The Magazine of Rice University
STORM STORIES In Harvey’s aftermath, the Rice community mobilized hands, hearts and minds to help a storm-tossed Houston.
ALSO Finding the Helpers Q&A with Ed Emmett ’71 What’s Next After Harvey?
THE R AINBOW
arching over Rice’s campus was a welcome sight after days of heavy rain and widespread flooding. Photo by senior university photographer Tommy LaVergne.
The Magazine of Rice University
Contents F EATUR ES
STORM STORIES By Franz Brotzen ’80, Lynn Gosnell and Allyn West
Hurricane Harvey moved in with a vengeance, but Rice’s alumni, faculty, staff and students managed its impact before, during and after the storm.
CENTER STAGE BY Jennie dorris and david D. medina
Alumni take their stories of conflict and political and economic chaos to the stage and streets to affect social change at home and around the world.
NIGHT OWL BY David Mckay wilson
Fine-tuning is part of the job for a musician reliving the Golden Age of Broadway in the 21st century.
D EPA RTM EN TS P R E S I D E N T ’ S N OT E
S A L LY P O R T News and views from campus
SCOREBOARD Dispatches from Rice Athletics
A B ST R ACT Findings, research and more
ARTS & LETTERS Creative ideas and endeavors
FA M I LY A L B U M From Rice’s archive
on the web MAGAZINE.RICE.EDU In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we’ve heard countless stories of devastation and tragedy, but also inspiring accounts of rescues and recovery efforts in the Rice community. While we’ve dedicated the feature section to these stories, there are simply too many to share in print alone. We invite you to read our online exclusives in addition to select content from the print edition, online extras, reader responses and a link to our flip-through magazine (and archives) via ISSUU. ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
THE MEAL BRIGADE Through quick thinking and innovation, Matthew Wettergreen ’08, lecturer at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, created a webbased clearinghouse for food donations and helped set up a temporary kitchen that provided over 200,000 meals to Houston’s evacuees. ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
WATER WITHOUT WARNING
Jill Nesting, a marketing consultant at Rice, and her family endured the storm, but had to evacuate their home after officials released water from nearby reservoirs. The result: 41 inches of water in their house for 12 days. ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
Mary Lowery ’88, Friends of Fondren executive director, evacuated to Dallas in Harvey’s wake — but she didn’t return to Houston empty-handed.
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Featured Contributors Adrienne Rooney (“Mickalene Thomas”) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History at Rice studying 20th-century art and visual culture in the Caribbean and United States. Jennie Dorris (“Word Power”) is a Pittsburgh-based writer, percussionist and interdisciplinary artist. This is her first story for Rice Magazine. David D. Medina ’83 (“Saludos, Venezuela”) is the director of multicultural community relations at Rice. He has contributed many memorable features to Rice Magazine and its previous incarnation, Sallyport. Dan Page (“After the Deluge”) is an award-winning illustrator based in Toronto. When not in his studio, he is usually enjoying time with his wife, three daughters and two dogs.
On the Cover
Photo by Jeff Fitlow
In Harvey’s wake, Grace Jenkins ’18 eagerly sought out volunteer opportunities through Rice and citywide organizations to answer her self-imposed question: “How can I do the most good?”
By Any Other Name The Magazine of Rice University FALL 2017 Rice Magazine is published four times a year and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, parents of undergraduates and friends of the university. Published by the Office of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, vice president EDITOR
Lynn Gosnell ART DIRECTOR
Alese Pickering CREATIVE SERVICES
Jeff Cox SENIOR DIRECTOR
Dean Mackey SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Jackie Limbaugh GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Tracey Rhoades EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
Kyndall Krist ASSISTANT EDITOR
Tommy LaVergne SENIOR UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHER
Jeff Fitlow UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHER
Jenny Rozelle ’00 PROOFREADER CONTRIBUTING STAFF
B.J. Almond, Jade Boyd, James Costanzo, Jon-Paul Estrada, Jeff Falk, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Amy McCaig, David D. Medina ’83, Kendall Schoemann, Mike Williams INTERNS
Taegan Howells ’18 Isaiah Rodriguez ’18
E T ’ S S TA R T W I T H T H E name — Harvey. It sounds vaguely patrician or dutiful, definitely not threatening. For those of a certain age, the name also reminds us of a giant invisible rabbit, the companion to the sweetly eccentric Elwood P. Dowd. After the record-breaking flooding event experienced by Houston and the Gulf Coast region in late August and early September, the name Harvey is synonymous with rack and ruin. Some of Harvey’s physical destruction has already been repaired and some repairs are in progress. But many across Houston have been wiped out of their homes and livelihoods — recovery will be a long time coming. Overlaying this recovery are questions about how to create a more resilient Houston. This issue of Rice Magazine focuses on Rice’s response to the storm as both a crisis and a continuing challenge to individuals, neighborhoods, elected leaders and policymakers. We report what happened on Rice’s campus during the storm, where dedicated staff hunkered down to keep our community safe and functioning. We also recount how a campus partnership created a data-driven volunteer effort that drew hundreds of participants to exactly where they were needed most. Finally, we interviewed Harris County Judge Ed Emmett ’71, who oversaw much of the county’s response to Harvey, and who recently released a plan for addressing flooding in the city and region. Among the hundreds of Rice students, staff and faculty who experienced firsthand the destruction of Harvey’s unprecedented floods are two colleagues whose names appear in every issue of Rice Magazine. Senior graphic designer Dean Mackey’s Houston Heightsarea home took on water from the White Oak Bayou. A crew of Rice staff and graduate students joined friends and family in the ensuing rush to remove damaged drywall and flooring. Dean, his wife, Angelia, and their son, Carl, are staying in temporary quarters and plan to rehab their home. “This was our first time to be flooded, so we were new to the
Dean and Angelia Mackey outside their Heights-area home, Sept. 9
kind of loss and disruption that the storm left behind,” Dean said. “We hope to return to our home in the spring, and when we do, we’ll be moving in with memories of those people who did so much to make the recovery process possible.” Jeff Cox, senior director of creative services, and his wife, Helena, evacuated their home by boat after water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs inundated the Bear Creek neighborhood. Like many residents, they don’t plan to return. “After flooding twice, we decided to walk away from our family home of 26 years,” said Jeff. “Harvey left too much devastation, literally and emotionally, but in the aftermath, we experienced the best that humankind has to offer, and for that we will be forever grateful.” As a research and teaching community brimming with scholarly drive, compassion and creativity, Rice is prepared to help shape our city. As a name, Harvey can take on a new connotation, that of a turning point in our shared future. — LYNN GOSNELL m aga z i n e . ric e . e du 3
letters READERS RESPOND: SUMMER 2017
THE RICE UNIVE RSITY BOARD OF TRUSTE ES
Dear Editors: I H AV E E NJOY E D your Summer 2017 issue of Rice Magazine that features foods. I even clipped out a couple of recipes. The food services at Rice are evidently doing a fine job and it takes me back to fall 1954/spring 1955 when I was a freshman at Rice. To conserve my college funds, I took a job in the kitchen of the Commons, which was the large dining hall (now part of Baker College, I think). I worked with the cleanup section, and we were called “slops” or “grunts” by other students whose parents could afford to pay full room and board. With hundreds of boys and young men (no girls), the dining hall was noisy, and we slops did our part by banging around the dishes as we scraped and loaded them into the dishwasher. There was good camaraderie among us slops; we were supervised by the manager of the kitchen, an imposing and capable woman of middle years whom we called “Maw” Kelly. I moved off campus with a couple of classmates the next year, and we cooked for ourselves — mostly spicy hamburger meat. It is apparent that the service has been upgraded in recent decades. — JOEL B. KIRKPATRICK ’58 H O W R E F R E S H I N G to see among Rice’s culinary luminaries Kristina CarrilloBucaram sharing the benefits of a vegan diet. I made the change years ago as a result of my work in animal law; however, I too have enjoyed health benefits that come along with this lifestyle change. And, like CarrilloBucaram, I assure others it doesn’t have to
be all or nothing; she’s spot-on when she says, “one ... meal a day makes a big difference.” — SHARON DISCORFANO ’92
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE RS
I R E C E N T LY R E A D through the food issue and stumbled upon the article called “Rice’s Food (R)evolution.” In 1995–1996, I was a sophomore at Will Rice and my friend Nate Byerley ’00 was a freshman. We were making personal efforts to eat foods that were vegetarian-friendly, organically grown and locally produced. We found the food options provided in our meal plans met none of the three criteria. Determined to be the change we wanted to see in the world, we approached and petitioned Central Kitchen to begin offering vegetarian and organically grown options at Rice’s colleges. My recollection is that we had multiple meetings with both Marion Hicks and Mark Ditman in which we presented philosophical, environmental and social reasons for the Rice food services to provide these sorts of options to their student body. Ditman agreed to a provisional exploration of our requests at Baker College’s dining area and, as I recall, had us survey fellow students as to what they would want to try. We gathered their responses and presented a list of food suggestions to him and the Central Kitchen staff. And perhaps in this way, through our willingness to approach Central Kitchen and their willingness to engage our concerns, Nate and I were a small part of this 20-yearlong food (r)evolution at Rice. — JOSHUA GUTHALS ’99
Have a comment, criticism or story idea? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 4
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Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Nancy Packer Carlson; Albert Chao; T. Jay Collins; Mark D. Dankberg; Ann Doerr; Douglas Lee Foshee; Terrence Gee; Lawrence H. Guffey; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Ruth J. Simmons; Jeffery A. Smisek; Amy L. Sutton; Gloria Meckel Tarpley; Guillermo Treviño; Scott Wise; Huda Y. Zoghbi.
David W. Leebron, president; Marie Lynn Miranda, provost; Kathy Collins, vice president for Finance; Klara Jelinkova, vice president for IT and chief information officer; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Caroline Levander, vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education; Yvonne Romero Da Silva, vice president for Enrollment; Allison Kendrick Thacker, vice president for Investments and treasurer; Linda Thrane, vice president for Public Affairs; Richard A. Zansitis, vice president and general counsel; Darrow Zeidenstein, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. E DITORIAL OFFICES
Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 Phone: 713-348-6768 email@example.com POSTMASTE R
Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 © November 2017 Rice University
president’s note DAVID W. LEEBRON
On Disaster and Resilience
ACH disaster has its own unique footprint. For a hurricane, it will depend on the exact path of the storm, its strength in terms of wind velocity, its speed as it moves across the land, the amount of precipitation and other factors. And it will depend on the landscape below, natural and built, and the capacity of the built environment to deal with each of these factors. Beyond that, we must understand resilience — the ability of both human society and aspects of the environment to respond and recover following the disaster. That will depend not only on the extent of the damage, but also on the vulnerabilities and capacities of individuals and institutions. What is the quality of the governmental, nonprofit and volunteer response? Are individuals insured, and how rapidly are payments made? Do they have other resources that enable them to quickly recover and resume not only their basic lifestyle, but also employment, purchasing and other economic activity? Hurricane Harvey was by any measure a disaster; its record rainfall across the coastal region, and particularly in the Houston area, produced flooding unlike any we had seen before. Harvey’s rainfall was roughly twice that of Tropical Storm Allison. The homes of more than 100,000 people suffered significant damage, and many of those became uninhabitable. Several dozen people lost their lives. A number of downtown cultural venues suffered significant damage and won’t be able to reopen for many months. However, the infrastructure remained largely intact. Shelters were set up for those who became homeless, but quickly dissipated as people found new places to live or were accommodated by relatives and volunteers. Commercial flights resumed within four days or so. Even at the lowest point, about 95 percent of homes had electricity, and that number was promptly restored to nearly 100 percent. At Rice, we recovered incredibly quickly. If not for the difficult situations faced by many of our employees, we could have reopened on the Tuesday after the storm. Because of investments and preparations — both long in advance and shortly before the storm — damage was relatively minor. Our amazing facilities personnel quickly identified and repaired much of the damage. When we reopened on Tuesday, Sept. 5, all but one class
was staffed. We provided financial and volunteer assistance to employees who had suffered significant harm. Our students and staff reflected the true caring spirit of the Rice community. In Houston, the immediate consequences of the storm spread across all socio-economic groups. Wealthy families with beautiful homes near bayous saw the destruction of years of investment in their residences; but for the most part, they were fully insured and had the capacity to find new residences. For the poor and lowermiddle class, the consequences were devastating. Many had no flood insurance. Those in apartments that suffered significant damage were often evicted with no place to go. A recent report said that two-thirds of American families do not have enough savings to deal with a $500 emergency. That was certainly the situation for many of these families and, as the Houston Chronicle pointed out, many who had just achieved a middle-class lifestyle suddenly found themselves pushed back out of that status. Many who thought they had achieved stability for their families were abruptly among the ranks of the homeless.
