Multicultural groups celebrate centennial with weekend of events

More than 700 ethnic alumni returned to Rice Sept. 14-15 for a weekend of multicultural events in honor of the university’s Centennial Celebration.

More than $100,000 was raised through donations and ticket sales to host events for the Association of Rice University Black Alumni (ARUBA), Rice University Community of Asian Alumni (RUCAA) and the Society of Latino Alumni of Rice (SOLAR.) The Office of Public Affairs’ Multicultural Community Relations led the planning for all three events.

David Medina, director of multicultural community relations, said such events are important because they help alumni build a stronger connection to their alma mater.

“They re-engage and re-energize the alumni,” Medina said. “These events provide alumni and students an opportunity to network with each other, which helps students become more engaged alumni after they graduate.”

Many alumni who participated in the weekend of events have not participated in alumni affairs for a variety of reasons, Medina said.

“When we created an event that specifically addressed their interests, they felt honored to participate in that event,” he said. “We also engaged community members who came on behalf of their colleagues, family and friends.”


ARUBA kicked off the weekend with a panel discussion and viewing of the film “Young, Gifted and Black: Reflections from Black Alumni at Rice.”

Hosted by KTRK-TV co-anchor Melanie Lawson, the event featured remarks by President David Leebron and Association of Rice Alumni Board Member Monique Shankle ’86. The panel included Jan West ’73, Terrence Gee ’86 and Douglas Newman of Mouth Watering Media.

The 80-minute film explored the lives of 15 distinguished black alumni before they came to Rice, during their stay at Rice and their careers after Rice.

For alumna Karen Kossie ’85, attending a religious service the day after the event drove home the success and impact of the film.

“We have what is called a ‘testimony service’ where congregants are given space to publicly acknowledge the goodness of God,” she said. “Well, the ARUBA event received positive press during our worship hour. It was referenced in at least five testimonies.”


The RUCAA events began early Sept. 15 with a breakfast and symposium, which featured programs by Ed Chen ’59, Anne Chao ’05 and Adria Baker, associate vice provost for international education.

The breakfast was followed by a luncheon at Cohen House with Leebron and University Representative Y. Ping Sun and a keynote address by Marinda Wu, national president-elect of the American Chemical Society.

George Hirasaki, the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, expressed thanks for including his students — current and former — in the event.

“Some saw each other for the first time since they graduated,” he said. “It was very gratifying for me to see my former students doing well.”


The weekend concluded with SOLAR receptions Saturday evening.

The evening began with a reception at the Turrell Skyspace and was followed by a dinner gala.

Attendees watched a screening of the 30-minute film “Reflexiones: The Latino Experience at Rice,” and George P. Bush ’98  presented a keynote address. A special presentation was made to University Professor Richard Tapia. The evening concluded with a dance.

Alumna and co-chair of the SOLAR event Sofia Adrogué ‘88 described the momentum created by SOLAR as “formidable.”

“We represented over five decades of Rice University alumni and one brave professor,” Adrogué said. “Individual as well as collective contributions are evidenced by the success of the evening and the legacy left with our film.”

Lasting influence

Medina said that the success of the weekend was another way of showing the community at large how Rice is serving different groups of Houston.

“With experiences like these, we create more goodwill ambassadors for Rice,” he said. “Those ambassadors then go out and tell a positive Rice story.”


About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.