Leebron expresses gratitude as he says goodbye

President Leebron

Dear Rice Community:

This is the final day of my service as president of Rice, and I face just one key but difficult task, namely to try to adequately express our gratitude to the Rice community. Ping and I came to Rice 18 years ago with only an inkling of what lay ahead. We were excited by what we had learned about Rice, including what the university had accomplished and what its ambitions were. We were hopeful about what we might contribute, and yet not sure what to expect.

Ping and David

What we ultimately found was a remarkably supportive community, a community that cared and took responsibility for the welfare of others, and a community that wanted to be more engaged with each other and the world outside the hedges of its beautiful campus. We found a community committed to enhancing and expanding opportunity and to addressing, both by discussing and solving, the most critical issues of our time. We found a community committed to both the excellence and breadth of our endeavor. And while change is always difficult, complex, and often controversial, particularly in academic institutions, the Rice community has been driven overwhelmingly by its shared values and desire to achieve an ever higher level of excellence -- “no upper limit” in the founding words of Edgar Odell Lovett.

We have during these 18 years faced many difficult challenges together, including severe economic downturns, devastating storms, a global pandemic, and the need to confront our university’s own connections with slavery and discrimination. At the same time, we have greatly expanded opportunity by carefully growing our student population, enhancing financial aid, and offering our education in more ways, and have become more impactful and vastly more diverse in the process. We have achieved greater prominence as a research university, making remarkable contributions to human knowledge.

We are living through a time of heightened risks in many dimensions, including increased division in our society over how we perceive these risks and how best to address them. As an academic community we must commit ourselves to open dialogue even in the face of fundamental disagreements, and we can only do so through the most robust protection of the expression and exchange of ideas. Our strength is in our values, the remarkable talent of our community, and an ambition to contribute ever more to creating new possibilities, new opportunities, and greater justice for our world.

Ping and I could not have asked for a more supportive community as we embarked upon these tasks. It has been an exciting, challenging, and joyous 18 years. And so today we want to say thank you to all parts of our community. To our faculty who provide the leadership and commitment in our education and research endeavors. To our staff, who provide remarkable services both to the Rice community and far beyond, and make sure all of us can do our work in a safe and productive environment. To our students, who inspire us every day with their enthusiasm and possibilities. To our alumni, friends, and parents, whose support, advocacy and criticism make many things possible that would otherwise not be. And to the outstanding leadership team across the university with whom it has been a privilege to work together. We will indeed be forever grateful for the role this great university and its remarkable and widespread community have played in our lives.

I feel very fortunate not only in looking at the past, but toward the future as well. President Reginald DesRoches was a wonderful choice and is extremely well positioned to bring Rice to new levels of achievement. Ping and I want to extend our warmest welcome and congratulations once more to Reggie and Paula, and wish them well both professionally in their achievements and personally in the years ahead.

Again, to the entire Rice community, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It has been an extraordinary adventure, and we’re excited to see more unfold under the leadership of President DesRoches.

With deepest gratitude, on behalf of both Ping and myself,