Because of investments and preparations — both long in advance and shortly before the storm — damage [on campus] was relatively minor. That is the nature of disasters: Previously existing disparities are exacerbated. This results not merely from the greater vulnerability of their residences and the lack of resources to recover, but also from governmental decisions that neglect essential infrastructure or other investments that enhance disaster resiliency among the broader population. Across our campus, we have faculty members who make the study of these kinds of disparities and inequities their primary scholarly endeavor. In what ways do segments of our population face more severe health challenges and consequences? Why do the educational opportunities of poorer children remain so deficient, and what can be done to change that? Why are so many people in our cities unable to participate fully in the economic success of those cities? These are problems always worthy of study, but for a city like Houston that possibly faces increasingly severe storms, we need to understand how those events affect the least well off among us. Research universities like Rice have the capacity to contribute to every aspect of disaster prediction, preparation and recovery, and there are no other institutions in the U.S. that can play those roles with the needed expertise and neutrality. From understanding climate change and severe weather patterns to the investments to reduce flooding during and after a storm, much of the critical expertise rests in universities. The same is true for the human and social effects, and for the broad range of choices we make regarding buildings and infrastructure. Nearly every school at the university and a wide array of disciplines have a role to play. We are committed to, and well engaged in, that task. m aga z i n e . ric e . e du 5
N e ws a n d VIEWS f ro m Ca m p u s
O-Week Reflections THE RECORD-BREAKING class of 2021 (1,048 freshmen) experienced a comprehensive introduction to campus life during O-Week in August. During seven days jam-packed with activities and events, the newest Rice Owls were acquainted with Rice’s resources and opportunities, briefed on its traditions and academic requirements, and embraced by the culture and community of their residential colleges. From move-in and matriculation to President Leebron’s barbecue and the academic fair, each unique O-Week event welcomed the new class to campus. The picture of the silhouettes atop Rice Stadium was taken at the Rice Rally, a tradition that promotes campus sporting events and offers food, games and music. New students piled into a spirited Tudor Fieldhouse and cheered to new beginnings. — KENDALL SCHOEMANN
BY THE NUMBERS
Class of 2021* Total number of freshmen
(the largest class in Rice history) 6
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State with second-highest freshman enrollment
Country with highest freshman enrollment after U.S.
*The rounded-up percentages add up to 101; the exact percentages are 41.6 (Texas); 47.8 (other states); 10.6 (international). Source: Rice Office of Enrollment
PHOTO BY JEFF FITLOW
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TRADITIONS | LOVETT COLLEGE
Lovett’s Past Times LOVETT COLLEGE’S UNIQUE physical appearance has generated a lot of interesting speculation. Often compared to a giant toaster because of the concrete grating on its sides, some say Lovett was constructed to withstand the student uprisings of the late 1960s. But architectural historian Stephen Fox ’73 discounted this thesis. “The timing wasn’t right. Lovett opened in 1968, which meant it was probably designed in 1965 or 1966, before it seemed possible that Rice students might ever behave in unseemly ways.” Another popular myth holds that the earliest Lovetteers named their student government the Central Committee as wry commentary on what Rahul Kothari ’17, former Lovett president, called the building’s “Brutalist/ Stalinist” architectural style. Bob Curl ’54, the first master of Lovett (well before he won the Nobel Prize), explained that the Central Committee
coordinated all the college’s activities. “Everyone, of course, was aware that the term was associated with Communism,” he said. “That gave it a feeling of rebellion, and the group was feeling rebellious.” One tradition that Lovett can indisputably claim is the Lovett cheer. Generations of Lovett residents have — more or less — spontaneously stopped their studying, emerged from their rooms and directed a rhyming, obscenity-laced chant at nearby colleges. Early life at Lovett wasn’t only about politics and profane chants. John Eldridge ’75 recalls a “very popular, but fairly rigorous” course on wine appreciation. While Eldridge’s parents raised their eyebrows at the $100 “lab fee,” he still reaps the benefits of attending a class called “Wines of the World.” Another activity that has come to define Lovett in recent years is the annual party known as Getcheroxoff. According to Tessa Fries ’18, the current Lovett president, the party has an art theme that usually includes paint. “The focus was foam last year, but paint guns were still involved,” she said. “Due to the mess this creates, as I’m sure you can imagine, Getcheroxoff is held in the Lovett Quad.” — FRANZ BROTZEN ’80
WAYS STUDENTS DISTRACTED THEMSELVES DURING HARVEY
Thinking about swimming, but then remembering the fire ants and snakes. Yikes!
Bored/board games — Baker Boat, floor Olympics and lots of dodgeball and Settlers of Catan.
T R A D I T I O N S : C O U RT E SY O F LOV E T T H I STO R I A N TO P 5 : C O U RT E SY O F L E S L I E LO R E D O
Impromptu concerts (Hanszen), talent shows (Duncan) and dances (clogging at Lovett; salsa at Jones).
Competitive leak fixing.
“Game of Thrones” finale — as the storm built outside, the tension built in Westeros.
— TAEGAN HOWELLS ’18
m aga z i n e . ric e . e du 7
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ANATOMY OF A RICE CLASS
Time Travel Narratives
Time Travel Narratives: Fiction, Film, Science (Fall 2017)
DEPARTMENT First-Year WritingIntensive Seminar DESCRIPTION This course investigates the historical, aesthetic and scientific connections between the authorial and scientific co-creation of time travel. The class aims to define the relationship between scientific and narrative jumps through time as well as forge a general understanding of how our culture represents time travel. 8
Grasping Time Travel The film features Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student who is accidently sent back to 1955 and must ensure his teenage parents-to-be meet and fall in love so he can get back to the future. We watch a future scene where McFly witnesses an event in which his past self is a participant. Richardson asks the first discussion question: How do we know that the two McFlys in this scene are different? Immediately, the discussion veers away from the question to consider how time travel works — a topic that many students have strong feelings about. Because no one has personal experience with time travel, their collective knowledge on the matter is primarily drawn from other movies. One student says, “In ‘Time Cop,’ when a person touches their past or future self, they melt into goo.” Another student insists that time travel
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involves multiple universes, so when someone from the future arrives to their past’s universe, one has to leave for another universe. Principle of Self-Consistency A student who appears to have a fair amount of time travel knowledge presents the Novikov self-consistency principle, which holds that time itself wouldn’t allow the two McFlys to interact with each other; if an event exists that would cause a paradox in the past, then the probability of that event is zero. In other words, someone from the future can’t interact with someone in the past because that would create an inconsistency in the time loop.
question: How do we know the two McFlys are the same? The class, plagued by frustration, then attempts to poke holes in their previous arguments. While I’m not sure the class answered either question completely, the discussion highlighted a slew of themes that will appear in their upcoming reading list. Since the birth of storytelling, our society has been fascinated by time travel and themes such as changing the past, creating multiple timelines, using time as a dimension and using time travel as an engine for social change. Whatever dimension 2017 finds itself in, the themes of time travel have never been more prevalent. — KENDALL SCHOEMANN
Lessons Learned Just as the class seems confident they have more than proved that the two McFlys are different, Richardson asks the last
Laura Richardson earned her Ph.D. in English from Rice in 2015.
I M D B .C O M
Five years since I last stepped into a college classroom, I take a seat in instructor Laura Richardson’s freshman writing class and experience my own version of time travel. But I had never attended a class with a teacher who blasted pop songs as students took their seats. My envy fades when three students are summoned to the front to recite monotations — oral presentation is critical to the course. I’m instantly grateful I am not my past self, nervously waiting to complete a public speaking assignment. After some constructive feedback, the time travel talk begins. The class assembles in a circle, and Richardson shows a clip from Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 classic comic sci-fi movie, “Back to the Future.”
Hola Desde Logroño [Greetings From Logroño] DORRIE BRUGGEMANN ’15
HEN AVERAGE American college graduates think of Spain, they likely imagine something similar to my experience studying abroad in Seville — flamenco and Moroccan-influenced architecture, sunshine, heat, paella and red wine. But Logroño, my home for the past year, is no Seville. Situated less than two hours south of the northern coast of Spain and with a population of just 150,000, Logroño belongs to a different Spain — the Spain of the north. In northern Spain, we may not have paella, but we have plenty of red wine. PHOTO BY MARKEL REDONDO
In fact, if you’ve purchased a bottle of imported Spanish red wine recently, take a look at the label. There’s a good chance that it says La Rioja. La Rioja is the red wine-producing capital of Spain, and Logroño is its capital city. The landscape of La Rioja is covered in vineyards, and the biggest festival of the year is called San Mateo, a celebration of the “vendimia,” or the wine grape harvest. Logroño also is one of the first cities encountered by pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago, a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage route across northern Spain. Between eating a lot of pintxos (tiny, delicious, elaborate dishes that are served at most bars) and sampling wine, I do find the time to work. I came here to teach high school English a year after graduating from Rice with a degree in cognitive sciences. I knew that I wanted something more after my semester abroad. I didn’t just want to study in Spain, or in any foreign country;
I wanted to live there. Now, some advice about teaching English abroad: First, brush up on British English vocabulary and spellings, or you may find yourself falsely correcting a teacher in front of a class only to be told you don’t actually know your own language. Second, while the Spanish have a strong desire to learn English to compete in an increasingly English-driven world market, it doesn’t always feel that way. There were moments where I felt unsure of myself, like I was forcing my native language upon an unwilling population. In the end, Spain has challenged me as much as my American accent challenges my students. I may not always feel sure about my next steps when I return to the States, but then I remind myself about that time my visa was approved by the surliest bureaucrat at Logroño’s Foreign Office — and I lived to tell about it. And I remember that I can take whatever life throws at me. — AS TOLD TO LYNN GOSNELL m aga z i n e . ric e . e du 9
sa l ly p o rt | U nc o n ve n t i o na l wi s d o m
Harvey’s Conduit of Calm has witnessed many of Rice’s evolutions and challenges since he joined the chemistry department in 1983. Now, as dean of undergraduates, he has helped usher the students — and their families — through one of the biggest natural disasters that Houston has ever seen: Hurricane Harvey. JOH N H U TC H I NS ON
We sat down with Hutch (as he’s affectionately known) in the aftermath of the crisis to talk about how Rice’s student body weathered the storm as well as more quotidian topics, such as teaching chemistry and the research he’s conducting on the nature of learning itself. For the full interview, please go to magazine.rice.edu. CRISIS C OM M U N IC AT IONS
My primary role during Harvey was to make sure that students knew what they needed to do and where they needed to be, so that during the significant parts of the storm, we could be comfortable that everybody was safe and in the right place. That involved a lot of work with the college magisters, student presidents, Housing and Dining and RUPD [Rice University Police Department] to create clear lines of communication at all points during the storm. T H E R E ’S N E V E R T O O M UC H I N F OR M AT ION
I tried to maintain good lines of communication with the extended Rice families who were not in Houston and not necessarily familiar with the city. Because the storm hit at the end of the first week of classes, there were a large number of students who had only been here for two weeks: O-Week and the first week of classes. Therefore, there were many parents and other family members not familiar with Houston — our geography, locales, bayou system, the distance from Houston to Corpus Christi, Victoria, Galveston 10
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ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM CRUFT
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or Beaumont — and who would not be able to interpret news broadcasts in terms of what was going on at Rice. So they needed very specific information about what was happening on campus as often as they could hear it. P HON E HOM E , PLEASE
To a certain extent, I was also trying to facilitate communication between students and their families so the students could let their families know, “Here’s where I am and here’s what I’m doing,” and have a consistent message from the university to help reinforce that. T H E E V E RY DAY H E R OE S
Honestly, the bulk of the work during the storm was done by the support staff — the kitchen staff, the chefs and their staffs, the custodial staff, the maintenance staff, and maybe first and foremost RUPD — who were doing the really hard work of making sure that all the services were in place so that our students had everything they needed. B E I NG R E A L I S T IC
There was no point in sending out a message that everything was fine when people could see on TV for themselves that Houston was in crisis. It was important for us to acknowledge that at every step of the way. The fact that Rice came through this okay did not mean we were okay, because we depend on the city of Houston; we’re part of the city. If Houston is in crisis, then we’re in crisis.
DA I LY G R OU N D T RU T H I NG
I frequently walked back and forth across campus to take a few pictures to post so people could see where their sons and daughters were, not the pictures they were seeing on TV. That is not to diminish the impact on the city, but rather to have the concern placed where it needed to be, which is not, “Is my son okay? Is my daughter okay?” but rather, “My son and my daughter are okay. I’m
interdependence of Rice with our city is better understood. These are hard lessons. But they’re really important lessons because I think there is a greater mutual understanding of that interrelatedness than I have seen before. And I think it will last.
