Public Affairs’ Jan West honored by Rice Board of Trustees


Jan West

When Jan West came to Rice in 1969 as a 17-year-old undergraduate from Port Arthur, Texas, she was the only black student in Brown College. Nearly five decades later, West ’73 is being recognized for her untiring dedication to the university and service to its black students, alumni and community.

West, assistant director of multicultural community relations in the Office of Public Affairs, was honored by the Rice Board of Trustees at the Sept. 14 meeting for her contributions as a student, alumna and employee.

Vice President for Public Affairs Linda Thrane praised West’s skills as a builder of relationships, trust and goodwill.

“She goes about it in a quiet and unassuming way,” Thrane said. “People she works with may not even know that they are being recruited as Rice admirers and advocates until one day they realize, ‘My goodness, I’m a fan of Rice.’ Jan does that work with honesty, integrity, humanity and diligence.”

West was a key member of the team that created the award-winning documentary “Young, Gifted and Black: Reflections of Rice University Black Alumni” during the Centennial Celebration in 2014. That year the Association of Rice University Black Alumni awarded her the Blueprint for Excellence Award, and she was named a Centennial Star. West is involved with Rice students through the Black Student Association and as an associate at Duncan College, for which she was selected as Distinguished University Associate for the 2015-2016 academic year.

West served as assistant director of admissions from 1973 to 1977 and then as employment manager until 1992. She joined the Rice Public Affairs team in 2007.

In February West participated in a panel discussion that kicked off the celebration of 50 years of black undergraduate life at Rice, “Reflections of the Past, Promises for the Future,” where she described her own experiences as a student.

“I realized that I had to be successful because people were going to judge the people that came after me and decide whether they had an opportunity or not, based on what I did,” West said. “That’s a very difficult burden for a young person. But I really wouldn’t change it because it gave a whole perspective to my life.”

Community relations is one of the important things Public Affairs does, but also one of the hardest to explain or measure, Thrane said.

“In these sometimes troubled times when honest and open dialogue may make the difference between resolution or conflict, Jan is a voice of reason and compassion,” Thrane said.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.