Coach Jim Bevan receives Elizabeth Gillis Award

Jim Bevan, head coach of women’s track and field, was named recipient of the annual Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service at the town hall meeting Feb. 7.

“People make the place,” Rice President David Leebron said before announcing the honoree, and he noted that this year’s winner of the university’s top employee accolade embodies the spirit of the Rice community.

President David Leebron presented Jim Bevan, head coach of women’s track and field, with the Elizabeth Gillis Service Award for Exemplary Service at the town hall meeting Feb. 7.

The Elizabeth Gillis Service Award for Exemplary Service, named for the wife of former Rice President Malcolm Gillis, recognizes Rice staff members who, like Elizabeth Gillis herself, demonstrate unflagging commitment and service to the university.

“Mostly I’ve gotten to know Coach Bevan through his athletes, his students, and they speak so enormously well of what he has contributed to our campus” Leebron said. “It’s just extraordinary.”

During his more than 30 years at Rice, Bevan has racked up numerous accomplishments, including coaching a pair of Olympians and winning nine conference team championships. Throughout his long career at Rice, Bevan has been named conference coach of the year 12 times.

Letters from former student-athletes nominating Bevan for the honor were peppered with examples of his support and devotion to the university, said Leebron, who shared a few excerpts.

“When I was tired, he let me rest; when I was heartbroken, he reminded me of my worth; when I was stressed by Rice’s workload, he made me feel less crazy; and, when I was on top of the world, he gave me wings and told me I could reach higher heights,” wrote one alumna.

Bevan’s approach and care for the athlete as a whole person make him outstanding, wrote another: “He is unique in his ability to tailor training programs to individual needs, and he takes into consideration someone’s personality, training background and course load when trying to get them to perform at their best under his program. … Not all runners are the same, and Jim’s individual treatment allows each athlete to excel to her potential.”

Leebron also cited the nomination letter from Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard, who said Bevan understands the culture of Rice and acts with great integrity.

“He always puts the academic commitments of his athletes above their training, often excusing runners from practice for study sessions and medical school interviews,” Karlgaard wrote. “He is as proud of Rice’s commitment to world-class education as he is of the titles his teams have won on the track.”

In 2015 Bevan’s cross-country and track and field teams were both honored by Conference USA for the top GPA in the league.

Karlgaard said Bevan’s greatest asset is his sense of community. “He is a great partner, not just to other coaches and staff in Athletics, but to the rest of the university as well,” Karlgaard wrote.

Michelle “Mikki” Hebl, the Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Chair of Psychology and professor of psychology and management, first met Bevan 18 years ago while rehabilitating a stress fracture in her foot. An avid runner who has completed marathons in all 50 states and all seven continents, Hebl wrote in her nomination letter that Bevan was extremely approachable, inquisitive, caring and helpful.

She described Bevan simply, but powerfully, in three words: “extraordinary, outstanding and unconventional.”

Bevan joins a distinguished list of recipients of the Elizabeth Gillis Award, which can be found here: https://goo.gl/zJu4Xp.

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is a Web editor in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.