On Teaching B A N I S H I NG T H E C L A S S R O OM L E C T U R E
Active learning, by and large, means not just sitting and
My primary role during Harvey was to make sure that students knew what they needed to do and where they needed to be, so that during the significant parts of the storm, we could be comfortable that everybody was safe and in the right place. worried about the city.” That there are hundreds of thousands of people out in the city who are being severely harmed by this storm, and I can simultaneously be relieved that my son or daughter is not one of them while sending resources to support the people who truly are desperately in need. A C U LT U R E OF C A R E , WRIT LARGER
[Since the storm], our students have a much greater sense of place in the world and the importance of community. We depend on each other here on campus, and therefore we respect and appreciate each other. The
listening to a lecture. The idea is that students learn new material by constructing it for themselves by experience or through reasoning, through their own intellectual development. In an active learning environment, the job of the instructor is not to convey information, but to create an environment in which that instruction takes place. There are lots of ways to do that. S O C R AT E S A N D C H E M I S T RY
For decades, I have taught Socratically. That’s a form of active learning. Active learning is not a new idea, but we have come to understand it
much better through studies of educational psychology and neuroscience and what’s going on during those active learning sessions. CAN YOU SUPER-SIZE IT?
My wife, Paula, and I teach a [critical thinking] class that has 15 people in it. The whole class is active learning. We give reading assignments, Paula and I may do a small presentation in class and then start a discussion. But what if you have 100 people? The real key is in figuring out how you structure those conversations, particularly if you have a really large class. So what we added at Rice is this experiment based on work developed elsewhere. We call it Student-Centered Active Learning at Rice, or SCAL@R. All that means is that after people have watched a video or read a book, they then go to class and have conversations or answer questions together, work problem sets together. P E R M I S S ION T O EXPERIMENT GRANTED
The call went out recently for any faculty member who would like to teach an experimental course. And that’s the next phase of this, to move beyond just two forms of teaching — lecture and SCAL@R — and into whatever approaches that Rice faculty can think of that seem like a good approach, and then to run some experiments and find out if this is better or worse. That’s what we’re doing in chemistry right now. It’s pretty fun. — INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY JENNY ROZELLE ’00
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di s pat c h e s f ro m ric e at h l e t ic s
We Are the Champions
OR THE FIRST TIME IN THE PROGRAM’S 17-year history, the Rice soccer team won the C-USA regular season championship with a conference record of 9-0-1. “I am extremely proud of this team for the grit and fight that they have been showing,” said Nicky Adams, head coach. However, there’s still plenty of work to do. “It is pretty awesome being able to solidify a conference championship before the end of the regular season, but we still have a few more of
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our team goals that we are looking to accomplish,” said Adams. Junior forward Annie Walker, this season’s leader in assists, cited teamwork as a key to the Owls’ success. “Our team chemistry has been so awesome, and we’ve been having a lot of fun this season. One of our best strengths is that we connect really well on the field; we play … as a unit, and we do so with intensity.” The Owls headed to the 2017 C-USA Tournament as the No. 1 seed on Nov. 1, resulting in a 1-0 loss against the Charlotte 49ers.
— KYNDALL KRIST
PHOTO BY ERIK WILLIAMS
DAY IN THE LIFE
Emmanuel Ellerbee ’18 THURSDAYS 5:30 a.m. A cache of iPhone alarms ring; snooze buttons are hit “I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., and then I wrestle with the sleep demon until about 5:45 a.m.”
6:30 a.m. SPORT
Workouts at the Brian Patterson Center
Breakfast at Baker College: four scrambled eggs (shout to Mr. Delfino at the Baker College kitchen), turkey sausage, a waffle, spinach and hash browns
Class: Lifetime Physical Activity Program — golf
FOOTBALL HOUSTON BAKER
CIVIL ENGINEERING COACH
P H OTO BY TO M M Y L AV E R G N E
The son of a statistics teacher and the grandson of a prominent jazz drummer, Emmanuel Ellerbee ’18 brings more than just grit to the gridiron. The senior linebacker and team captain is also a “Star Wars” fanatic who likes to listen to Frank Sinatra and wants to make a career out of building more sustainable sports stadiums. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from leading the team in tackles (as of press time), entering this season as the Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year or throwing on some Kanye West and Drake. “But not the emotional Drake,” he said. “The I’m-tryingto-be-a-hip-hop-artist, in-the-streets Drake.”
9 a.m. 1 p.m. Class: Sustainable Design with James Blackburn, professor in the practice of environmental law
2:30 p.m. Lab: Environmental Chemistry
4 p.m. Practice “I remember watching football as a little kid and literally putting my hand down on the ground in front of the TV screen.”
6 p.m. Dinner with the team at the Brian Patterson Center
7 p.m. Homework
Midnight Sleep “Then I wake up at 5:45 the next morning to do it all over again.”
RICE’S NEWEST HALL OF FAMERS Michael Harris ’05, Morris Almond ’07 and Pat Krieger ’82, a trio of high-scoring basketball players, and Jim Bevan, head coach of the women’s cross-country and track and field teams, headlined a group of nine standouts for the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2017. They were joined by Jeff Nichols ’01 and Joe Savery ’08 (baseball), Charles Torello ’99 (football), Shaquandra Roberson ’00 (women’s track and field) and Jason Colwick ’10 (men’s track and field) as 2017 inductees in the October ceremony. Harris is Rice’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder with 2,014 points and 1,111 rebounds. He went on to play three seasons in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and Utah Jazz, and currently plays in China for the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association. Almond was a two-time AllAmerican, the 2007 Conference USA Player of the Year and twice led the team in scoring, setting a school single-season scoring record with 844 points as a senior. Krieger is Rice women’s basketball’s second-leading scorer with 1,851 points and holds the record for most field goals made in a season. Bevan has led the Owls to 11 conference championships between cross-country and track and field and has been named Coach of the Year 11 times between the SWC, WAC and C-USA. The “R” Association also honored Kenny Baldwin and Brian Patterson with the Distinguished R Award and presented Bob and Betty Bixby with the Honorary R Award. — JAMES COSTANZO m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 13
F i n di ng s , Re s e a r c h and m o re
COMPU TE R SC IE NC E / B I OS CI E NC E S
Four-year study of pond habitats reveals data on biodiversity loss.
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N ON E OF T H E F I RST studies of its kind, Rice scientists show that strong environmental “filters” — in this case, predatory fish — cause dragonfly and damselfly communities to vary regularly from year to year and season to season. The results show how an ecological filter can help ecologists predict how biodiversity loss may impact specific habitats. “Ecologists tend to think about biodiversity in space — we locate biodiversity hot spots and use maps to show how biodiversity varies in different habitats — but not in time,” said Volker Rudolf, associate pro-
fessor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s lead scientist. “In reality, biodiversity changes over time just as much and in many different ways.” Rudolf and his students collected and analyzed more than 18,000 insects, amphibians and fish during quarterly visits to 45 remote ponds in the Davy Crockett and Angelina national forests about 80 miles north of Houston. The team investigated the extent that each pond varied, not just from season to season but also from year to year during the same season. In ponds that were associated with the presence of predatory
fish like bass, the top predators brought an order to both the type of dragonflies that were able to live in a pond and how dragonfly communities changed over the seasons and years. In contrast, the ponds that lacked fish showed far more diversity from pond to pond in the types of dragonfly species that were present, said Benjamin Van Allen ’14, the study’s lead author who earned his Ph.D. at Rice. “Looking at one fish pond
Rudolf and his students collected and analyzed more than 18,000 insects, amphibians and fish during quarterly visits to 45 remote ponds in the Davy Crockett and Angelina national forests about 80 miles north of Houston. throughout the year gives you a good idea of what happens in the rest of them.” Without a strong filter, the community of dragonflies in ponds that lacked fish “drifted” over time and did not go back to the same place each year, Van Allen said. Rudolf said the data suggests that ecological stress brought on by overfishing, overhunting, habitat loss and climate change could have different effects on habitats with and without filters. He said the research shows how important it is for ecologists to account for such differences as they seek to quantify and conserve remaining biodiversity. “These spatial and temporal components are really connected,” Rudolf said. “We can use simple rules to infer something about biodiversity and how it changes over time and space in various habitats and patches.” — JADE BOYD
PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRANDON MARTIN
G LO BAL H E ALT H
NEST360˚ Is Finalist for $100 Million MacArthur Grant N E ST360°, A V ISIONA RY 10-year effort to save the lives of 500,000 African babies per year, is among four finalists for the MacArthur Foundation’s first 100&Change grant, the foundation announced in September. One grant winner will be awarded $100 million in December. The 100&Change competition, which began over a year ago, aims to solve one of the world’s critical problems. The competition drew more than 1,900 applications from which eight semifinalists were selected last February. NEST360°, an international effort by physicians, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders, is firmly rooted in Africa, a continent where more than 1 million babies die each year, mostly from preventable causes. The technology needed to save their lives has been available in the United States and most European countries for more than 50 years, but the equipment used in those countries is not built to last in the harsh environments of African hospitals. NEST360° will optimize and scale a package of newborn essential solutions and technologies (NEST) for Africa, train health care workers to use NEST, work within African health care
systems and markets to generate demand for NEST, and create a distribution network to provide NEST continentwide. Within 10 years, NEST360° estimates it could reduce newborn death rates by 50 percent and save 500,000 lives per year at a cost of $1.48 per birth, which is less than the cost of some routine vaccines. In addition, the team will work with African universities, medical schools and colleges to involve African engineers and entrepreneurs so they can sustain the change and transform other health sectors. “Our team has worked together to improve newborn health for 12 years, and we have designed our program to be the lever that will catalyze continentwide change,” said NEST360°’s Rebecca Richards-Kortum, a bioengineering professor and director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health. “Our 100&Change activities will generate proof — and more importantly belief — that a solution to the persistent challenge of poor outcomes for newborns is within reach. Not only will this save the lives of 500,000 newborn babies every year, it will create long-lasting systems change that can help solve other health care challenges both in Africa and beyond.” — JB m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 15
a b s t r ac t
E NG I NE E RI NG
Civil and environmental engineers to analyze storm’s long-term impact. RICE SCIENTISTS will research the short- and long-term impact of extreme flooding in and around Houston during Hurricane Harvey with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). A Rice team led by Lauren Stadler, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will compare Harvey data with studies from previous floods to learn general principles about how disease spreads in their aftermath. They will also look at how chemical and microbial contaminants persist in impacted areas as a result of extreme flooding. The NSF approved a one-year, $200,000 Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant only one week after Stadler applied for it. RAPID grants support research of natural disasters and unanticipated events for which time is a factor in gathering data. “The RAPID funding mechanism through NSF will enable us to collect time-sensitive and urgent data in the aftermath of Harvey,” Stadler said. “Our team is already on the ground collecting samples
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and preserving them for analysis.” Team members include James Elliott, professor of sociology and a fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research; Qilin Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering; and Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the NSF-funded Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for NanotechnologyEnabled Water Treatment. “This survey will advance understanding of the risks of disease propagation following floods, find and characterize hot spots for pathogenic bacteria and toxic chemicals to inform remedial action selection, and describe the dynamics of natural attenuation of these pollutants over the following year,” Alvarez said. Stadler said Rice professors will integrate their findings into their courses and develop teaching materials that will be made available to the public. — MIKE WILLIAMS
C H E M IST RY
FILTERING FRACKING WATER The secret is “superhydrophilic.”
A NEW FILTER PRODUCED by Rice scientists has proven able to remove more than 90 percent of hydrocarbons, bacteria and particulates from contaminated water produced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations at shale oil and gas wells. The work by Andrew Barron, the Charles W. Duncan Jr.–Welch Professor of Chemistry, and his colleagues turns a ceramic membrane with microscale pores into a superhydrophilic (attracted to water) filter that “essentially eliminates” the common problem of fouling. The researchers determined one pass through the membrane should clean contaminated water enough for reuse at a well, significantly cutting the amount that has to be stored or transported. The work was reported in Nature’s openaccess Scientific Reports. A hydraulically fractured well uses more than 5 million gallons of water on average, of which only 10 to 15 percent is recovered during the flowback stage. “This makes it very important to be able to reuse this water,” Barron said. Solubilized hydrocarbon molecules slip right through microfilters designed to remove bacteria. Natural organic matter, like sugars from guar gum used to make fracking fluids more viscous, require ultra or nanofiltration, but those foul easily, especially from hydrocarbons that emulsify into globules. — MW
P H OTO BY J E F F F I T LO W
Studying Harvey’s Environmental Wake
a b s t r ac t
The report revealed that crimes occur throughout the city in areas with both high and low concentrations of streetlights. However, the researchers found no direct correlation between higher densities of lights (more than 15 streetlights per mile of roadway) and lower rates of nonviolent crimes. In fact, areas with higher densities of lights experienced 60 percent more nonviolent crimes on average than areas with low concentrations of streetlights (fewer than 15 streetlights per mile of roadway). Nonviolent crimes are defined as those that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person. “Our model estimates that on average, irrespective of racial/ethnic composition,
Areas with higher densities of lights experienced 60 percent more nonviolent crimes on average than areas with low concentrations of streetlights (fewer than 15 streetlights per mile of roadway). STAT I ST I C S
Streetlights and Crime: A Mystery
S H U T T E R STO C K
Do more streetlights result in safer streets? HIGHER CONCENTRATIONS OF STREETLIGHTS do not guarantee fewer nonviolent crimes in Houston neighborhoods, according to a new report from Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. The researchers compared 2015 crime rates from areas of the city with both high and low streetlight density and looked for patterns to determine if there was a relationship between these factors. Streetlight density was measured by dividing the number of streetlights in a census block by the length of road miles within the block. It ranged from a low of less than one streetlight per mile of road to a high of 47 streetlights. The city of Houston’s average streetlight density is about 15 streetlights per mile of roadway. There are 173,000 streetlights overall.
