Rice lauds ‘the lifeblood of the university’ on first day of Centennial Celebration

Rice University kicked off its Centennial Celebration Oct. 10 by honoring what Rice President David Leebron called “the lifeblood of the university” – its faculty and staff.

The evening began with welcome remarks from Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell, the Samuel G. McCann Professor of History, who remarked on the factors that make up an institution like Rice.

“Certainly an institution involves money, certainly it involves buildings,” Caldwell said. “But it also takes labor. It takes millions and millions of labor hours a year for Rice University to fulfill its many functions. This institution works because the workers – faculty and staff alike – work, and tonight, we are honoring them.”

Crystal Davis ’87, recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service and the funds accounting manager in the Controller’s Office, offered remarks on behalf of the university staff.

“Before the very first student matriculated, before the first faculty member joined the institution, before the very land you’re standing on was purchased and even before Edgar Odell Lovett, Rice University had staff,” she said. “We are the very foundation on which the faculty and students have built this great institution.”

Caldwell then returned to the stage to introduce Leebron, who greeted the enthusiastic crowd.

“Welcome to our centennial,” Leebron said. “One hundred years ago, our university opened with four buildings, one president, seven board members, 59 students, 10 faculty, one athletics instructor and a handful of staff members.

“Today, there is only one of those groups in which we have, thank God, the same number,” he quipped. “That is one president.” He then commended the “remarkable and dedicated” people that make up the university’s workforce.

Leebron noted that Rice has designated 100 staff members as “Centennial Stars” this year for their extraordinary contributions – one star for each of Rice’s years of existence – and photos of those honorees were projected on the walls of the Centennial Tent during the reception.

Leebron said that one of Rice’s guests for the centennial is the rector of the 924-year-old Università di Bologna, the world’s oldest continually operating university. “I think if we were 924 years old, we would have no problem finding 924 stars to put on those screens,” he said.


The university’s workers were out in full force at the event. Blue and white lights and the slideshow lit up the Centennial Tent on Founder’s Court, where approximately 2,000 of Rice’s faculty and staff enjoyed live music and a wide selection of culinary delights, including mini-sliders, shrimp salad, spring rolls and bananas Foster, accompanied by an array of beverages.

Professor of English Terry Doody said he thinks the centennial is “off to a flying start.” “This is unlike anything else I have ever attended at Rice, and I’ve been here for over 40 years.”

“This is an amazing event,” added Mary Lynn Fernau, marketing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. “It truly personifies Rice and the incredible stature that it holds in Houston and in the world as a top-notch educational institution with amazing staff and faculty who bring everything together.”

“It’s wonderful to see the fellow faculty here, and the food is out-of-this-world good,” said Bill Parsons, an associate professor of religious studies. “I think the speakers, with a good dose of humor and a lot of really good information, have made this event really special.”

Melissa Fwu, a 2012 graduate now working for the Centennial Committee, said the event “really demonstrates how much Rice cares about the people who make it great.”

“It’s a huge thank you,” she said. “It reminds us of why we’re here.”

For more information on Rice’s Centennial Celebration, visit http://centennial.rice.edu

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.