ARA presents Gold Medal, Distinguished Alumni, Meritorious Service awards

Rice alumni Susanne M. Glasscock ’62 and Melbern G. Glasscock ’61 are being recognized for their extraordinary service to the university with the Association of Rice Alumni’s (ARA) highest award – the Gold Medal – at this year’s annual ARA Laureates Dinner May 14. The association is also honoring seven others for distinguished accomplishments and meritorious service.

Gold Medal: Susanne M. Glasscock ’62 and Melbern G. Glasscock ’61

Mel and Susanne GlasscockFew people in the Rice family have been as indispensable to the university’s success as Mel ’61 and Susie ’62 Glasscock, whose deep commitment to Rice is evident both in their philanthropic support and their tireless volunteerism across Rice’s campus. Susie, a Rice trustee emeritus, co-chaired the Centennial Campaign, which raised $1.1 billion to strengthen Rice’s teaching and research efforts and its ties to Houston. In recognition of her invaluable service to the university — including service on several boards and committees — she received Rice’s Meritorious Service Award in 2005. Mel served on Rice’s Century Campaign Leadership Committee and is a passionate supporter of Rice Athletics. As one of Mel and Susie’s nominators aptly said, “Their fingerprints can be found in important areas all over campus.” However, one of their most important contributions is their support of lifelong learning, which has transformed the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies into one of the country’s finest continuing studies programs. The couple also advocated for the Anderson-Clarke Center, the school’s new home, which now gives Rice the resources and facilities to deepen its connections with its home city.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Four Rice alumni earned the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award, which is presented to graduates who have advanced the interests and standards of excellence of Rice University through distinctive professional or volunteer careers.

George Jiro Hirasaki ’67

George Hirasaki ’67, the A.J. Hartsook Professor Emeritus in Chemical Engineering at Rice, is an expert in enhanced oil recovery, a field that has gained significant international attention in recent years since conventional oil technology methods leave two-thirds of the original amount of oil in the ground. Hirasaki joined Rice’s faculty in 1993, after a 26-year career with Shell Development and the Shell Oil Co., and quickly enhanced Rice’s reputation for energy research and high-quality teaching. Over the course of his career, he has received numerous honors from industry, government agencies and professional societies, including election to the National Academy of Engineers in 1991. In 2002, he was elected president of the Japanese American Citizens League, where throughout his tenure he has been instrumental in compiling an online archive of Southeast Texan Japanese-American family histories. Hirasaki was awarded Japan’s prestigious Order of the Rising Sun in May 2009 and was surprised and pleased to discover that his grandfather received the same award from Emperor Meiji more than 100 years ago.

Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Lehman ’70

Internationally known quilter, teacher and lecturer Elizabeth “Libby” Lehman ’70 has been quilting for 40 years, during which time she has evolved from a traditional handworker to a leader in innovative machine stitching. Her studio art quilts have won many awards, including numerous “Best in Show” titles, and have appeared in private, corporate and museum collections. Two of her quilts, “Escapade” and “Star-Crossed,” hang in the National Quilt Museum, and her quilt “Joy Ride” was named one of the 100 Best American Quilts of the 20th Century. Lehman was selected as the 2009 Quilts Legend by The Quilt Show and was honored with a solo show at Houston’s 2013 International Quilt Festival. She wrote “Threadplay with Libby Lehman,” the authoritative work on innovative thread embellishment techniques, and is well-known for her instructive yet playful online teaching videos.

Lehman, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation after a ruptured aneurysm and stroke, has received hundreds of letters and emails from people around the world whose lives she has touched. Her sister wrote, “Time and time again, the writers tell of how Libby gave them the courage to tackle and then complete works of fabric art they never knew they could create.”

Peter Rowe ’71

Peter Rowe ’71, who served as director of the Rice School of Architecture from 1981 to 1985, is one of the most highly regarded researchers, educators and authors in the field of architecture. Currently the Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Harvard University and a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Rowe has extensive, diverse and international research and consulting activities. He specializes in studying cultural interpretation and design, as well as the relationship between urban form and issues such as sustainability, historic preservation and economic development. Additionally, he has served as a principal investigator on a wide range of U.S. government projects and has advised many cities on matters of urban design and planning. His research on urbanization in Asia is considered the first detailed insight into China’s urban infrastructure available in English. Rowe has served several other cultural and academic institutions, including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Cities Programme of the London School of Economics. He also holds honorary professorships at three Chinese universities.