neighborhoods with about one light per 100 feet experienced lower crime rates than those neighborhoods with two lights per 100 feet,” said Julia Schedler, a graduate student in statistics at Rice and one of the paper’s authors. “We did not find evidence of a clear relationship between streetlight density and violent crime.” Schedler said a common misconception is that greater densities of streetlights automatically equal safer neighborhoods. “This is not to say that streetlights are not helpful,” she said. “But streetlights alone do not reduce crime.” Future work in this area will focus on studying other factors that may affect crime, such as property values, median household income and proximity to commercial areas. — AMY MCCAIG
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a b s t r ac t | Fac ult y b o o k s
Achievement by Gwen Bradford (Oxford University Press, 2015)
D OE S C L I M B I NG MOU N T Everest count as an achievement, even though it doesn’t benefit society? What about the accomplishments of athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs? No doubt curing cancer would represent a monumental achievement, both in terms of difficulty and social benefits. But what if the discovery were a fluke that required no specialized training, no long nights in the lab — what if accidentally spilling Coke on cornflakes produced the panacea the world’s been waiting for? Would that still rate as an achievement? These are the kinds of questions Gwen Bradford, an associate professor of philosophy at Rice, mulls in her book, “Achievement.” She uses a variety of engaging, imaginary case studies to support her hypothesis, “that achievements have two parts — the process and the product — where one of these parts (the process) is difficult, and competently causes the other part (the product).” For example, tying one’s shoelaces isn’t difficult enough to qualify as an achievement — unless you only have one arm. But, Bradford explains, “… we might balk at saying that all difficult endeavors are achievements. After all, planning and carrying out a largescale project to massacre millions of people would be remarkably difficult, but I think that many would hesitate to say that, for instance, the Holocaust was an achievement.” What Bradford concerns herself with are the goals that people shape their lives around: “achievements with a capital A,” as she puts it. And those kinds of achievements have merit even if they aren’t actually well achieved. “Dedicating one’s life to trying but failing to find the cure for cancer might be a more worthwhile choice than a life filled with nothing but successfully tied shoes and peeled bananas,” she writes. 18
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Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith (Penguin Press, 2017)
“ T H E R E A R E A M A Z I NG things happening all over the place every day, all the time, and most people aren’t aware of them,” write Kelly and Zach Weinersmith in their illustrated exploration of the scientific discoveries that will (probably) shape our future. Their goal is to introduce us to the technologies that may or may not change the way we live — for better and/or worse — in the very near, or maybe slightly distant, future; that’s soonish, with an emphasis on the “ish.” Kelly Weinersmith, an adjunct professor of biosciences at Rice, offers enlightening, and often hilarious, insights into cuttingedge scientific advances, while Zach, a cartoonist, brings them to life in comics. Some of the fields they tackle include: CHEAP ACCESS TO SPACE: Being able to launch rockets into space more affordably could drastically alter life on our planet. For one thing, it could help ease climate change by enabling us to shield the Earth from sunlight — by launching screens into space. “One day you may look up to a friendly dark patch floating in the sky, protect-
ing you from catastrophe,” the Weinersmiths write. ROBOTIC CONSTRUCTION: Getting robots to build houses is harder than you’d think; the question is what sort of robots would work best. One giant robot? A giant swarm of tiny robots? Or a giant robot with a network of tentacles? Each variety comes with its own problems, as the Weinersmiths explain. “The big downside to having a tentacle bot build your house,” for example, “is that the tentacles get tangled.” BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES: Is it possible to improve human brainpower? Yes, the Weinersmiths say. “That’s easy. Exercise, eat right, lower your stress and study harder. Nah, just kidding. Can we improve your lazy-ass brain with computers?” The answer is “maybe.” From a thimble-sized implant that could increase our level of attention to magnetic stimulation that could improve our cognitive ability, there are a number of emerging technologies that might make us all smarter someday — soonish.
Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings Between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus by Matthias Henze
Life at the End of Life: Finding Words Beyond Words by Marcia Brennan (Intellect, 2017)
A S A N A RT I S T I N R E S I DE NC E in the palliative care department of Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, Marcia Brennan harnesses the power of poetic storytelling to help patients process pain, fear and grief. Her medium is language; she describes herself as a “scribe and a curator of thought,” helping people who are facing the transition between life and death construct poetic narratives to express their feelings and insights. “I ask questions and record the responses they inspire,” she writes. “Yet much of what I record is ineffable.” Brennan is also a professor of art history and religious studies at Rice, and themes from her “day job” often intersect with her work in palliative care. In each field, she writes, she must answer the question: “How do we find language to describe states of being for which there is no language?” While Brennan bears witness to some of the most difficult moments of patients’ lives, “Life at the End of Life” takes a largely positive and affirming tone. Many of the people she gets to know find peace as they approach death; some have profound epiphanies. But, Brennan notes, the process of dying — and people who are terminally ill — are often ignored in our society. “Just as the stories convey extreme wisdom and insight, they reflect the perspectives of people who … remain marginalized,” she writes. “Indeed, the end of life represents a monumental subject that, all too often, our culture cannot bring itself to look at.” This, she believes, represents a great loss for the living.
(Fortress Press, 2017)
T O B E T T E R U N DE R S TA N D W H AT ’S I N T H E B I B L E , you need to read what’s not in it, according to Matthias Henze, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice. In “Mind the Gap,” Henze examines the Jewish texts written during the four-century period between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We talked to Henze about these forgotten Jewish books and why they matter.
Q. Isn’t the Bible already complete? What’s missing?
A. The Bible has only preserved some of the books that were in circulation in ancient Israel. There were many others. The Jewish community in Egypt, for example, had a different collection of venerated books than those of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Qumran community, which left us the Dead Sea Scrolls, considered some books authoritative that were not venerated in Egypt or in Jerusalem. The libraries of ancient Israel were much larger and more diverse than our Bibles today.
Q. Why is it important to read the literature that got left out? A. Like any other religion, the
religion of ancient Israel changed over time. Jesus lived in the first century CE, but the last books of the Old Testament were written in the fourth century BCE — that’s a gap of almost half a millennium. Israel’s religion went through some dramatic changes during those years. Imagine you’re hosting a visitor who knows nothing about the United States. She marvels at the culture and the technology, our high-rises and our ethnic diversity. To help her understand it, would you tell her, “Just read the Constitution, and everything will be clear”? That’s the modern equivalent of trying to
explain Jesus’ Judaism by reading the Old Testament. The Jewish world of the New Testament would be unrecognizable if all you knew was the Old Testament.
Q. Can you give some examples of what changed during the gap years? A. Luke wrote in his Gospel that
on the Sabbath day, Jesus went to the synagogue, “as was his custom.” There are no synagogues in the Old Testament. Jesus’ disciples call him “rabbi.” There are no rabbis in the Old Testament. Jesus debates with the Pharisees. There are no Pharisees in the Old Testament. These are just some of the religious institutions that were unknown at the time of the Old Testament that came into existence during the gap years, and that are simply taken for granted in the New Testament.
Q. What are we missing when we study the Bible without this context? A. Most Christians today know
very little about the Jewish world of the New Testament. This has led some to make exaggerated claims about the originality of Jesus. That’s the sad part — the long history of antagonism between Christians and Jews, much of which stems from the erroneous belief that Christianity has somehow replaced Judaism. Reading the ancient Jewish texts outside the Bible helps to correct this misperception and to understand Jesus within his proper Jewish context. — REVIEWS BY JENNIFER LATSON m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 19
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What’s it like to live through a 500year flood? Rice’s residents were safe throughout the storm that dropped 31 inches of rain on campus, and students responded with cooperation and compassion during the campus closure. Along with our fellow Houstonians, many in our community suffered traumatic losses of homes and property — and benefited from generous acts of volunteerism. Harvey’s challenges continue — and Rice’s expertise and innovative minds are ready to meet them.
P H OTO BY J O R DA N A N D E R S O N
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What’s a county judge got to do with emergency management? In Harris County — just about everything.
In the Eye of the Hurricane
I BY FRANZ BROTZEN ’80 PHOTOGRAPH BY TOMMY LAVERGNE
n 2007, former Texas legislator Ed Emmett ’71 was appointed county judge of Harris County — the most populous county in Texas and now the third-largest county in the U.S. He was elected to the position the next year, then re-elected twice. His title is a bit of a misnomer — Emmett neither presides over a court of law nor is he an attorney. The office leads the commissioners court, the powerful governing body that presides over the Harris County government, and manages the county’s office of emergency management. During the storm, Emmett was often the face of the emergency communications, delivering critical updates in a calm and no-nonsense manner. It was the fourth — and by far the worst — major storm emergency he’s managed since becoming the county’s chief executive. On Sept. 22, Franz Brotzen ’80 sat down with the former president of Lovett College for a conversation about that experience and what changes Emmett sees for the area in Harvey’s wake. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 23
Judge Emmett and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn talk while touring the NRG Center evacuation shelter, Sept. 4
DURING A WEATHER CRISIS, HOW DO YOU MONITOR WHAT IS HAPPENING? Harris County has the largest and the best emergency operations center in the country. We’re all in one room in the TranStar facility — it has 98 workstations and a command operation. On Aug. 24, we went to Level 1 — or full 24
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activation — and stayed that way for more than a week. We have all of the county and city officials, METRO, state officials, nonprofits like Red Cross, law enforcement, military assets, federal assets and the Coast Guard in there. We are all NIMS certified, which is the National Incident Management System. We can monitor all the air traffic and the marine traffic. So when an emergency comes, everybody knows their job, and I become the face of that operation. We also have a website, readyharris.org, that had over 3 million individual users during Harvey.
WERE YOU EXPECTING MORE OF A WIND EVENT OR A RAIN EVENT, OR BOTH? We were always preparing for a rain event, with some wind and no storm surge. We knew it was going to be bad. I don’t think anybody could have thought it would be as bad as it was. When Harris County got almost 52 inches of rain, that’s a national record. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES EARLY ON? Through no fault of anyone, a lot of the assets that were supposed to be coming in to help from the state and Red Cross couldn’t get here because the highways were flooded. On Sunday [Aug. 27] during the day, that was when I said, “OK, if you have a boat and you want to help, call this number.” There were two reasons behind that. One, as I understood it, people were
I’ve seen where the state says this, the county says that and the city says something else. People don’t want to see that. They want everybody to be on the same page.
going to put their boats in the water to help whether I asked them to or not. Consequently, that meant we were going to try and coordinate it a little bit. But the other reason was that no government entity had enough boats to rescue people, and the waters were so high that high-water vehicles couldn’t work.
WHEN DO YOU MAKE THE DECISION TO TELL PEOPLE TO EVACUATE? Of course, that was one of the big issues: “Why didn’t you evacuate?” We never considered it. To do a mass evacuation, you have to start days in advance. Everybody saw that during Rita in 2005. You have to put everybody on the road. Days in advance would mean we’d shut down all businesses in Harris County.
P H OTO BY J U ST I N S U L L I VA N / G E T T Y I M AG E S N E W S
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A COUNTY JUDGE IN TEXAS? Most people don’t understand that under Texas law, the county judge in every county is the director of homeland security and emergency management. So I’m in charge of emergency management for the county, including the city of Houston and the 33 other cities within the county, plus the unincorporated part of the county. I’m not a [court of law] judge; I’m not even a lawyer. In any other state, I would be called a county executive. We interact with the state and FEMA and all those organizations. Even requests to declare an emergency come from the cities to the county, and then I push them on to the state. Back when Bill White was mayor and Hurricane Ike was coming, I understood that people know what a mayor is — they don’t necessarily know what a county judge is. So it’s important that Mayor Turner and I do joint press conferences. I’ve seen where the state says this, the county says that and the city says something else. People don’t want to see that. They want everybody to be on the same page.
