Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

Two staffers are noted for their efforts in reaching out to the Rice community

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 do their jobs extraordinarily well – and both share a desire to create a better environment at Rice. They are Lisa Blinn, associate director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB), and Theresa Chatman, graduate recruitment and retention manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Lisa Blinn

Lisa Blinn

Blinn came to Rice in 2003 as a coordinator for the Gulf Coast Consortia. In 2004, she was promoted to administrative director, and in 2009, she became associate director of the IBB.

Colleagues described Blinn’s commitment in letters nominating her for the award.

“Lisa makes selfless contributions to the entire Rice community, and she has a tremendously positive impact on everyone she interacts with,” a letter said. “She goes out of her way to help others and to provide leadership in the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering.”

Many of the IBB programs involve K-12 educational outreach, and school-age students are brought to campus for summer programs, the letter said.

“Lisa handles the many ‘crises’ that come with kids and parents with professionalism and a cool, level-headed approach that defuses a situation before it reaches a head,” one colleague wrote.

Blinn also manages to deal with faculty and staff matters with kindness and professionalism.

Theresa Chatman

Theresa Chatman

Chatman, in her 22nd year at Rice, was praised for possessing grace under pressure and lauded for her great support of students.

“Theresa has been a champion for students from their recruitment to their graduation and beyond, and across numerous departments,” a colleague wrote. “In her professional roles, she has proven to be a leader in developing programs that empower and encourage minority students, has been a key player in grants that provide financial support for students throughout their tenure at Rice, has been described as the ‘heart and soul’ of the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program for minorities driven to receive their Ph.D.s, has served as a representative for Rice at national conferences and events and has stayed in touch with Rice graduates for decades after their degree completion.”

According to the letter, Chatman has helped countless students feel a sense of community while they are at Rice and after they have left the campus to begin their careers.

“She has been a confidant/counselor for many students,” a letter said. “She has advised many students on how to best navigate through both personal and academic situations that presented problems to their matriculation.”

In her capacity as project manager she has facilitated countless opportunities for professional advancement for many underrepresented minorities by encouraging them to attend and participate on panels at various academic conferences using the AGEP program’s support, another colleague wrote.

But Chatman’s support doesn’t stop at the hedges.

When a former student’s family was displaced from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Chatman stepped in.

“She is an angel for me and my family, and her support has gone above and beyond a typical manager,” a former student wrote. “Within days after Hurricane Katrina’s waters devastated New Orleans, my parents, youngest brother and other relatives sought refuge after being lifted by helicopter from our flooded home.”

While her former student was starting a new position in California and unable to physically help from so far away, Chatman offered her assistance. She greeted the family at the Astrodome and then welcomed them into her own home.

“For the first time in a week, my parents absorbed the enormity of the storm by watching the local and national news,” the former student wrote. “However, it was Theresa who provided a calm environment that my family needed until they transitioned to their new housing.”

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

To view previous Centennial Stars, visit


About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.