At the Association of Rice Alumni’s 2023 Laureates Awards ceremony May 4, the group will bestow its highest honor — the Gold Medal Award — to Kathleen Shive Matthews and Scott W. Wise ’71.
The annual ceremony will also honor several prominent alumni with the Distinguished Alumni Award and several members of the Rice community with the Meritorious Service Award.
Kathleen Shive Matthews
For nearly five decades at Rice, Matthews has set the highest standard for impactful research, mentorship and inclusive leadership. The Stewart Memorial Professor Emerita of BioSciences has dedicated her career to scientific discovery and expanding opportunities for women and minorities in STEM.
Matthews, who obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, joined Rice in 1972 as a founding member of the biochemistry department, where she conducted groundbreaking research on protein-DNA interactions underlying gene regulation. Her contribution to the field for more than five decades is noteworthy, as evidenced by her 170-plus publications, her service on numerous scientific committees and boards, and her impressive awards from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to name just a few.
A thoughtful and engaging leader, Matthews chaired the biochemistry department from 1987 to 1995 and served as dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences from 1998 to 2009. Simultaneously, she helped found the Keck Center for Computational Biology and the Gulf Coast Consortia, which support many successful graduate student and postdoctoral training and research programs in Houston. After her tenure as dean, she continued to instill a sense of wonder in her students and provide guidance to both young and seasoned faculty, including as a founding fellow for the Center for Teaching Excellence. Notably, she helped create the NSF-sponsored ADVANCE program to increase the pipeline, presence and promotion of women in science and was instrumental in securing permanent support with creation of the Office of Faculty Development. Upon her retirement, Matthews became Rice’s faculty ombuds, a position held by a retired faculty member and reporting directly to the president.
Throughout her career, Matthews has expressed her love for Rice in tireless service to the students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni and retirees. As one nominator noted, “Dr. Kathleen S. Matthews is one of Rice University’s finest treasures.”
Scott W. Wise ’71
Throughout his decades of service, including as Rice’s former chief investment officer and as alumni trustee, Wise has stewarded the university through a period of transformative growth and impact.
Wise earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Rice in 1971 and a Master in Accounting degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973. As a pitcher on the Rice baseball team, Wise was a four-year letterman and co-captain and posted the lowest earned run average in the Southwest Conference in 1970. During his 31-year career at Rice, including over 20 years as vice president for investments and treasurer at Rice, he was responsible for the management and oversight of all investment matters. From 2009-2010, he also served as the founding president of the Rice Management Co. By the end of his tenure, Rice’s endowment assets had grown from approximately $1 billion in 1989 to more than $4 billion. In 2010, Wise was recruited by TIAA to become founding president of Covariance Capital, an investment management company for nonprofit clients. For the last seven years, Wise has served as CEO and CIO for the Cullen Foundation, which supports health care, educational and civic initiatives in the Houston area, including at Rice.
Having previously served on the ARA Board of Directors, Wise became president of the ARA in July 2013 and later was selected as an alumni trustee. He has also served as a university associate of Will Rice College, a lecturer in the Jones School, a member of the Rice Owl Club board and a co-chair of his 50th class reunion. Wise chaired a number of search committees during his Rice tenure and recently served as a member of the presidential search committee that recommended to the Board of Trustees the appointment of Reginald DesRoches as Rice’s eighth president. Avid supporters of Rice Athletics and the arts, Wise and his wife, Geraldina Interiano Wise ’83 ’85, are present at a myriad of Rice events and are enthusiastic ambassadors for the university.
In addition to Wise’s remarkable commitment to Rice, he is also active in the Houston community, sitting on the boards for the Houston Grand Opera Endowment, the Houston Symphony Endowment and several other institutions. As one nominator noted, Wise is “a model for what graduates of Rice University should aspire to become.”
Distinguished Alumni Award
Gilda Barabino ’86
Barabino is a globally renowned bioengineering researcher and leader known for producing innovative health solutions and advancing engineering education. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana before becoming the first African American woman at Rice — and just the fifth in the entire country — to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering.
Barabino currently serves as the second president of Olin College of Engineering, where she is dedicated to educating the next generation of engineering innovators. Previously, she served as dean of the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York, where she developed programs to increase access to engineering education. She also held academic and administrative appointments at Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Northeastern University.