IN ADDITION TO BEING IN CHARGE OF THE FLOOD EMERGENCY, YOU HAD A FAMILY MEMBER IN HARM’S WAY. My daughter’s family was evacuated from Braes Heights when their street was flooded and many homes were taking water. In their case, they were lucky. Their garage flooded, but the water did not get into their house. WHAT WENT RIGHT DURING THE WHOLE EMERGENCY? What went right was everybody cooperated. We didn’t have a lot of finger-pointing, and we were able to use assets that we wouldn’t normally — like private boats and UPS — when Harris County opened the NRG shelter. That was a spectacular thing. Early on, Angela Blanchard, CEO of BakerRipley [formerly Neighborhood Centers], set the tone. She said, “Look, we do not have evacuees; we have guests.” They had a Main Street, a grocery store and a pharmacy. They had basically a field hospital at NRG. Our team cooperated with the city, METRO, TxDOT — everybody — so we prevented many deaths [in underpasses known for previous deaths]. During Harvey, as with previous rain events, the overwhelming majority of deaths occurred when people drowned in or near their vehicles. That is why it is important for people to stay inside. One story you may not know: Remember there was an elderly couple
We’ve had three 500-year events in the last two years. That tells me either our definition of a 500-year event is wrong or maybe we’re going to be free and clear for the next 1,500 years.
during the Memorial Day flood who the Houston Fire Department rescued? The [rescue] boat overturned and they drowned. Their grown children were trapped this time. I got a text from Martin Cominsky, who’s the president and CEO of Interfaith Ministries. He told me that story, and we were able to make sure they got out. Some people might say, “Why are you prioritizing?” Sometimes you do.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY? I would make sure that we were in charge of the shelters so we wouldn’t have to scramble around and borrow things to make sure people get out of harm’s way. We have almost 20,000 people in Harris County who are members of the Community Emergency Response Team program, or CERT. They’re trained as volunteers. Now that we’ve
identified this need for boats, high-water vehicles and other assets, we’re going to bring those into the CERT process.
NOT JUST THE CAJUN NAVY? They were helpful, but we had other people show up in bass boats and didn’t have enough life preservers. We want to formalize a civilian boat corps to augment the first responders because governments are never going to have enough boats to respond. EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY HAS HEARD ABOUT THE ADDICKS AND BARKER RESERVOIRS AND HOW THEY FLOODED NEIGHBORHOODS AFTER THE STORM ITSELF. WHAT’S TO BE DONE THERE? Well, this is a broader issue. Downtown Houston was inundated in 1929 and 1935. That led to the creation of the Harris County Flood Control District in 1937 and the building of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs by the Corps of Engineers. And of course those were built so far out of town that people thought they were going to protect everybody. But now we have people living around them and even have homes built inside the reservoirs! That should never have happened. Before 1984, when the county was given some authority over building in the incorporated areas, the county had no way of stopping people — you could build wherever you wanted to. And those [homes] are now built in the 500-year
floodplain. Well, we’ve had three 500-year events in the last two years. That tells me either our definition of a 500year event is wrong or maybe we’re going to be free and clear for the next 1,500 years. I’m not betting on the latter. I think we have to recognize we’re living in a changed environment.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES NOW? We are developing a comprehensive flood control plan that will seek new reservoirs, completion of projects on all watersheds, a major home buyout program for those areas that continually flood and a renewed push for the county to have more control over development. On a broader front, I will continue to push for a different method of governance and funding for Harris County. It is basically an urban area saddled with an out-of-date structure and finance. WHAT DOES #HOUSTONSTRONG MEAN TO YOU? You know, those of us in Texas tend to say, “We take care of ourselves.” I think the truth is most places do. Another example of that is the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which was formed by me and Mayor Sylvester Turner and has raised more than $70 million. The funds are being distributed to nonprofit organizations that provide direct relief to the victims of Harvey. None of the funds go to government agencies. ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 25
THE HOME TEAM BY LYNN GOSNELL PHOTOGRAPH BY JEFF FITLOW 26â€ƒ
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Making It Work
In addition to the 3,000 residential college students normally on campus, off-campus students were invited to stay with friends and eat in the serveries. One of the immediate problems that arose, noted Jerusha Kasch, the director of institutional crisis management, was “sustaining our campus population with the food storage on hand.” Mark Ditman, associate vice president of H&D, had faced this challenge numerous times in his more than 20 years at Rice. “We’re prepared to easily feed
For the staff who ride out the storm, planning and preparation take center stage — but improvisation steals the show.
T H I S PAG E A N D FO L LO W I N G : C O U RT E SY O F THE OFFICE OF HOUSING AND DINING AND RUPD
ong before the last case of bottled water disappeared from the shelves of every grocery store in Houston, Rice staff members were deep into storm prep mode. Grounds personnel boarded up windows; cleared debris from drains, roofs and roads; and secured construction sites across campus. Generators and campus vehicles were fueled up. Dining managers ordered extra helpings of nonperishable food — two tractor-trailers full, in fact — which were chained down in delivery bays as a precaution against high winds. Building crews installed flood gates around vulnerable entrances and stairwells, and radios were tested. These tasks are part of standard operating procedures, said Kathy Jones, associate vice president for Facilities Engineering and Planning. “In terms of a hurricane, we have an emergency preparedness plan. Once the storm moves into the Gulf, we rally the troops to go over it.” A critical part of such plans is to designate “essential personnel” to stay on campus for the duration of the crisis — the ride-out teams. About 150 Rice staff members from the offices of Housing and Dining, Facilities Engineering and Planning, and Rice University Police Department and other key personnel functioned as the ride-out crew. In advance of the storm, these staff members went home to prepare their families before trading their regular work shift for a 24-hour stay. They set up cots in offices; some teams stayed in a nearby hotel. Along with the Crisis Management Team and college magisters, deans and RAs, the ride-out crew took care of the Rice community, its people, classrooms and research facilities — and our hungry resident squirrels. When Harvey’s challenges defied the unexpected, the ride-out crew improvised.
Left: FE&P staff member John Ramirez boards up windows at Jones and Martel colleges in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 25 Right: Martin Preferred Foods employee delivers food to West Servery, Aug. 25 Below: Ken Whitmire, Sid Rich magister, prepares food in the college’s kitchen
people for three days at any time,” Ditman said. “The big surprise [of Harvey] was just how long this thing lasted.” Ditman was one of more than 50 H&D staff members who volunteered to ride out the storm on campus or in a nearby hotel. “We rationed a bit, offering brunch and dinner for a few days,” Ditman said, which is the same dining schedule normally offered on Sundays. “Nobody complained,” he said. When the produce companies couldn’t make deliveries and the serveries ran low on perishable foods, a high-clearance loaner vehicle was found to make the resupply run. When Rice administrators decided to open the Sid Richardson College kitchen for meals Sunday, Aug. 27, many cooks were not able to get to campus. The magister, RAs and students stepped in to help Chef Sarah Finster prepare, cook and serve meals. “Sarah trained a small army of Sidizens to work in the kitchen … until the regular H&D kitchen staff was able to return to work,” said Ken Whitmire, Sid Rich magister. “Chopping fruits and vegetables really got some of the students excited and happy to help with meal m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 27
Water, Water Everywhere
When Hurricane Ike hit Houston in September 2008, the rideout team spent one day on campus. Harvey’s five-day ride out was “very unusual,” said Jones. During Harvey, 40 FE&P staff members worked around-the-clock, making daily early morning rounds, cleaning drains and responding to reports of leaks across campus, including flooding in the basements of Allen Center and Rice Memorial Center. Through the emergency website, the Rice community could monitor which buildings were affected and follow the progress of repair, a communication policy designed to reassure concerned faculty and student researchers. “This was a severe water and rain event,” said Bart Salmon, assistant vice president for facilities. “We didn’t see winds at more than 30–35 miles per hour.” Though new to Rice, Salmon is no stranger to Houston and its storms, having experienced hurricanes Rita, Ike and Gustav while working as a regional facilities director for a major retailer. More than once, the ride-out team’s quick response prevented minor damage from turning into major headaches. For example, in Tudor Fieldhouse’s basement, a sump pump tripped and didn’t re-activate, resulting in a pool of water 6 feet deep. The solution, caught on a short video, was to have plumber John Ramirez commandeer a kayak from the rec center and paddle in. Once the electrical system and the pump were repaired, the water naturally drained away.
Standing Up for Students and Community During Harvey, Chief James Tate stayed on campus with almost 40 RUPD staff members and officers. The ride-out team moved onto campus Friday, and the rain started Saturday night. “When we woke up Sunday morning, we realized we had a mess,” Tate said. While dealing with high water across campus, which forced officers to get around by bike and foot, some unanticipated requests — and one very welcome offer — came through dispatch. By a stroke of luck, Jeff Myers, a local businessman and the husband of Rice alumna and computer science lecturer Risa Myers ’13, had a high-clearance truck that he offered to loan to RUPD. “One thing we didn’t anticipate were the calls for help from students who were stranded off campus,” Tate said. The most dramatic example was the rescue of two international graduate students from their off-campus apartment building near Brays Bayou. Biosciences graduate student Sapna Chhabra was one of the students calling for assistance in escaping her secondfloor apartment. Below her, all of the first-floor apartments 28
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Above: Chef Johnny Curet, director of campus dining, feeds students at Seibel Servery just days after Harvey Left: The grounds crew removes a fallen tree after the storm, one of seven trees that succumbed to Harvey on Rice’s campus Right: RUPD and Rice EMS staff members transport evacuees to safety in Jeff Myers’ high-clearance truck
were flooded. Capt. Clemente Rodriguez and officer Jermaine Fazande used Myers’ truck to maneuver as close as possible to the apartment, then took turns walking through the dark, shoulder-deep water to the apartments. Fazande led Chhabra by the hand back to the truck. “It was the scariest walk of my life,” she said. Rodriguez found the second student, and soon they were both in dry, safe dorm rooms on campus. “Everyone was super helpful,” said Chhabra. That same day, an urgent request came from the National Guard to land on Rice’s stadium parking lots. Over a two-hour period, eight helicopters landed, depositing dozens of people needing transport to nearby medical centers and those seeking shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. Officers and Rice EMS students helped move the evacuees — many of them senior citizens — from the helicopters to Myers’ truck or other transport vehicles. “It was a really humbling and noble thing,” Tate said. “None of us could have predicted that.” Myers drove some of the evacuees to shelters himself. “In emergency situations, the plan you have is not always going to be the solution,” said Tate. “You’ve got to be able to figure out how to make this work and be safe. I’m so proud of our folks.”
T H I S PAG E : A L L P H OTO S C O U RT E SY O F T H E O F F I C E O F H O U S I N G A N D D I N I N G ; FAC I N G PAG E : P H OTO BY B R A N D O N M A RT I N
prep,” Finster added. “I’m really proud of our staff,” said Susann Glenn, manager of communications for H&D. “One thing we know how to do is take care of people.”
Above: Rice undergraduate students help clean a staff member’s house in northwest Houston
In Harvey’s wake, the Rice community mobilized hands, hearts and minds to help a stormtossed Houston.
he generosity of spirit that characterized Rice’s immediate response to Harvey’s devastation took many shapes. It would be impossible to recognize and enumerate all the hours spent by everyday heroes who lent a hand by sorting food and clothing, making room for guests, carrying soggy drywall to the curb and the most emblematic post-Harvey activity — mucking out houses. Volunteers played music, gave out toiletries and took care of other people’s young children. As a community, we wiped sweat and listened to stories. We cried for our friends and for our city. The needs of the city were as vast and swiftly changing as the waters that overflowed the bayous. The Rice community met these needs with hearts, hands and minds, creating a thoughtful and caring framework for volunteering. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 29
By Sunday morning, Aug. 27, the widespread flooding and destruction caused by Harvey’s record-breaking rainfalls were apparent — and growing worse. Rice administrators closed the campus and canceled classes. A tireless Crisis Management Team continued to meet, monitor forecasts, respond to problems caused by flooding on campus and issue timely messages to the Rice community. Rice’s campus was holding up, but how were our off-campus students, staff and faculty doing? The solution to that looming question, said Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, was to create a simple datagathering instrument — a needs assessment survey. Klara Jelinkova, vice president for IT and chief information officer, led the team that built the survey, making it easy to fill out on mobile dev ices. Launched Monday afternoon, Aug. 28, the survey asked seven questions: What is your address? Do you have children? Has your house sustained water damage? Has your vehicle sustained water damage? Do you have power? Do you have access to the internet? What else do we need to 30
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know about you and your family? “You can actually answer those seven questions in about 90 seconds,” said Miranda. “The total number of Rice students, faculty and staff is about 12,000. A little over 3,000 of them live on campus in our residential colleges, so that leaves just under 9,000 whom we wanted to fill it out. We ended up getting 7,900 completed surveys.” The answers to the survey questions combined with institutional information produced a treasure trove of data that would drive decisions throughLeft: Volunteers out the week — and into the post-Harvey recovery make sand- period, shaping Rice’s financial and other support wiches at programs. CongregaFor example, the survey confirmed that many tion Emanu El on Sunset staff, faculty and students were displaced from Boulevard their homes. The IT team built a temporary housing matching tool, where people who had space to offer Right: could register to help Owls who needed shelter. With Samara Mendez, lead so many schools flooded across the city, child care bus driver, loomed as a big concern; in response, temporary child went above and beyond care partners were found. A carpool tool helped get to transport those without cars to work. An Employee Disaster people when Assistance Program began offering grants and lowother drivers interest loans to faculty and staff for Harvey relief. were unable Finally, in the open-ended question, people wanted to to access campus know how to help. A Rice hurricane relief fund was Above: Lillie Besozzi ’16, senior associate director at the Doerr Institute, coordinates volunteers through R-HAT’s phone bank
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set up to support Rice employees and students who have been affected by the storm and support Rice outreach activities to benefit Houston in its recovery efforts.
