and an officer at Hanszen College. He lettered in basketball from 1979 to 1982 and was a team captain. He received the Bob Quin Award in 1982 for being the male senior athlete who most exemplified distinction in athletics, academics and leadership.
Phoebe Tudor majored in art history at the University of Virginia and received a master’s degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. She worked as an architectural historian for the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission while raising their three children. She is currently chair of the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners.
The Tudors are members of the Rice Associates and the William Marsh Rice Gift Society.
Autry Court opened in 1950. The gymnasium has served as the home for the varsity men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and swimming programs, in addition to a wide spectrum of recreational activities for Rice students.
In addition to sporting events, Autry Court has housed campus events that require a large seating capacity, such as presidential inauguration and commencement ceremonies that have to be moved indoors during inclement weather. Most recently, Autry Court served as the host venue for a lecture by former President Bill Clinton to Rice students, faculty and staff.
While Autry Court is under renovation, the men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams will play their 2007-08 events at alternative locations, which will be announced later.