This week’s Centennial Stars: Two longtime staffers invest time and effort to make Rice stronger

To celebrate the Rice Centennial, this year the university will honor 100 staff members who represent the best of Rice culture. Each week, two Centennial Stars will be recognized for their contributions to excellence, and we’ll introduce them in Rice News.

This week’s Centennial Stars: Debra Purtee in Bioengineering and Tamara Siler in the Office of Admission.

Purtee is the executive administrator for the Bioengineering Department. She transferred to the department just a year ago after four years as assistant vice provost in the Office of Sponsored Research. Purtee has also served as assistant vice provost for research and graduate studies and, from 1994 to 1996, the department administrator in computer science.

Debra Purtee

Debra Purtee

In recent years, the Bioengineering Department has grown rapidly, Purtee’s nomination letter explained, but its administrative structure and processes hadn’t kept up with that growth. Purtee has corrected that, working six or seven days a week to bring the department up to speed.

“Debra has come in and sorted out the financial issues in the department as well as taken on supervisory responsibilities for a staff of over 250 employees,” Purtee’s nomination letter said. “She has been a wonderful mentor to the staff.”

“Debra takes initiative to make Rice a better place whenever she sees a problem,” the letter said. She also serves the university however she can. For instance, Purtee co-chairs the Committee on Faculty and Staff Benefits, “another example of her incredible dedication to Rice University.”

Tamara Siler

Tamara Siler

Siler, a 1987 Rice graduate and an associate at Brown College, has worked for the university since 1992, when she was hired in the Office of Admission as assistant director. She’s been promoted several times over the years and is now the senior associate director of admission and coordinator of minority recruitment.

As the leader of the minority recruitment team, Siler is involved with strategic planning and execution of two major campus programs that target underrepresented minorities; she is liaison for the QuestBridge College Match Program and the staff leader for the Minority Interests Committee, which is made up of current Rice students in support of diversity recruitment.

Along with the director of admission, Siler assists with coordinating travel planning for the admission staff and manages the university’s participation in “Exploring Educational Excellence,” a joint travel program with Rice, Brown, Columbia and Cornell universities and the University of Chicago.

Siler works with prospective students and their parents and represents Rice at recruiting events across the country. In addition, she oversees the transfer student evaluation process and is the admission liaison to the Shepherd School of Music.

A graduate of the High School for the Performing Arts, Siler has been involved in theater for much of her life, and she’s a regular part of the Houston theater community. In 2008, she starred in the lead role of Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change” at Main Street Theater.

“Through her involvement in theater and in professional organizations related to admission,” said Siler’s nomination letter, “Tamara has not only made a lasting impression on these organizations, but she has made an impression on others as to what can be expected of a Rice professional and a Rice graduate.”

To nominate someone as a Centennial Star, go to For more information, contact Rebecca Millet at

To view previous Centennial Stars, visit









About Rice News Staff

The Rice News is produced weekly by the Office of Public Affairs at Rice University.