Hurricane Harvey by the Numbers
Genius Crisis Response
As Rice students rushed to help displaced Houstonians, a collaborative effort to provide targeted relief to the city and our Rice community members was in development. The Rice Harvey Action Team (R-HAT) began as an idea to recruit and match teams of Rice volunteers with nonprofits and individuals needing help after Harvey. The Doerr Institute for New Leaders, the Center for Civic Leadership and student government organizations ran the project, drawing in expertise from around the university to make it work. “The provost had this vision of a robust endeavor to engage the student body in volunteering, and she wanted them to be engaged and contributing to the Houston community,” said Tom Kolditz, director of the Doerr Institute. Students were already going out on their own, responding to media reports about where volunteer needs were. “The students were so eager to get out and help members of our Rice community and other affected Houstonians,” said junior Justin Onwenu, Student Association president. But Rice had the resources to create a truly coordinated response.
13 trillion 31 inches gallons of rain over southeast Texas.
of rain fell on Rice’s campus; 15 inches on Aug. 27.
150 Rain totals during Harvey were as much as Houston typically gets over the course of
people (75 percent from Facilities, Housing and Dining, and Rice Police Department) remained on campus for five days to feed students, assess damage, clear debris and remediate flooded buildings.
Rice’s Kinder Institute estimates that 120,449 single-family homes and 924 multifamily homes in Harris County were affected by Hurricane Harvey, impacting 660,964 people.
Approximately 1,450 Rice employees received water damage to their homes; 500 reported damage to vehicles.
300,000 to 500,000 cars and trucks owned by individuals were destroyed because of Hurricane Harvey.
cars moved off surface lots into garages;
cars on campus were damaged. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 31
› The needs assessment survey revealed which faculty, staff and students had sustained damage to their homes. › Phone banks contacted those who had not responded and those who said they had damage to see if a volunteer crew was needed. › The Center for Civic Leadership polled nonprofit, service learning partners to verify where, when and how many volunteers were needed. › Tools — including hammers, gloves, face masks and crowbars — were purchased. › An email signup registered volunteers from the Rice community. An online tool called “SignUpGenius” was used to organize each volunteer shift, and safety check-ins were built in to make sure teams returned safely to campus. “[The R-HAT office] felt kind of like a startup,” said computer science professor Dan Wallach, who served 32
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Above: A Rice student volunteers at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, Sept. 1 Right: Jessica MuñozRoper ’10 helps run a pop-up animal shelter
as “the IT guy” throughout the week, sending thousands of emails to prospective volunteers and setting up SignUpGenius pages. Rice volunteers began concentrating their volunteer efforts through R-HAT, streaming across the city and joining up with partners like the emergency shelters, Crosspoint Church, the Jewish Community Center, Black Lives Matter: Houston, Congregation Emanu El, animal shelters and individual homeowners. “A lot of us were not able to easily go back to our normal classes and work without thinking about all these people who lost everything,” said Ewa Nowara, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering. “I think it’s awesome that Rice had this very easy way of signing up.” Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4, R-HAT registered and sent out more than 1,400 volunteers who contributed 7,600 hours of volunteer work. In all, demo crews visited 70 homes. When Caroline Quenemoen, the director of inquiry-based learning at the Center for Civic Leadership, looks back at what the R-HAT team accomplished in that whirlwind week, she’s especially gratified by the way Rice helped its own community. “For me, it was really important that there was an internal [Rice community] as well as an external [citywide and regional] focus. Rice helping Rice saved efforts for the rest of the city, and we heard that from city leadership.” Sophomore Carly Frieders worked in the NRG Center’s emergency shelter for a shift and then went to muck out and “do demo” for a Rice staff member’s home. “We helped pull up flooring, pull out some of the drywall, set all the trash and rubble out on the
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By Tuesday evening, Aug. 29, the R-HAT framework had officially launched. The labor-intensive effort had many working parts:
A Practical Guide to Flood Recovery Robert M. Raphael, associate professor of bioengineering, is a flood recovery expert. In less than three years, his Meyerlandarea house has flooded three times. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Raphael shared his hard-won expertise about remediation and recovery via “A Practical Guide to Flood Recovery.” The fourpage document is chock-full of detailed advice as practical (“Soak flooded clothes in Clorox 2 for Colors, and wash twice.”) as it is empathetic (“The recovery is worse than the event.”). Here are a few tips. Read the entire document at magazine.rice.edu.
1. You’ve just been through trauma. This is not the time to make major decisions. 2. If the house still has power, set the air conditioning as low as possible to slow down mold growth.
6. Beware of scams and do not pay anyone until you know what your insurance company is going to cover. 7. Most of the remediation you can do yourself — it’s not hard. (See document.)
3. As soon as you can get in the house, set up a dehumidifier or two. You can buy these at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
8. If you don’t like using bleach, there are products like OdoBan and Concrobium Mold Control you can buy at Lowe’s.
4. Get all your wet items — carpets, furniture, etc. — out of the house as soon as possible.
9. Throw out porous items; clean nonporous items with disinfectants or bleach solution.
5. Be sure and photograph damaged items for the insurance adjuster.
10. Consult your local social media: On Facebook, Houston Flood 2015 & Beyond: Support & Resource Group.
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Raphael chose to end with a sense of perseverance that mirrors Houston’s spirit: “When I went into my house two days after Harvey flooded it, I was thinking I should just demolish it. A few days later, when the sun came out and the house began to dry, my thoughts drifted to what I decided after the past two floods: I can save this house.”
curb,” she said. “[People] were really resilient in the face of everything that had happened.” Alumna Ly Nguyen ’17 helped clean out the home of four brothers who are Rice staff members. “It’s devastating, because I know they’re not losing just material things. There are a lot of memories in this house. There’s a lot more to it than just drywall being lost, wooden furniture and everything.”
Harvey’s Long Tail
Hurricane Harvey’s legacy to the region includes many economic, social and policy challenges. For Rice, the next phase is to leverage university expertise — public health, environmental impact, educational equity and regional planning, for example — in ways that will make a real difference in the city and region. A key vehicle for this will be a new initiative, the Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (Rice HERE). Staff and faculty research proposals for the first round of funding were due in late October. R-HAT is still setting up volunteer opportunities throughout the city and has transitioned to working with the Student Association, the Rice Student Volunteer Program and the Graduate Student Association. Student leaders have expressed both pride in their engagement during the crisis and a true desire to continue being involved in the recovery. In a recent Rice Thresher opinion piece, Onwenu and seniors Madeleine Pelzel and Maurice Frediere wrote, “The volunteer needs will continue beyond news reports of the disaster, beyond our immediate memory of ‘the week we didn’t have school’ and beyond tasks that can be immediately related to hurricane relief.” Sydney Gibson, president of the Graduate Student Association, said that post-Harvey recovery will be the focus of graduate student service projects throughout the year. In addition to volunteering, Quenemoen expects students to engage in long-term academic projects with faculty and community partners. “I think this is just the beginning.” ◆ Additional reporting by Jeff Falk, Taegan Howells ’18, Kyndall Krist, Amy McCaig and Mike Williams. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 33
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After the Deluge When it comes to flooding, how does Houston become a smarter, more resilient city? Rice researchers and storm experts weigh in.
BY ALLYN WEST ILLUSTRATION BY DAN PAGE
ven as Hurricane Harvey hung over Houston, collecting the warming waters of the Gulf of Mexico and converting them into the 51 inches of rain that flooded neighborhoods as far apart as Meyerland (southwest Houston) and Kashmere Gardens (northeast Houston), Jim Blackburn was working, helping the city envision a poststorm future. Blackburn teaches environmental law at Rice, where he also co-directs the SSPEED Center, a university-based research and education center focused on severe storms. On Aug. 31, just two days after Harvey relented, he published an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle laying out 12 steps Houston could take to deal with flooding. For Blackburn, there wasn’t a moment to waste. “It should be a catalytic and pivotal event for Houston,” he said. “As bad as Harvey was, there’s a worse storm coming in the future.” About a week later, he published an expanded list of recommendations for Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. These range from repairing the aging Addicks and Barker reservoirs in far west Houston to heeding the advice of climate change experts. “How we respond to this horrible reality,” he wrote, “will determine the economic future of our region.” How we respond is just one of the questions that the region now faces as flooded residents hang new drywall and replace carpet. How will we respond to glaring inequities of access to emergency services and basic necessities and to a death toll that has crept beyond 70? Many Houstonians feel at a loss, either stunned by the destruction of their own private property or daunted by the prospect of Blackburn’s “worse storm.” How can we go through this again? How should the city rebuild and the region prepare to become more resilient? There is no shortage of questions, and Blackburn is among the Rice scholars, professors and graduates who are searching for answers. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 35
Research But first, we need good data. Jie Wu, the director of research management at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, has been working on collecting public Harvey-related data sets and publishing them to the Kinder Institute’s Urban Data Platform — all free, online and in one place. To date, there are 17 sets available on the platform, providing information and maps crucial to, for example, the release of toxic chemicals from industrial facilities or the way FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program defines floodplains. “We want to make [the data] available to everyone,” she said. For Wu, collecting these data sets encourages civic engagement. Wu and her team at the Kinder Institute are also undertaking a needs assessment before meeting with the city of Houston and Harris County to help understand how best to allocate the $84 million in donations collected for Harvey relief through the Greater Houston Community Foundation. “We talked to people involved in the Hurricane Sandy recovery and who collected data after Katrina,” Wu said. “They shared lessons learned about how we [can] use data to inform decision-making.” Similarly, Jamie Padgett, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is researching ways floods can affect the city’s critical transportation infrastructure, like bridges. “Officials … have to spend millions to restore [them],” she said. “We’re trying to offer information [to get] a better sense of how our transportation infrastructure performs over time.” Phil Bedient, as the SSPEED Center’s director, has long advocated adopting regional solutions that mitigate the effects of Gulf Coast hurricanes. “Given that we live in a flood-prone area, we can ease the impact of flooding,” Bedient said. In one project, Bedient, the Herman Brown Professor of Engineering, is working to expand the flood alert system his team designed and successfully implemented along Brays Bayou beginning in 1997. This system, which has worked accurately during 50 major storm events, measures heavy rainfall and predicts how high water levels will rise. But there are many areas of the city and region that lack any early warning system in floodprone watersheds. 36
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Why not remove “underperforming structures” like Greenspoint Mall, which struggles to keep tenants, and convert them into “green infrastructure” like the Willow Waterhole, which doubles as a series of stormwater detention basins when wet and a park when dry?
Rethink The threat of storms worse than Harvey necessitates a shift away from the city’s “business as usual” thinking of building whatever, wherever, and toward establishing new regional goals — maybe even a new regional identity. “Similar to how we started thinking differently about security and terrorism after 9/11, we’re thinking about drainage and planning in a different way because we’ve been through trauma,” said Richard Johnson of Rice’s Shell Center for Sustainability. Even before the devastation of Harvey, the city’s widespread use of “impervious surfaces” was the subject of much criticism. Johnson argues that we need to get rid of some of that pavement and restore prairies and wetlands. Why not remove “underperforming structures” like Greenspoint Mall, which struggles to keep tenants, and convert them into “green infrastructure” like the Willow Waterhole, which doubles as a series of stormwater detention basins when wet and a park when dry? “No city can survive 51 inches without having some flooding,” said Andrew Dessler ’86, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University. “But when I look at [what happened during] Harvey, that’s not resilience.” A warming climate, Dessler said, will lead to more serious droughts, more intense rain and more severe storms. “[It was] 50 inches this time. Maybe it’ll be 70 or 100 inches at some point in the future.” Atmospheric science, storm water management, landscape architecture, urban planning, regional development — for Blackburn, the way forward for Houston includes embracing the best practices of all these disciplines.
“Engineers have been a dominant force in this community, and I think it’s time for them to share that responsibility,” he said, adding that new economic models — a tax for more robust flood infrastructure, for example — might be necessary too. If these best practices are put in place, it just might lead to the genesis of a Bayou City that learns to live with water.
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Redesign “You want to do more than solve the flooding problem,” said Albert Pope, the Gus Sessions Wortham Professor of Rice Architecture. Pope wants to “make room for the water,” arguing for a thorough redrawing of the FEMA floodplain maps using Harvey’s information. “Shrinking the floodplains is no longer viable,” Pope said. “What we need to do is respect [the floodplains] and build the city around them, rather than building the city around the premise that we can eliminate them.”
