Rice dedicates Kraft Hall for Social Sciences: ‘An important new phase of increased visibility and opportunity’

On a crisp, sunny winter day, members of the Rice University community gathered to officially dedicate the newly constructed Patricia Lipoma Kraft ’87 and Jonathan A. Kraft Hall for Social Sciences.

Several hundred people attended the Feb. 27 ceremony, held on the outside plaza of the new 78,000-square-foot home to Rice’s School of Social Sciences. Rice Board of Trustees Chairman Bobby Tudor ’82 acknowledged those who were involved in making the building a reality, including the Krafts, and recognized Patti Kraft for her service to the board.

“We are all really appreciative and thankful,” he said.

He and others acknowledged the Rogers Partners architecture firm for its work on the project. Architects Rob Rogers ’83 and Tyler Swanson ’04 were in attendance.

Patricia Lipoma Kraft ’87 and Jonathan A. Kraft Hall for Social Sciences dedication ceremony

Tudor then turned the microphone over to Rice President David Leebron, who lauded the Krafts for “not only the remarkable investment in this facility and their confidence in Rice, but their vision for what Rice both is and what Rice can become.” He also thanked other donors to the project and members of the Social Sciences advisory board for their support throughout the building process.

Leebron said the building represents an important milestone for the university. He added that it was a remarkable moment in celebration of the School of Social Sciences’ achievements and aspirations and what it contributes not just to Rice, but also outside the hedges.

“Today, 30% of (Rice) majors are in social sciences,” he said. “And some of the most important things that we do that have impact outside this university and across the country and around the world occur in social sciences.”

Leebron then introduced Patti Kraft, who talked about how the strong foundation she received at Rice continues to expand her world in ways she never imagined when she first set foot on campus.

“For that, I will be eternally grateful for this amazing institution,” she said. “I know that I’m not alone in this feeling of gratitude toward Rice among all the many supporters of this project, but I hope I can speak for all of us and say that it feels really good to make such a tangible, collective contribution to Rice in return for all that it has given to us, and to make it in the realm of Social Sciences, which brings empathy and understanding of complex human systems to help solve the toughest problems of our day. That makes it particularly meaningful.”

Interim Dean Susan McIntosh concluded the ceremony by saying the new building designed for and devoted to Social Sciences is emblematic of the school’s growing prominence.

“It heralds an important new phase of increased visibility and opportunity for the school,” she said. “The fact that it has several research units focused on policy analysis and evaluation, together with two academic departments whose faculty are active participants in the work of these units, facilitates powerful synergies and increases the impact of our work both within Houston and far beyond.”

McIntosh said the space also provides expanded opportunities for student engagement with policy-related research through coursework, internships, practica and innovative curricular programs.

“This is truly an exciting time,” she said.

The building is named for the Krafts, who were lead donors for the project. A generous gift from the Kinder Foundation established the permanent home for the Kinder Institute for Urban Research on the building’s third floor. Milton and Laurie Boniuk, Russ Pitman, the late Ralph O’Connor, The Cullen Foundation and more than 35 other individual donors provided additional support for the building.

Kraft Hall is home to the School of Social Sciences’ Sociology and Economics departments, sociology lab space, the Texas Policy Lab, the Kinder Institute, the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance, the Religion and Public Life Program and the Houston Education Research Consortium, which is part of both the School of Social Sciences and the Kinder Institute. It is the first structure on Rice’s new South Axis, which will eventually extend from McNair Hall south to the corner of University Boulevard and Main Street.

The structure’s design combines some of the more traditional Rice elements, such as the iconic St. Joe brick seen on many campus structures, with new concepts. The design features materials and detailing at a human scale on the ground level and facades of glass above, flooding the building with natural light and reflecting the green canopy of adjacent live oak groves.

The building surrounds a courtyard with greenery and outdoor furniture. Inside the four-story building is an interconnected mix of spaces: classrooms of varying sizes, conference rooms and offices, including the dean of Social Sciences’ suite. The windows in Kraft Hall — a feature of every office — fill the structure with natural light, and the building has a main staircase and lounge and work spaces.

The general contractor for the project was Tellepsen Builders.

The dedication was part of the festivities planned to commemorate the School of Social Sciences’ 40th anniversary. For more information on other events related to the celebration, visit https://socialsciences.rice.edu/40th-anniversary.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.