Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

Two longtime staffers reliably work hard to make Rice better

To celebrate the Rice Centennial, this year the university will honor 100 staff members who represent the best of Rice culture. Each week, two Centennial Stars will be recognized for their contributions to excellence, and we’ll introduce them in Rice News.

This week’s Centennial Stars are both longtime staffers who have worn several hats in their Rice careers – and both have shown a commitment to the university that extends beyond their daily duties. They are Jen Overton, the executive assistant in the Shepherd School of Music, and Gil Cepillo, Central Plant supervisor in Facilities, Engineering and Planning.

Overton came to Rice in 1978 as a secretary in the business school, which was then called the Jones School of Administration. Between 1986 and 2000, she transferred to similar positions in the Chemistry Department, the History Department, the Rice Quantum Institute and the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, where, in 2000, she was promoted to program coordinator. In 2004, Overton transferred to the Shepherd School to begin her current role as executive assistant.

Jen Overton

Jen Overton

“Jen’s work ethic is without peer,” said the letter that nominated her as a Centennial Star. “She frequently handles highly confidential and sensitive material with absolute discretion, and her attention to detail is legendary.”

Overton’s work for Rice has gone far beyond her job description. She has served on the Staff Advisory Committee and the Meritorious Service Awards Committee, and she has been a coordinator for the campus United Way campaign.

Overton is also a fan of Rice sports teams. She has served as statistician for the football team and for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Cepillo has been at Rice since 1979. He started out as a utility helper/plumber in the Physical Plant/Plumbing Department. Soon after, Cepillo was promoted to be a mechanic in the Central Plant. In 1986, he transferred to the Rice power plant as a stationary engineer, and in 1992 he was promoted to a maintenance supervisor. He became chief plant operator in 1995 and Central Plant supervisor in 2005.

“Gil is one devoted employee to Rice University,” his nomination letter said. “Hurricane, rain, flood or shine, he will be at Rice fulfilling his duties as the Central Plant supervisor, and he will do it with a smile.”

Gil Cepillo

Gil Cepillo

Cepillo’s knowledge of Rice’s underground infrastructure has earned him renown among the Facilities, Engineering and Planning staff. He is able to traverse his way through the nearly two-and-a-half miles of tunnels that run below the Rice campus, navigating over, under and through the narrow underground passageways that hold the steam, chill water and other important infrastructure that makes the campus run effectively.

Cepillo was also praised for his optimism and for his involvement with Rice activities. He participates in basketball intramurals, the letter said, and is “prompt in volunteering in events to increase employee morale, making Rice a better place to work.”

“Gil Cepillo excels in his position and is a great leader, an asset to the campus of Rice University,” the letter said.

To nominate someone as a Centennial Star, go to For more information, contact Rebecca Millet at To view previous Centennial Stars, visit

About Alyson Ward

Alyson Ward is a writer in Public Affairs at Rice University.