As an engineer, Barabino is known for integrating engineering innovation and entrepreneurship to solve medical challenges. Her research in the biomechanics of blood flow and thrombosis was foundational in the field, and her seminal research in sickle cell disease has informed current technologies and formed the basis for novel therapies. She is equally admired for promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM, as well as increasing the participation of minority women and men in entrepreneurial activities and interdisciplinary team science. Leading on a global stage, Barabino founded the National Institute for Faculty Equity and is a past president and chair of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Barabino serves on multiple boards and advisory boards for universities across the United States, and she has received many of the highest honors in academia, including being elected to the AAAS, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine.
Sandra K. Johnson ’88
A pathbreaking engineer, leader and innovator, Johnson exemplifies the unconventional wisdom and entrepreneurial mindset that are advancing technology and bringing distinction to Rice.
Johnson earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees, both in electrical engineering, from Southern University and Stanford University, respectively. In 1988, she became the first Black woman to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering from Rice. Upon graduating from Rice, Johnson began her tenure at IBM, serving for more than 25 years in various capacities, including as a researcher, a business development executive with assignments in the Middle East and Africa, and chief technology officer for IBM Central, East and West Africa. Her research and management responsibilities have ranged from Linux performance and WebSphere database development to Java server performance teams. Notably, she was part of the team that developed the prototype for IBM’s Scalable Parallel Processor, the base machine for the world-famous “Deep Blue” chess-playing machine.
After retiring from IBM in 2014, Johnson became CEO of SKJ Visioneering LLC, a technology consulting company, and Global Mobile Finance Inc., a fintech startup company, both based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. A true trailblazer in her field, she has authored or co-authored over 80 publications and is a “Master Inventor” with over 40 issued and pending patents. Her numerous awards include being named an Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow, an Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Engineer and a member of the IBM Academy of Technology, which consists of the top 1% of IBM’s 250,000 technical professionals. Throughout her journey as an engineer, startup executive and author, Johnson has remained committed to mentoring and inspiring young people with her education, career and personal experiences.
Andy Karsner '89
Karsner is a leading conservationist, venture capitalist, innovation strategist, energy entrepreneur and diplomat. With more than three decades of commercial, philanthropic and public service leadership that touches every continent and spans every natural resource, he has helped accelerate and scale the world’s response to energy transition and climate change.
Karsner is a senior strategist at X (formerly Google X), the innovation lab of Alphabet Inc., and chairs Manifest Energy, a clean technology development and investment firm he founded in 2008. He is regularly called upon by world leaders and leading corporations in energy, natural resources, semiconductors and cloud computing for his experience and strategic insight.
From 2006 to 2008, Karsner served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, responsible for policy, regulation and America’s applied science National Labs and multibillion-dollar research, development and commercialization. More recently, he served as managing partner of Emerson Collective and co- founded Elemental, with Laurene Powell Jobs, as an investment and philanthropic platform dedicated to scalable, equitable market-based solutions for energy, food, water and climate. In 2017, he helped cofound Nia Tero — a leading global NGO advocating for indigenous peoples.
Karsner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Rice and a Master of Arts degree from Hong Kong University. Through all of his high-profile international accomplishments, including advising and serving in the governance of numerous universities, nonprofits and privately held companies, Karsner remains connected to Rice, advising the university on its energy and climate strategy and its distinct work to advance economics and material science. He was described as a “force of nature” by one nominator, and another described him as “relentless in the pursuit of achieving consequential solutions the world requires to address climate change (and) security, and uplift the human condition.”
Eric Nelson ’83
Throughout his 30-plus-year career in the United States Foreign Service, Nelson has distinguished himself in service to his country and in his advocacy of democracy, equality and human rights.
Nelson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Rice in 1983 and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988. After graduating from Rice, he volunteered for the Peace Corps in Liberia in West Africa, kicking off a long and dedicated career in public service that includes serving in Islamabad; Milan; Mexico City; Frankfurt, Germany; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Washington. He has held several senior management and diplomatic positions, including deputy chief of mission in Costa Rica, consul general in Munich and executive director at the Department of State, supporting three secretaries of state and accompanying them to 70 countries. From 2019 to 2022, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nelson is now the U.S. Ambassador in Residence at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Germany, guiding the institute’s strategy to address regional, transnational and global challenges.
