Taylor receives Elizabeth Gillis Award

Matt Taylor ’92, Rice’s associate vice provost for academic affairs and adjunct associate professor of humanities, received the annual Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service at President David Leebron’s town hall meeting March 6.

Matt Taylor received the Elizabeth Gillis Award during President David Leebron's town hall March 6.

Matt Taylor, left, received the Elizabeth Gillis Award during President David Leebron’s town hall March 6.

The award, the university’s top staff accolade, is named for the wife of former Rice President Malcolm Gillis and recognizes staff members who, like Elizabeth Gillis herself, demonstrate unflagging commitment and service to the university.

Gillis, who joined Leebron on stage inside Rice Memorial Center’s Grand Hall to announce this year’s winner, praised Taylor’s 24 years of service to the university, noting roles ranging from history lecturer to director of Leadership Rice to dean of undergraduates to his current position, Gillis said.

Throughout his tenure at Rice, Taylor has spearheaded or participated in high-impact programs and initiatives — such as the Program in Writing and Communication and the Rice Emerging Scholars Program — many of which were undertaken in addition to his regular duties in the departments in which he worked, Gillis said.

“Through his leadership and his heavy lifting, Matt makes great things happen for Rice,” Gillis said.

Gillis praised Taylor for his willingness to be “responsible for so much without receiving any public credit.”

“He is always honest and acts with integrity; he never makes a statement that is not driven by facts,” she said. “He is a key component in the engine that drives the health of the Rice community.”

Nomination letters backing Taylor for the Gillis Award poured in from many areas across campus. Reading from one, Gillis noted that any one of Taylor’s accomplished projects would merit recognition.

“Taken in aggregate, these accomplishments point to an individual of the highest merit whose dedication is matched by his talent,” the letter said. “He exemplifies the qualities of innovativeness, creativity, collegiality and extraordinary service that characterize previous recipients of the Elizabeth Gillis Award.”

In addition to Taylor’s support of Rice programs and initiatives, he is also a trusted adviser and confidant to many students and staff, Gillis said.

“He supports what students care about – from attending a vigil to a softball game, Matt shows up,” another nomination letter said. “He never toots his own horn, but he routinely advocates for others who are excellent in their work. He is a team player, and we are very fortunate to have him on our team at Rice”.

Of the many letters received, Gillis said one nomination best summarized Taylor’s impact: “I personally hope Matt wins this award so that his standard is held high for other staff at Rice to aspire to, as he is appreciated for his earnest, humble efforts to serve Rice.”


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About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.