“We had been on a basketball road trip where you play a Wednesday and a Saturday,” said the former Owls’ captain and, since July 1, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees. “I think we went to California. We left on Tuesday morning and didn’t get back until Sunday. So I had missed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“When I got back, pre-email, there was a note in my box from Dr. (John) Parrish,” Tudor said. “I was taking a class on Milton with him and the note said, ‘You missed two very important lectures. If you’ll come to my office Monday afternoon at 3, I’ll give them to you.’ And he didn’t mean he’d give me notes. I showed up at his office at 3 and sat there for two hours, and he did the lectures.
“That’s crazy, right? Where else does that kind of thing happen? Not all that many places. It really does speak to the dedication of Rice faculty to their students. That’s the kind of thing that really sticks with you when you’re a 20-year-old kid.”
Tudor exemplifies such dedication to the present day. He’s a builder by nature — his Louisiana family has been in the construction business for four generations — but doesn’t wear a hard hat. Instead, he’s building upon his work as a Rice trustee and co-chair (with Susie Glasscock ’62) of the successful $1 billion Centennial Campaign.
“Bobby and (his wife) Phoebe command extraordinary respect across Houston as generous and thoughtful philanthropists,” said Rice President David Leebron of Tudor’s appointment earlier this year. “At Rice, we have benefited from his role on the board and leadership of the Centennial Campaign. His experiences as a student athlete, in the financial world and as a builder of a business make him a great choice to lead the board as we enter our second century, and I am excited to have the opportunity to work closely with him.”
Up close, Tudor is easygoing, but his résumé reveals a high-powered achiever. His job as chief executive officer of Tudor, Pickering, Holt and Co., an energy investment firm he founded in 2007 after nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs, is more than enough to keep anyone busy, but the Tudors are collectively involved in the Houston Symphony, Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, the United Way, the Houston Public Library, the Society for the Performing Arts and more.
Phoebe Tudor said taking the reins at Rice is more than just another way for her husband to serve the community.
“I’m really thrilled for him, because I know how much it means to him,” she said. “I feel like most of the things he’s done in his life up to now have come together to create a very well-prepared person for this job. I think all of his life experiences will help him to be a better chairman.”
“He certainly brings to the table a deep knowledge of financial issues and a deep knowledge of and connection to the energy industry,” Leebron said. “He’s one of the great experts in an industry that’s vital to the city of Houston and important to Rice.”
Fast break to Rice
Tudor, now 53, welcomed the opportunity to join the board. He felt he never really left Rice, even while working in New York and London for Goldman Sachs.
“It’s always somewhat puzzling to me how people completely leave their universities, and their university experience, never to engage again,” he said. “It wouldn’t have occurred to me that was even an option.”
That he attended Rice is remarkable considering his family’s connections to Louisiana State University. “I’d grown up as an LSU kid,” Tudor said. “Both my parents were LSU people, and I had a younger brother who played basketball at LSU. My older sister had gone to LSU. But we were raised to make our own decisions.”
Basketball brought Tudor to Rice’s attention. He excelled in athletics and academics at Pineville High School in Louisiana and was heavily recruited.
“I could have gone … not anywhere I wanted, but to a lot of places,” he said. “Rice certainly didn’t have a big basketball tradition, but it was building, and that was attractive. And I felt that if I was going to be a really serious student and a really serious athlete, I needed to be in a place that was supportive of both and had examples of people succeeding at both.
“Rice had that. There were guys on the team who were that. And I didn’t see that at other places.”
Tudor had respectable stats even with such formidable teammates as future NBA star Ricky Pierce and Rice coach Willis Wilson. He is 27th in career points at Rice with 1,018, ninth in career assists with 297 and tied for fourth in minutes played at 3,470. He was team captain twice and won the Bob Quin Award, given to the university’s most outstanding all-around senior male athlete.
“Bobby was smooth,” said English Professor Dennis Huston, who was faculty master of Hanszen College during Tudor’s four years there and counts him among the best athletes he’s taught in 44 years at Rice. “He could move with incredible skill between the world of jocks … and the world of the college and of the classroom. All three of them are really different worlds. That doesn’t happen often.
“What made Bobby a really good student was that he was tremendously articulate. He wrote really well. He thought really well.”
“My most formative experiences were classroom experiences,” Tudor said. “I was highly driven by the quality of the teaching. I still feel that what is most distinguishing about Rice academically is the quality of the classroom teaching. It turned me into a lifelong learner, and I also felt personally connected to my teachers at Rice.”
Read the full article in the fall issue of Rice magazine at http://issuu.com/riceuniversity/docs/ricemagazinefall2013/42.