Throughout his award-winning career, Nelson has been a champion for peace and equality and social and economic progress. As a founding director of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), he championed fair treatment for LGBT foreign service employees. He has worked for the empowerment and well-being of others, including through his advocacy for a youth leadership program in Bosnia and Herzegovina and his promotion of innovative technology such as the monitoring of air quality by U.S. embassies abroad.
As one nominator described Nelson, “his commitment to making our world a better place reflects well on who he is as a person and brings honor and distinction to the larger Rice community.”
Ikhlas Sabouni ’81 ’87
An accomplished architect, devoted teacher and pathbreaking leader in higher education, Sabouni exemplifies excellence in her decadeslong commitment to her profession and her students.
As dean of the School of Architecture at Prairie View A&M University, Sabouni has helped transform a small, unaccredited department of architecture that was within the College of Engineering and Architecture into a well-recognized, autonomous school. Sabouni, who was the first female dean of architecture in Texas among the state’s eight schools of architecture, has led the school through several reaffirmations of accreditation and increased its enrollment fourfold. She initiated new programs in construction science, community development and digital media arts, in addition to establishing two service and research centers in the School of Architecture.
A champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, Sabouni is devoted to promoting architecture as a career choice to the many students she has taught, supported, interacted with and ultimately inspired. A devoted teacher, she has established several scholarship endowments to support her students' financial needs and worked to ensure that students have job opportunities upon graduating.
Sabouni’s tremendous service to the architecture community extends to the local, regional and national levels. She is a member of multiple boards and has earned numerous awards. She received a Master of Architecture degree in 1981 and a doctorate of architecture degree in 1987 from Rice, where she won the William Dunlap Darden Award in Architecture for her outstanding doctoral dissertation.
As one nominator summarized, Sabouni “has used the education, the cultivation of values, habits and attitudes to teach students, to administer in an increasingly effective and efficient manner, promote the architecture profession and serve the greater community in ways that only a dedicated architect can do.”
Meritorious Service Award
Donald Bowers ’91
Known widely for his wisdom, kindness, equanimity and thoughtful leadership, Bowers has demonstrated an extraordinary passion for service that continues to sustain Rice’s excellence while inspiring the next generation of Rice leaders.
A native Houstonian, Bowers earned his bachelor's degree in managerial studies from Rice and an MBA with a concentration in banking and finance from Sam Houston State University. He is vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where he leads its Industry Outreach Program and serves as corporate secretary for the Houston Branch Board of Directors. A dedicated mentor, Bowers has served on the Center for Career Development Alumni Advisory Board and the Initiative for Students Commission, hosted numerous externships and internships, and led student leadership experiences through the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. As a former athlete, Bowers has remained a staunch supporter of the Rice football program, has mentored athletes through the Student Athlete Leadership Development Program and spearheaded efforts to establish the O.J. Brigance Courage Award.
Bowers’ commitment to Rice extends to the highest levels of alumni leadership, including as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni and in a variety of executive capacities in the Association of Rice University Black Alumni. Elected to the Rice Board of Trustees in 2018, he served the presidentially appointed Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice, chaired the Building and Grounds Committee and led efforts in the redesign of the Academic Quadrangle and Founder’s Memorial. He also serves on the Baker Institute Board of Advisors and supports a range of philanthropic causes at Rice spanning scholarships, the Owl Club and the Black Student Association.
John R. Eldridge ’75
An engaging alumnus, parent, career mentor and advocate of the humanities and the arts, Eldridge’s contributions to Rice are deep and span decades.
Eldridge earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Rice in 1975, before doing community service work and then graduating from the University of Texas School of Law in 1980. Over his exemplary 40-year career in environment law, he has won numerous accolades working for top international clients, while also managing his substantial pro bono and public service efforts. Eldridge was recently named a knight in France’s National Order of Merit for his “brilliant career and efforts to grow relations between France and the United States.”
Utilizing his professional strengths, he has for years chaired Rice’s Humanities Advisory Board, where he helped advocate for the upcoming Susan and Fayez Sarofim Hall for student arts. He has served diligently to advance the mission of Rice’s Center for Career Development, serving as chairman of its advisory board since 2016. He meets regularly with Rice students about careers, and his law firm Haynes Boone has hosted externships for many years.
