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| Rice iPhone App


| Childhood Obesity


| Rice in Top 20


| Baby Bubbles


The Magazine of Rice University


| Magical Grottos


No. 7 | 2010

Back ack With a Bang An O-Week Tradition

Contents 17



Leading biochemist George McLendon joins Rice as the university’s new provost.


Latin American expert Nicolas Shumway is named dean of the School of Humanities.

Gulf Coast residents dread hurricanes for good reasons, and there are more good reasons not to become complacent.


12 6 9

A popular forage and turf grass may be hiding a dark secret.

Sick of waiting in checkout lines? Your wait may soon be over.

11 Once again, Rice is

named a Best Place to Work.

12 iPhone owners are

the beneficiaries of a new app from Rice Information Technology.

On the cover: Smiling faces and excitement filled the campus as Rice welcomed the Class of 2014, its largest, most diverse freshman class ever.


What role do private foundations have in supporting religion? More than you might think.

All hail Valhalla! There’s one way that food can help fight childhood obesity.



Features 18 Writing Reality

14 For a budding scientist, this has to be the greatest payoff ever to a summer job.


15 She saw seashells, but not by the seashore.

Religious Studies Professor Jeffrey Kripal contemplates the intersection of consciousness and the material world, wherein the boundaries of both are breached to reveal a realm of mystery.

16 Baby Bubbles is one of the latest lifesaving devices invented by Rice students. 17 The Rice Thresher wins two top-10 awards.

By Christopher Dow

22 Hip-Hop Is HERE When most people think of hip-hop, Rice University is not the first place that comes to mind. Maybe it should be.


24 Human(ities) Interaction The Humanities Research Center has become one of Rice’s most far-reaching scholarly enterprises.

40 Magical grottos graced Rice Gallery for its Summer Window Series. 41 Rice’s newest art gallery may be small, but it’s sparking big interest.

By Christopher Dow

How does one define love? Is it a roaring flame? A passing fancy? Or an adventure that unfolds over time? For Joe and Ann Hightower, it’s making a haven for those in need.


44 What does it mean to think beyond humanism?

30 The House That Jess Built In its 60 years, the awesome Rice Stadium has had its fair share of lively history.

44 He’s one the best trial lawyers in the country, and he has a few tips for young attorneys.

By David Kaplan

Rice is not only talking the sustainability talk, it’s walking the walk and making green strides along the way.

Bookshelf 42 It’s not often that a father gives his daughter a postapocalyptic world filled with bloodthirsty vampires.

By Mike Williams

32 Attaining Sustainability

Arts 38 The sign in the foyer of the Texas Children’s Hospital reads, “Heal Sick Children.” Sometimes that takes a little soothing music.

By Jenny West Rozelle

28 Home Is Where the Heart Is

15 Two students’ spin on a culinary device advances medicine in underdeveloped countries.


45 Poetry collection for young people encourages a balanced life that melds fun with work, hearty doses of scampishness and honesty. 45 A lot of hats will protect you from the sun, but few are as iconic as the American sunbonnet.

B y Tr a c e y R h o a d e s

36 From Institute to University


Rice historian John Boles traces the recasting of Rice from an institute to a full-fledged university.

46 When Anthony Rendon was selected 2010 College Player of the Year, it confirmed what many Rice fans already suspected.

By John Boles

48 Tennis anyone?


Rice Magazine

No. 7




Rice Magazine No. 7

The Human Equation From its inception, Rice University has been known for its excellence in the sciences and engineering. But through the years, Rice has built on that reputation with many other distinguished disciplines and programs: the Shepherd School of Music, the School of Social Sciences, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the School of Architecture, to name just a few. This issue of Rice Magazine celebrates the School of Humanities. Rice’s School of Humanities was formalized in 1959, but its roots go back to William Marsh Rice’s charter, which provided for the establishment of an “institute for the advancement of literature, science and art.” Our first dean of humanities was William H. Masterson, and this summer we welcomed the school’s newest dean, Latin American expert Nicolas Shumway, whom you can read about in this issue. Led by a world-class faculty, the School of Humanities offers programs in disciplines traditionally associated with the humanities — art, classical studies, literature, history, philosophy, languages and religion — but in recent years humanists have been pushing disciplinary boundaries to explore in all its ramifications what it means to be human. The sheer range of Rice’s humanists is exemplified in two of our features, both of which concern the work of religious studies faculty members. For those of us who have an image of such scholars spending their time delving into dusty manuscripts in the Vatican Library, Anthony Pinn’s research into hip-hop culture in Houston and Jeffrey Kripal’s studies of the nature of reality as revealed through paranormal experiences are as surprisingly unconventional as they are strikingly dissimilar. We also look into the inception, development and activities of the Humanities Research Center. By bringing scientists, engineers, musicians and social scientists together with researchers in the humanities, the HRC has become one of Rice’s most far-reaching scholarly enterprises — and one that consistently reaches outside the hedges to a wide audience both in Houston and internationally. There are many more pieces on humanities at Rice in these pages, but learning what it means to be human need not be directly related to specific disciplines, only to uplifting examples of heartfelt human interaction. For a touching example, be sure to read about the Hospitality Apartments, a project conceived by Joe and Ann Hightower that provides free housing to low-income patients at the Texas Medical Center. And on a similar note, you’re sure to enjoy the story about the musical outreach efforts of the Shepherd School’s Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program. Rice’s Centennial Celebration is in sight, and we continue our coverage of historic Rice milestones with several articles, not the least of which are a profile of Rice Stadium on its 60th anniversary and an essay by John Boles, noted Rice historian, on the change in name from the Rice Institute to Rice University. And for the Rice warrior in you, there is a piece on Valhalla’s 40th anniversary, with a link to a slide show of the celebration. Surveying these stories and the many others in this issue, it is clear that the Vision for the Second Century — the 10-point plan for the university’s future initiated by President David Leebron’s Call to Conversation in 2005 — has augmented the span of ambition and imagination established at the founding of Rice as an “institute for the advancement of literature, science and art.” By providing fertile ground for the health of Rice’s environment of discovery, learning and experience, it enriches our humanity, and it helps us produce Rice’s distinctive product: unconventional wisdom. Explore the humanities at Rice: Christopher Dow

Corrections In the story “Global Reach” in our last issue, the name of the country Colombia was misspelled Columbia. Our apologies. The photos for the feature “Music in the Aria” were taken by Ted Washington.