He argues for a “phased withdrawal” of buildings from the floodplains that could continue over the next 50 years — about the life span of a building, he said. This process wouldn’t be simple, and he warns against gentrification. “You can’t just rip out a neighborhood. The way the city connects to the bayous is different for every neighborhood, and such a withdrawal needs to be carefully designed to respect the people living there now and the investments they’ve made.” Pope sees benefits in a city that is increasingly dense and vertical, as well as programmatically oriented around the Houston Parks Board’s Bayou Greenways 2020 project, which aims to create 150 miles of hike-and-bike trails and parks along the city’s major bayous. Similarly, Johnson imagines the “green fingers” of the bayou greenways running across the city, providing equitable access to recreational opportunities as well as spurring low-slung Houston to “reurbanize.” “It can’t be high-rises anywhere,” Johnson said, but Houston could create corridors of high-rises along the light rail in Midtown and the Museum District. “This is a moment in time when we need to make a hard shift to a mid- to high-rise city on higher ground.” Would this Houston — one that makes decisions using good data, one that respects the volatility of a changing climate, one that relies on a variety of solutions to deal with flooding, and one that grows up, not out, with large, lush stretches of parks and trails surrounding and protecting its bayous — be more resilient? The SSPEED Center’s directors are both optimistic. “Finally, we’ve got the attention of the decision-makers, and universities are front and center on these projects,” Bedient said. “If there’s any place in the world that can do it, it’s Houston,” Blackburn said. “It’s a funny place to look for the global leading response to resilience, but that’s squarely in front of us.” ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 37
WORD POWER By Jennie Dorris
DR I A NA R A M Í R E Z ’05 ST O OD in the front of a small reading room in the basement of City of Asylum, a literacy center in Pittsburgh. She puts a binder on a music stand and looks at the audience. “I apologize. It’s going to get a little bloody,” she said. And it did — quickly. Ramírez read from her forthcoming nonfiction book, “The Violence,” which is based on the story of her family and the Civil War in Colombia during the 1940s and 1950s. She sketches out the brutality that was inflicted — one family member has her arm amputated; another loses his life. “The Violence” will be published by Scribner in 2018, and Ramírez was weeks away from her deadline. The stories she tells, all oral histories from her Mexican-Colombian family, could be considered the Colombian version of “Angela’s Ashes.” But first she had to wrestle with the stories themselves. She’d hear a riveting story about how someone died, just to have someone else call it a lie. She tried to track down what song was playing on the radio on a given day, only to find that all of the radio station’s records were destroyed when it burned down in the 1970s. She needed time to sort out the stories and arrange the opening chapters. Earlier this year, she won the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh Prize, which bought her a much-needed, all-expenses-paid month of writing in Brussels. “We were so proud to announce Adriana, because she has a unique voice and a strong trajectory as a writer — she is really committed to transforming Pittsburgh through the power of words,” said Silvia Duarte, assistant director of City of Asylum. Ramírez’s love for writing started as a teenager when she wrote what she deprecatingly calls “emo poetry.” She also had a love for theater and sought out open mics to perform. When she moved into Lovett College at Rice University, she found a new opportunity for her love of poetry performance. “A friend asked me to go to a poetry slam on campus. I ended up entering and getting third place. The next thing I know, I’m on the poetry slam team,” she said with a laugh. Ramírez helped turn the slam into an official campus club — RHAPSODY, which stands for “Rice Has a Poetry Slam, Oh Damn Yo.” She hosted the slams in the black box theater in the basement of Lovett, which she developed into a working space for performances
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— she built the light box, directed and wrote plays, and built sets for the different productions. Off the stage, she wanted to see her writing in print, so she started writing reviews for The Rice Thresher. “I walked out [of Rice] with a very well-rounded renaissancestyle education that really gave me things to write about,” she said. The roots she put down continued to grow. Ramírez moved to get her MFA at the University of Pittsburgh, where she would begin “The Violence” as her thesis. Outside of class, she found Pittsburgh’s performance poetry group, Steel City Slam. She ended up running the group for the next decade. She met her husband, Jesse Welch, also a slam poet, and together they started a youth branch of the slam. After earning an MFA, Ramírez taught classes at the University of Pittsburgh in creative writing, composition and literature, and later taught nonfiction at Carlow University. She also uses publishing for activism; she runs a small press with Welch to publish writers who might not otherwise be published, and she co-founded Aster(ix) with novelist Angie Cruz to publish women of color. “The mission is to nurture a space where innovative works by artists, and mainly women of color, can live and be in dialogue with each other. We are both Latina women who wrote books. We care because if we don’t create spaces for writers like us, who will?” Cruz said. In 2015, Ramírez won the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize for her nonfiction novella, “Dead Boys.” In 2016, she joined the Los Angeles Times as a book critic at large. Her writing and critiques, she said, work together. “In a way, the critic’s role is to demystify. My creative work is absolutely about how to demystify and trying to understand what’s happening.” Ramírez still carries Rice with her in multiple ways — the most literal of which is an owl tattoo on the back of her left shoulder. Her old friendships from Lovett are still thriving; she sends Rice friends first drafts of her writing to read and critique. And as she gets known in the writing world for balancing her quick wit and warm personality with the grit of difficult subjects, she credits her education for helping her learn that edge. “I love that I know how to read and talk about politics. I’m not just writing for the sake of writing. I have things to say.”
PHOTO BY HEATHER KRESGE
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SALUDOS, VENEZUELA By David D. Medina
S V ENE ZUELA DE SCENDS INTO political and economic chaos, Pablo Henning ’16 is taking a stand in Houston. He has created a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide humanitarian aid to the people in his home country. Saludos Connection was officially created this year by Henning, with the help of his mother, Maria Cristina Manrique, and fellow Rice alum Ujalashah Dhanani ’15. “Our mission is to facilitate access to health care, nutrition and education in Venezuela,” Henning said. The group collects donations of money and medical supplies, such as analgesics, antibiotics, bandages, gloves, surgical tools, sutures and syringes, and sends them to Venezuela. “The reason we exist is because the government has outlawed international aid,” Henning explained. According to a recent New York Times article, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refuses to accept help from other countries even though the shortage of food and medicine has reached a critical level. “Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing Venezuela apart have converged,” the article noted. “Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Often cancer medicines are found only on the black market.” At a recent benefit concert, Saludos raised more than $3,000 to buy medicine and pay a private courier to ship the supplies. In Venezuela, the group has partnered with SOS Somos Portuguesa and Hospital Ortopédico Infantil — two nonprofit organizations that work in poor communities where people are dying from malnutrition and dehydration caused by parasites. “Thank God for Saludos,” said Maria Alejandra Ramos, who founded SOS Somos Portuguesa (Portuguesa is a state in Venezuela). “We have helped 1,500 children with the supplies they have sent. Their help is very much appreciated, and we hope to continue collaborating with them,” said Ramos, who came to Houston to attend the benefit. Every day, she takes the medical supplies in a jeep to remote villages that lack health care centers. “The work is hard, but that doesn’t stop us. Our passion to care for the children is stronger than the difficulties.” Long before he started Saludos, Henning was active in making people aware of the crisis in Venezuela. When he was a junior at Rice in 2014, he organized two rallies on campus to help draw attention to and support student protests in his home country.
PHOTO BY TOMMY LAVERGNE
“People were aware that something was going on in Venezuela, but they didn’t understand why students were protesting there,” Henning said. At Rice, Henning double majored in art history and bioengineering with a focus on global health technology. He participated in the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, where he was part of a team that designed a low-cost, rugged syringe pump called AutoSyp, a machine that delivers intravenous drugs or fluids in controlled amounts. AutoSyp was designed for use in developing countries and has the potential to save millions of babies and pregnant mothers. With Rice 360°, he also spent a summer at a cancer hospital in Barretos, Brazil, where he developed clinical information for a melanoma screening device. After he graduated, Henning sought a job where he could use his knowledge and skills. He found it by helping his mother. For years, Manrique and her expatriate friends had been helping people in Venezuela, and then last year began sending small amounts of medical supplies through suitcases. But when the situation became critical, Henning decided to turn this informal aid network into a nonprofit to expand its activities and reach. “Everything I learned at Rice, especially with Rice 360°, I was able to use in managing Saludos,” he said. “Everything I learned in my second country, I was able to use to help my first country.” Henning is now managing director of Saludos. He doesn’t earn a salary and lives with his parents. In creating Saludos, Henning enlisted the help of Rice classmate Dhanani, who was a premed student and worked in several clinics and shelters in Vietnam. A Muslim-American whose parents came from South Asia, Dhanani said he joined Saludos because he wanted to help people who suffer. “Those tortured people are my people, in the same way that Indians and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Nepalis are my people, because we are all people.” Dhanani works 40 hours per week as a volunteer and earns a slight income by tutoring students who are preparing for the Medical College Admission Test. Another friend of Henning’s, Katherine McElroy ’16, also volunteers with Saludos by helping to organize, catalog and pack the donated supplies. “Pablo has brought in a vision that will help Saludos flourish through connecting the Venezuelan and non-Venezuelan communities for a common cause of caring for those who cannot care for themselves,” she said.
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NIGHT OWL A series that profiles Owls whose work takes flight at night
You’re Looking Swell By David McKay Wilson 42
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ITH A BATON IN HIS RIGHT HAND, Andy Einhorn ’04 conducts a 23-piece orchestra from a podium underneath the Shubert Theatre stage, as a sold-out Broadway audience revels in the latest hit revival of “Hello, Dolly!” His left hand extends out of the orchestra pit, making grand sweeping gestures that direct the musical’s singers, which includes star performer Bette Midler, who has returned to Broadway for a one-year run. Einhorn is the show’s musical director and, during performances, serves as a lively conduit between stage and audience. As the musical unfolds, he hunches over to listen for cues amidst the waves of applause, holding his finger out to signal the musicians to play. He beams when his favorite song — “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” — reaches its feel-good conclusion. “You can feel the audience smiling when we play that song,” Einhorn says. “It makes people vibrate with euphoria.” After a song ends, he scribbles notes to share during the next rehearsal, when the PHOTO BY MICHAEL NAGIN
cramped dressing room, with its electric keyboard, three pressed tuxedo shirts, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a box of Brach’s jelly beans, for which Einhorn confesses an obsession. He picks at a salad before heading upstairs to take up his baton. “Hello, Dolly!” marks Einhorn’s return to Broadway, a year after he did “Holiday Inn” at the Roundabout, and three years after he was the musical director of Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.” Those Broadway engagements were
a musical since 1964. Einhorn’s second interview sealed the deal. “She started on the stage, and then moved to movies and concerts,” says Einhorn. “How would she sustain herself for a year, doing seven shows a week? I coached her through all the material. We had a great rapport.” The show is playing to sold-out audiences, with last-minute attendees paying as much $1,800 online for an orchestra seat. The musical swept the 2017
★★★ In her acceptance speech for winning the Tony for best leading actress, Midler enthusiastically praised her musical director: “Thank you to the man who kept me from crashing and burning a million times — Andy Einhorn.”
show’s fine-tuning continues, day after day, week after week. “Our DNA as musicians is to grow and change, to have an element of humanity inside of it,” he says in his dressing room during intermission. “It’s always a fine line between what has been set, and how it gets performed night to night.” On this July evening, Einhorn had arrived well-rested after his backup led that day’s rehearsal. He needed a break. The two previous days, he’d run auditions for the revival of another Broadway classic, “Carousel,” which he’ll conduct in 2018. He prepares for the evening in his
stops along Einhorn’s joyful journey in the upper echelons of New York’s worldrenowned musical scene. In April 2016, he conducted the New York Philharmonic, which featured jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and his trio, at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He also had a two-month run in Paris with Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Passion.” All the while since 2011, he has worked as six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald’s musical director and pianist, accompanying her at Carnegie Hall, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. Growing up in Houston, Einhorn performed at the Alley Theatre and Theatre Under the Stars. At Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, he started out in voice, then switched his major to piano. Midler’s star power gave her the privilege of selecting the musical director for “Hello, Dolly!” Einhorn recalls that he was among 10 who sat for interviews with the Divine Miss M, who hadn’t done
Broadway awards season, winning best musical revival from the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and the Tonys. In her acceptance speech for winning the Tony for best leading actress, Midler enthusiastically praised her musical director: “Thank you to the man who kept me from crashing and burning a million times — Andy Einhorn.” As the curtain falls this evening, Einhorn blows Bette Midler a kiss. He trades his tuxedo for a T-shirt and jeans and takes the train to 107th St. to hear a friend’s band perform at a neighborhood tavern. He says tonight’s performance reminds him of his answer to Midler’s question of why someone his age wanted to do “Hello, Dolly!” “I told her I always wished I was born in the Golden Age of Broadway, when Rodgers and Hammerstein and Jerry Herman were pop composers of the day,” he recalls. “That’s old Broadway. To relive it again in 2017 would be a real dream come true.” m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 43
c re at i ve i de a s a n d e n de avo r s
Mickalene Thomas Waiting on a Prime-Time Star
By Adrienne Rooney L I G H T R A I N S H O W E R O N LY
added to the glistening evening when “Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star” opened at the Moody Center for the Arts, Sept. 28. The exhibition kicks off the center’s inaugural fall season by celebrating women of color and posing questions about representation. It’s also Thomas’ first solo show in Texas — a groundbreaking moment for the Moody. Brooklyn-based Thomas confronts race and gender with resplendence in the large-scale paintings, photographs and collages on view. Without doubt, the women in her works are powerful and 44
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MOODY CENTER FOR THE ARTS Sept. 28, 2017– Jan. 13, 2018 Free admission Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday For directions, parking and more, go to moody.rice.edu.