Lewis T. ‘Rusty’ Williams ’71

Lewis T. “Rusty” Williams ’71 has been described as an “extraordinarily accomplished individual who represents the ‘sine qua non’ of the scientist-businessman and is arguably one of Rice’s most eminent biotechnologists.” A Harvard-trained cardiologist, Williams earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from Duke University and has published more than 180 scientific papers and acquired numerous medical therapy patents. He is the founder and CEO of Five Prime Therapeutics, which discovers and develops new protein therapies for cancer and inflammatory diseases. He co-founded Cor Therapeutics, which discovered and developed the cardiovascular drug Integrilin. His accolades include the American Heart Association’s Clinician-Scientist Award and Award for Outstanding Young Investigator; the American Federation for Clinical Research Award for Outstanding Young Investigator; and the Duke Medical School Distinguished Alumnus Award. Williams was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Williams served on the Harvard Medical School and the University of California-San Francisco faculties and was an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He served on the boards of Duke University, Chiron Corp., the Beckman Coulter Corp., Cor Therapeutics and the Berklee College of Music. Williams is a Rice trustee emeritus.

Meritorious Service Award

The ARA’s Meritorious Service Award recognizes Rice alumni, faculty, staff and friends who have rendered significant, sustained voluntary contributions of energy, time and creativity toward the advancement of the university.

Milton and Laurie Boniuk

BoniukHouston philanthropists Milton and Laurie Boniuk are well-known for their passionate advocacy of religious tolerance and have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to achieving peaceful solutions among all faiths and beliefs, both at Rice University and beyond. In 2004, the couple made a gift to Rice to establish a center dedicated to promoting deeper understanding of religious tolerance in the Houston community. Last year, they funded the expansion of the center so it could extend its efforts on a global level. Because of their generosity, the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance now brings together scholars from a range of disciplines to conduct innovative research into religious tolerance and intolerance and to use that knowledge to make policy recommendations and to design educational and outreach programs for both young people and adults. As one nominator stated, “More than just donating funds to Rice, the Boniuks have given in abundance their time and fervent enthusiasm for this cause that they rightly see as a cultural, political and socio-economic domain requiring Rice’s best minds to study and understand.” Another nominator remarked, “They are the neighbors that any great institution would rejoice to have.”

Stephen Klineberg

Rice sociology professor Stephen Klineberg is one of the most talented and influential teachers in the country, a well-known researcher, a dedicated community volunteer who has contributed endless hours to make Houston a better place and a role model for his colleagues and students. As a teacher, he has been honored with 12 major Rice teaching awards, including the coveted George R. Brown Lifetime Award for Excellence in Teaching. One of his nominators, a former student, said of him, “It is not just his individual efforts that have made a difference, but rather the multiplicative effect he has had by inspiring others to do the same.”

One of Klineberg’s greatest legacies is the annual Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey, which he and his students initiated in 1982 to track the remarkable changes in the demographic patterns, economic outlooks, experiences and beliefs of Harris County residents. Houston is the only American city to have been studied in such detail for such a long time. Klineberg, now the co-director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, has shared lessons learned from the survey with thousands in and beyond the city.

Alan Shelby

Thousands of Owls and Owls fans know Alan Shelby as one of Rice’s most tireless and enthusiastic ambassadors. The University of Pennsylvania graduate’s connection to Rice began after attending a Rice baseball game with friends, but it shifted into high gear in July 2006, when the avid sports fan wrote an email about former Owls baseball players who had turned professional. The initial message, sent to five other Rice fans, has since evolved into a free daily update that includes a wide range of news articles covering Rice athletics, academics, a highly competitive semiweekly Owls trivia contest and more. The update is posted on the Rice University Baseball Players Association homepage,

Shelby also serves on the board of the Rice Historical Society. For his dedicated service to Rice, he received the 2008 Spirit Award and an honorary “R” award during the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony in October 2013.

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