Meet this week’s Centennial Stars

Four staffers exemplify the ‘Rice way’

To celebrate the Rice Centennial, this year the university will honor 100 staff members who represent the best of Rice culture. Because Rice News was not published the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, this week’s issue recognizes four Centennial Stars for their contributions to excellence.

The four new honorees have very different jobs at Rice, but the one thing they all have in common is excellence. They are Patricia Burgess, coordinator for the Journal of Southern History; Weezie Mackey, communications manager for the Jones Graduate School of Business; Morag Everill, faculty assistant team coordinator in the Jones School; and Sandy Saunders, senior administrator in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Patricia Burgess

Patricia Burgess

Patricia Burgess

Burgess came to Rice in 1988 as a secretary for the Journal of Southern History and was promoted in 1999 to department coordinator.

After two decades at the journal, Burgess is known for being steadfast and dependable, wrote colleagues in a letter nominating her for the award.

“Pat has managed our office for more than 20 years and demonstrates unfailing friendliness and courtesy; remarkable competence, accuracy, and attention to meeting schedules; and handling and tracking a rather incredible amount of correspondence,” the letter said.

Burgess and her husband are also very involved as associates at Will Rice College, where she annually hosts an O-Week dinner for new students.

“The college associates program is a very important way that we support students and show them what it is to be a worthwhile, successful grownup,” the letter said. “Pat’s wholehearted voluntary participation demonstrates her commitment to the mission of Rice and to the students it serves and educates.”

In 2002, Burgess was honored with Rice’s Distinguished Employee Award.

Weezie Mackey

Weezie Mackey

Weezie Mackey

Mackey came to Rice in 2008 as a communications writer at the Jones Graduate School of Business and was promoted to her current position in 2011.

Though she is known for consistently executing her responsibilities in a timely, organized fashion, Mackey’s enthusiasm for her job is what truly sets her apart.

“Where she excels as a star is in her attitude toward the projects she works on,” a letter said. “Whether supervising the publication of the Jones Journal, editing stories or coordinating the social media of the Jones School, her example of optimism, excitement and devotion to Rice sets a great example for every person in the building.”

“Without reservation, I certainly see her as a true star at Rice University and feel she meets and exceeds the spirit of this award.”

Morag Everill

Morag Everill

Morag Everill

Since joining the Jones School as faculty assistant team lead in 2008, Everill has made a lasting impact. In her current role as faculty assistant team coordinator, she is known for being a dependable, discrete and tactful advocate for her team of faculty assistants, the letter said.

“She has created tools to improve our collective communication with coordinating departments and has collaborated with her team to improve the depth and scope of new faculty onboarding,” the letter said. “Morag has single-handedly set the bar for her department by exceeding faculty expectations and replacing from our lexicon, ‘We can’t, won’t or don’t do that’ with ‘Let’s see what we can do.’”

Everill is also praised for her humanity.

“As we all know, there are times when supervisors have to make unpopular decisions and/or deliver disappointing news,” the letter said. “Morag never fails to support Rice policy – old or new – yet also never fails to let us know that she maintains a larger vision and will continue to champion the legitimacy of our ideas.”

In May 2010, she was awarded the Jones School’s Award for Service Excellence.

Sandy Saunders

Sandy Saunders

Sandy Saunders

Since her arrival at Rice in 2003, Saunders has been known for going “beyond the call of duty,” wrote colleagues. In 2007, she assumed the role of senior department administrator of biochemistry and cell biology just before the economic downturn that produced significant budgetary constraints and challenges for the department. Under these constraints, Saunders has assumed a multitude of additional job duties, the letter said.

“Sandy has taken on much more than should be expected for one person,” the letter said. “She performed these duties in the highest quality, always being pleasant and polite.”

Saunders is known for her “creative and very careful saving and spending” the letter said.

“These financially difficult times have required extra work and effort, and Sandy is responsible and should be commended for keeping the department afloat,” the colleague wrote. “Sandy has excellent ideas and sound judgment and has the talent and capability to move big projects from ideas to reality.”

In June 2005, Saunders was awarded the Alemka Kisic Distinguished Staff Service Award.

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.