Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

Two dedicated staffers use their enthusiasm to make a difference

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.

Both of this week’s Centennial Stars have an infectious enthusiasm for their jobs and a real dedication to Rice students. This week’s honorees are Brian Gibson, associate dean and director of academic advising and a clinical assistant professor of kinesiology, and Jan West, assistant director of multicultural community relations in the Office of Public Affairs.

Gibson plays two important roles on campus: He is associate dean and director of academic advising, but he also teaches kinesiology classes. In fact, Gibson was hired in 1996 as an assistant professor of kinesiology, and he remained a lecturer in that department when he transferred to Academic Advising in 2004. The career move made him “connected with the university on a whole new level,” said Gibson’s nomination letter, and he was promoted several times in Academic Advising – from assistant director to associate director, then to assistant dean of undergraduates and director of academic advising.

Brian Gibson

Brian Gibson

Gibson’s enthusiasm is evident, his nomination letter said. “His energy, ideas and passion,” it said, “continue to rewrite the standard for academic advising.”

Through the department’s many advising programs, “Brian’s leadership and vision have empowered so many Rice students, faculty and staff,” the letter said. “He brought together so many of these diverse groups on a unifying mission of helping our students better understand the Rice culture and make better decisions for themselves.”

Gibson also has passion for the kinesiology classes he continues to teach, his nomination said – and he passes that excitement along to his students. Students have always “appreciated his teaching style and the challenge that his class would bring.”

Gibson won the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 2005.

His rapport with students extends beyond the classroom; Gibson was a resident associate at Sid Richardson College and at Martel College from 1996 to 2010, and he and his wife, Alana, were named Distinguished Associates year after year.

Gibson’s work ethic is “second to none,” his nomination said, and his tact and management skills have been a “steadying influence” on his department.

“Brian’s commitment to every facet of Rice is both rare and inspirational,” the letter said.

West first worked for the university in 1973, when she was hired as assistant director of admissions after graduating from Rice with a B.A. in psychology. She transferred to Personnel (now Human Resources) in 1977 and served as employment manager until 1992. West left Rice in ’92 but returned in 2007 to work in the Office of Public Affairs as the assistant director of minority community affairs – a division now known as multicultural community relations.

She “consistently goes beyond the call of duty, performing her duties positively and effectively,” West’s nomination letter said.

Jan West

Jan West

West helps organize the university’s quarterly Community Dialogue Luncheons, which are designed to bring together community leaders and people from all backgrounds. She also contributes to the Rice Connection Speaker Series and several of her department’s scholarship and outreach programs.

“Jan cares deeply about her job,” her nomination said, because she sees it as an opportunity to help Rice and the community. West regularly reaches out to Houston K-12 students and encourages them to finish high school and go to college. She spends time with student groups at Rice as well, including the Black Student Association and the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice.

West is an associate at Duncan College and a strong supporter of black alumni activities.

“Everything Jan West does,” her nomination said, “makes Rice and the community better, stronger and more diverse.”

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

To view previous Centennial Stars, visit

About Alyson Ward

Alyson Ward is a writer in Public Affairs at Rice University.