Proud Rice parents of Graham ’16 and Will ’16, Eldridge and his wife, Annette, have been active leaders in Rice’s Parent Leadership Council, in addition to serving as community associates at Lovett College for over a decade. They routinely earn the award for best community associates, and Eldridge was vital to making Lovett’s 50th anniversary celebration a success. Their considerable generosity extends to financial support spanning the humanities, the Rice Annual Fund, Fondren Library, fellowships and more. Eldridge’s nominators praised him as “insightful and intelligent, but also so progressive and kind” and applauded his tireless service and support.
A dedicated staff member, volunteer and founding member of Rice’s Mariachi Luna Llena, Galindo has made incredible strides to raise cultural awareness not only of mariachi music but of Mexican culture throughout campus and the broader Houston community.
Galindo, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology, is a pre-award specialist in Rice’s Office of Sponsored Research and Compliance, as well as an active associate at Wiess College, where she won Associate of the Year twice. Since Mariachi Luna Llena’s founding in 2013, she has served as a lead singer and guitar player, helping cement the mariachi as a pillar of Rice culture on campus. Over her decade of involvement with the group, Galindo has performed at an array of public events, including at local schools, the Miller Outdoor Theater and the Houston Rodeo. She also sang the national anthem several times at professional sporting events, including Houston Astros and Rockets games.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Galindo spent considerable energy and effort to keep the mariachi going, organizing Zoom meetings, keeping up with current and past members, and, as one nominator noted, serving as “the glue that has held together the mariachi family through the years.” Additionally, she serves as an instructor for the Rice Salseros and is a familiar face at the weekly Spanish Tables at Wiess College.
In her extraordinary efforts to build up those around her, Galindo has fulfilled the ideals of Rice in cultivating a diverse and welcoming community of future researchers, artists and leaders.
Frank Jones ’58 ’61
Jones, the Noah Harding Professor of Mathematics, has invested his entire academic and professional life in making Rice a better institution and Rice students better people. One nominator summarized Jones as “a legend who has inspired countless generations of students through his decades of mathematics instruction at Rice.”
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemical engineering at the then-Rice Institute in 1958, Jones completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at Rice in 1961, winning the Sigma Xi Award for “proficiency in research at the doctor’s degree level.”
A member of the Rice faculty since 1962, Jones has received several awards for his commitment to excellent teaching. He received his first George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 1968, then won again in 1972, 1973, 1978, 1985 and 1990. In 1980 and 1991, Jones received Rice’s highest teaching honor, the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Additionally, he is a two-time winner of the Nicolas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award, receiving it in 1977 and 1994. Jones was also named the 2007 Texas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Jones’s extraordinary teaching ability is matched by his dedication to encouraging and mentoring the hundreds of students he has taught over the years. He welcomes the opportunity to interact with his students anytime they reach out to him, spending as much time as needed with each student, in person or virtually, to maximize their learning experience. As one nominator described Jones, he “has the rare and wonderful combination of giving superb classes, with apparently effortless, beautiful and clear lectures, and caring deeply about his students as people.”
Tamara Siler ’87
Siler, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Rice, has dedicated her professional life to strengthening the Rice undergraduate community by recruiting, admitting and enrolling top scholars from historically excluded backgrounds.
As the deputy director of admission, access and inclusion at Rice, Siler serves as a senior leader in the Office of Admission and plays a vital role in mentoring staff in the fundamentals of the evaluation process at Rice and the importance of diversity and inclusion to the university. Recognized nationally as a thought leader in admissions, she is a sought-after speaker and has served as a former board member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and a past president of the Texas Association for College Admission Counseling. She currently serves as a College and University Resource Committee member for International Baccalaureate-North America.
A consummate ambassador, Siler has recruited hundreds of faculty, staff and students to support on-campus programming, while engaging numerous Rice alumni in the effort to increase diversity at Rice. She supports many affinity groups, including the Association of Rice University Black Alumni and Rice Pride, where she helps organize the annual Pride Parade, and her devotion to her beloved Brown College is legendary.
Whenever she is not working passionately to move Rice forward, Siler is giving back to the community as a leading performer for local theater. As one nominator summarized, “All these talents that she has cultivated over the years — communicator, connector, singer and actor — have contributed to making Rice an excellent and bold university. Her presence at Rice has been invaluable.”