vibrant, including Sandra Bush, Thomas’ mother and muse who appears throughout the galleries. Thomas’ visual vocabulary springs from Western art history — particularly French impressionism, European modernism and pop art — and popular culture. Likewise, her practice connotes African photography, such as 20th-century studio portraits by Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, and the collages of American artist Romare Bearden. The latter referents are acutely present in the Moody’s Central Gallery, which features a re-creation of the living room display Thomas builds in her studio for her sitters. Patterns dominate the
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space — from vinyl dark wood to veiny foliage, African wax print to gingham cloth. The artist’s artworks along with records and literature she feels might be familiar to the sitters enrich 1970s décor. Books by well-known African-American authors pepper the space and remind us that while Thomas’ works celebrate women of color, they also speak to journeys in the African diaspora, black identity and belonging in the United States. Thomas once said, “From my experience in Western art history, when you see images of black women, they’re generally depicted in positions of servitude or looked at through an anthropologiLEFT cal perspective. I was interested in “Tamika sur une chaise longue avec whether I could change those perMonet,” 2012 spectives with the art that I made.” Rhinestones, acrylic, oil and In certain ways, each of her works enamel on meets this challenge. wood panel Some on view at the Moody do 108 x 144 inches so directly by reimagining canoniRIGHT cal paintings of white women by “Interior: Blue Couch with white male artists. For instance, Green Owl,” 2012 “Tamika sur une chaise longue avec Rhinestones, acrylic, oil and Monet” (2012) is one of several works enamel on that visually paraphrases Édouard wood panel 108 x 84 inches Manet’s seminal “Olympia” (1863), a painting already quoting an art BOTTOM Detail of a roomhistorical icon from the Italian sized tableau by Renaissance. Manet depicted a Thomas installed black woman in a servile position at the Moody
standing behind the white, reclining Olympia; in contrast, Thomas foregrounds Tamika, who, strong, sensual and black, is herself the star of the piece. Appropriately, the exhibition’s title comes from a 1977 painting by artist Robert Colescott (1925–2009), known for recreating iconic Western paintings with a twist; most notably, he included black figures where none were depicted. Like Colescott, Thomas intervenes in the state of contemporary representation through an engagement with painful misrepresentation in history, and her command of color, social critique, and wit helps embolden and honor those she photographs and paints. “Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a PrimeTime Star” was organized by the Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 45
a rt s & l e t t e r s | A lu m n i b o o k s
When I came up with the idea for the book, I was reading memoirs of amnesia patients. After they recover from the injury that caused amnesia, they just get sent home, and people rely on friends and family to tell them who they are. From the memoirs, I found that friends and family weren’t always honest. That’s when I knew it could be a book. Jane had the chance to reinvent herself instead of just accepting the identity given to her.
You build suspense well in this book and your other novels. It’s impossible to put the book down. What’s your trick?
Jeff Abbott ’85 “Blame” (Grand Central Publishing, 2017) OVER THE LAST 23 YEARS and 19 books, Jeff Abbott ’85 has mastered the art of writing a thriller. He’s kept readers captivated as they follow his popular series’ protagonists — a CIA agent, an unconventional Gulf Coast judge and a small-town Texas librarian — through skillfully crafted twists and turns. “Blame,” The New York Times bestselling author’s fifth stand-alone novel, takes readers to Abbott’s hometown of Austin. It tells the tale of Jane Norton, a young woman who still suffers from amnesia and social isolation two years after she crashed her car, killing her friend, David. After an anonymous message on her Facebook page suggests the crash wasn’t an accident, Jane sets out to solve the mystery of that fateful night and discover who she once was. 46
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I always try to raise another question as soon as I answer one. I like having cliffhangers at the end of chapters. You can put all this drama into your book, but if readers aren’t invested in the character, they’ll put the book down. I try to get readers invested in not only Jane’s situation, but also Perri, who’s the dead boy’s mom and Jane’s enemy in the book. I make it as hard as possible to put the book down, because I know there are a thousand other things to compete with your time.
“Blame” is only the second novel you’ve written that has a female protagonist. How was it to write from a woman’s perspective?
I was actually kind of nervous. But fellow thriller writers who are women felt I could do it, that I could be fair with the character. It was probably more intimidating to write her as a teenager. At the time, I lived in
a house with two teenagers — my sons, one who’s a freshman now at Rice — so I had two observational subjects at home.
What is it about thrillers that attracted you to the genre?
They have a clear ending. When I got out of Rice, I tried to write a literary novel; it wasn’t terribly interesting. But I always loved reading mysteries and thrillers — stories that had resolution. After graduating, I entered part of a mystery manuscript I’d been writing into a continuing studies writers conference at Rice. The judges were professional mystery novelists. They said, finish this and send it to New York. That was my first book.
Which book have you most enjoyed writing, and which of your characters do you feel the most connected to? “Blame” is my favorite book, and Jane is my favorite character. It’s usually the last book I’ve written and the character in that book, but Jane is someone with a lot of resolution and nerve. My family’s home in Austin burned down this summer. We lost a lot of relics from our past. Jane goes from nothing to having her life back. It’s kind of strange that a character you created can be inspiring to you. She got through it, and so can we. We’re going to rebuild.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Right now, I’m dealing with insurance, which is the world’s worst hobby. I spend time with my family (we have two dogs), I read a lot and I’m a movie buff. I walk a lot. My life is really kind of boring, but I’ll take it as it is. — INTERVIEW BY DEBORAH LYNN BLUMBERG
P H OTO BY L E S L I E A B B OT T
Jane’s struggle with losing her memories from the two years before the crash is a central theme in “Blame.” What intrigued you about amnesiacs?
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ON THE BOOKSHELF The Old and the Lost: Collected Stories Glenn Blake ’79 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) IN “THE OLD AND THE LOST,” the title of one
of the stories in this collection, a son journeys home to Southeast Texas to check on his elderly father in the aftermath of a major hurricane. Author Glenn Blake ’79 walks readers past shattered windows, dirty rings of debris and azaleas killed by salt water. “Two hundred,” he says. “One hundred. Fifty miles out. And then the storm stopped. It just stopped. It just sat out there and strengthened. Category four. Category five. It crept up and down the coast. And we just sat there. We just sat there and waited. This was the day before landfall. This was the night before they came for us. And then the storm started coming in, and the lights started going out, and everyone started screaming.” The images in his tale, one of 14 in Blake’s recent short story anthology, are all too familiar after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas’ southeast coast in August, flooding homes and businesses in its path. In “Old River,” a woman’s search for her missing cat after a hurricane leads her to a local animal shelter where she frees all the dogs. In another story, a character wonders “what this country was like before there were ferries, before there were bridges. Bayous and swamps. Rivers and sloughs. No way in. No way out. Who in his right mind would’ve settled here?” Blake sets his vivid, haunting stories in the back swamps and bayous of East Texas where he grew up. His tales center around the themes of water and loss. With his elegant yet straightforward descriptions, he brings the bodies of water — and the often-impoverished working-class residents of these small Texas towns — to life. Readers can smell, hear, see and taste this corner of Texas. Blake studied English at Rice and thought he’d be a poet but then detoured into short stories. He later taught at Rice, University of Houston and Johns Hopkins University. He is a senior editor at Boulevard magazine, and his short stories have appeared in publications including American Short Fiction, Boulevard, Southwest Review, The Hopkins Review and Gulf Coast.
Rewrite Man: The Life and Career of Screenwriter Warren Skaaren by Alison Macor (University of Texas Press, 2017) IN AUGUST 1988, Lucy Fisher, Warner Brothers’ executive vice president of production, called screenwriter Warren Skaaren, a 1969 Rice graduate, at his Austin home. There’s a problem with the “Batman” film, she told him. The studio liked the script, but it needed help. At the time, Skaaren was the go-to guy in the industry for bringing tepid manuscripts to life. He worked his magic, and “Batman” went on to gross more than $400 million. Writer and film historian Alison Macor came across Skaaren when she was at researching her first book, “Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas.” Captivated by an archival trove of audio recordings, journals and Hollywood memorabilia, as well as Skaaren’s untimely death at age 44 from bone cancer, she started to research his career. Macor takes readers from Skaaren’s early days as the first executive director of the Texas Film Commission in 1970 at age 25 to his work on some of the most successful films ever. His rewrite of “Top Gun” convinced Tom Cruise to stick with the film, and he transformed the “Beetlejuice” character into a mischievous scene-stealer. He did it all from Austin, and in the process became a friend and confidant to Hollywood stars like Cruise, Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson. However, despite his wild successes, Skaaren remains largely unknown.
A Million MFAs Are Not Enough Charles Harper Webb ’70 (Red Hen Press, 2016)
In “A Million MFAs Are Not Enough,” Charles Harper Webb ’70 laments the current state of poetry in the United States, where the “queen of the arts” languishes in a tiny corner of the cultural basement, and he offers solutions. In 16 topical essays, Webb gives tips for readers and writers alike and paints a picture of what makes a great modern-day poem. The best poems, he says, give pleasure and are understandable the first time through, but they reward rereading with increased pleasure, depth and resonance. “Poetry has much to offer the twenty-first century reader,” he writes. “It can tell a story with precision and speed, explore and dramatize psychological states, map the path of awareness, and follow imagination as it leaps, squirms and flashes through the mind.” — REVIEWS BY DEBORAH LYNN BLUMBERG m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u 47
Rescuing History By Jeff Falk AFTER
H A RV E Y
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P H OTO S : J E F F F I T LO W
H O RT LY
dropped over 50 inches of rain on Houston, Rice’s Joshua Furman, a Jewish studies postdoc, and Melissa Kean ’00, Rice’s centennial historian, spearheaded an effort to save flood-damaged historical documents and records at Congregation Beth Yeshurun and the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston (UOS). The two synagogues sustained an estimated $10 million in damage, according to media reports. “In Harvey’s aftermath, I began to worry that [synagogue] records — photographs, bulletins, commemorative books, rabbinical sermons, and other rare and irreplaceable documents — might be lost,” said Furman. The two went to UOS and Beth Yeshurun to assess the damage to the collections and assist with cleanup and recovery. “The most important [rescued] documents so far are almost certainly the records of Beth Jacob and Adath Emeth, two of the synagogues that combined to form United Orthodox,” Kean said. “The minute books of Beth Jacob go all the way back to the founding of that congregation in the 1930s and contain historic information that could simply never be replaced. At Beth Yeshurun, a great number of documents and religious school photographs from classes largely from the 1960s and 1970s were also saved.” There are deep ties between Rice and Houston’s Jewish community going back to the opening of the institute in 1912, Kean added. Rice’s Jewish studies program is working with the Woodson Research Center to set up an archive of Houston’s Jewish history.
UNCONVENTIONAL Maurice Frediere’s ’19 Rice journey began when financial aid made it possible for him to attend the university. When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, he drew upon his experience tutoring students in Houston’s Fifth Ward, an internship with the city of Houston and his Rice coursework in urban planning to launch a clothing drive within the residential colleges. A few days later, he was working side by side with Rice faculty, staff and student leaders as a member of the Rice Harvey Action Team (R-HAT), sending thousands of Rice students to shelters and cleanup sites around the city. After a whirlwind week of early mornings and late nights, Maurice could reflect on this unconventional feature of his Rice education and how he was able to choose Rice.
“Scholarship support speaks to Rice’s overarching values. It shows that there is truly a place at Rice for people who are willing to do the work and who have the ability to take what we learn here and make a positive impact.” Read Maurice’s full story at giving.rice.edu/maurice.
unconventional. unlimited. uncharted. unmatched.
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A Universe of Questions This composite image shows the distribution of dark matter, galaxies and hot gas in the core of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520, formed from a violent collision of massive galaxy clusters. The natural-color image of the galaxies was taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii.
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RICE PHYSICIST FRANK GEURTS STUDIES THE TINIEST COMPONENTS OF MATTER
— subatomic particles called quarks and gluons, the building blocks of protons and neutrons. Quarks are the root of everything around us — rocks, trees, humans, stars and oceans. Without quarks, there wouldn’t be matter as we know it. But here’s a conundrum, says Geurts: When you take the mass of individual quarks, they don’t add up to anything even close to the mass of a single proton or neutron. Where is all the proton’s mass coming from? What makes mass? Such answers hold the key to understanding dark matter and dark energy, substances that make up more than 95 percent of the known mass in the universe, yet still elude the grasp of physicists like Geurts. Inspired by a new book by Jorge Cham, the creator of PHD Comics, and physicist Daniel Whiteson ’97, titled, “We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe,” we asked Rice researchers in a range of scholarly disciplines to tell us what they don’t know. What burning questions light their scholarly universe? Look for their answers in the Winter 2018 issue.