Published by the Office of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, vice president Editor Christopher Dow Editorial Director Tracey Rhoades Creative Director Jeff Cox Art Director Chuck Thurmon Editorial Staff B.J. Almond, staff writer Jade Boyd, staff writer Franz Brotzen, staff writer Jenny West Rozelle, assistant editor David Ruth, staff writer Jessica Stark, staff writer Mike Williams, staff writer Photographers Tommy LaVergne, photographer Jeff Fitlow, assistant photographer The Rice University Board of Trustees James W. Crownover, chairman; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; D. Kent Anderson; Keith T. Anderson; Laura Arnold; Subha Viswanathan Barry; Suzanne Deal Booth; Robert T. Brockman; Nancy P. Carlson; Douglas Lee Foshee; Susanne Morris Glasscock; James T. Hackett; Larry Kellner; Robert R. Maxfield; M. Kenneth Oshman; Jeffery O. Rose; Lee H. Rosenthal; Hector de J. Ruiz; L. E. Simmons; Charles Szalkowski; Robert B. Tudor III; James S. Turley; Randa Duncan Williams. Administrative Officers David W. Leebron, president; George McLendon, provost; Kathy Collins, vice pr esident for Finance; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Ron Long, interim vice president for Investments and treasur er; Chris Muñoz, vice president for Enrollment; Linda Thrane, vice presi dent for Public Affairs; Richard A. Zansitis, vice president and general counsel; Darrow Zeidenstein, vice president for Resource Development. Rice Magazine is published by the Office of Public Affairs of Rice University and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, graduate students, parents of undergraduates and friends of the university. Editorial Offices Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, T TX X 77251-1892 Fax: 713-348-6757 E-mail: Postmaster Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 © AUGUST 2 010 RICE UNIVE RSITY



McLendon Appointed Rice University Provost George McLendon, a leading biochemist and former dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University in North Carolina, has been named provost of Rice University. The Texas native took over his new post July 1. McLendon succeeds Eugene Levy, who had served as provost since 2000. Levy will take a one-year sabbatical before returning to Rice to teach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and to serve as senior fellow for science policy and education at Rice’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. “George McLendon has a stellar reputation as a scientist, entrepreneur, academic leader and intellectual, and we are thrilled that he has joined Rice as our new provost,” President David Leebron said. “Gene Levy created a wonderful legacy in his decade as provost, and I am confident that George will continue to move Rice along its trajectory to become one of the best research universities in the world.” McLendon, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has served as dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences as well as dean of Trinity College since 2008. Trinity is Duke’s liberal arts college and has 635 faculty members in 36 departments and programs. McLendon was first named dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Prior to his career at Duke, he served as chair of Princeton University’s Department of Chemistry from 1996 to 2004. He also taught and served in several leadership roles at the University of Rochester from 1976 to 1995. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, McLendon earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1972 and his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Texas A&M in 1976. He is widely recognized and published in the field of chemistry and biochemistry and won the 1990 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry from the American Chemistry Society as well as Guggenheim and Sloan research fellowships. His current research focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, stroke and other diseases. He has founded several biotechnology startup companies, including TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals, which works on cancer diagnosis and therapeutics. “I am excited to be joining Rice as the next provost — the opportunity of working both with President Leebron and a terrific slate of deans is compelling,” McLendon said. “As a native Texan, I also am happy to be returning home. I look forward to working with many stakeholders to advance Rice to even greater prominence among the country’s best universities.”

As a native Texan, I also am happy to be returning home. I look forward to working with many stakeholders to advance Rice to even greater prominence among the country’s best universities. —George McLendon

—Linda Thrane

Rice Magazine

” •

No. 7



Rice Elects Four New Trustees

By B.J. Almond

Rice has strengthened the business, social justice and legal expertise on its board of trustees with the election of four new members, which brings the number of Rice trustees to 24. Their four-year term began July 1.

Laura Arnold

James T. Hackett

Larry Kellner

Charles Szalkowski

Laura Arnold co-founded the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which invests in innovative strategies to address the country’s most significant social justice issues, including poverty and education. Previously, she was executive vice president and general counsel of Cobalt International Energy in Houston — a position she held until late 2006. Prior to that, she was a mergers and acquisitions attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York City. A member of the New York State Bar Association, Arnold has a J.D. from Yale Law School and an M.Phil. in European studies from the University of Cambridge. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a B.A. in government. After law school, Arnold clerked for Judge Judith W. Rogers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She is an adjunct professor of management at Rice’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business and a member of the national board of directors for Teach For America. She also chairs the Civil Service Commission of the City of Houston and serves as a trustee of the Baylor College of Medicine and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

James T. Hackett is chairman and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., one of the world’s largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies. Previously he had been president and chief operating officer of Devon Energy Corp. following its merger with Ocean Energy, of which he had served as chairman, president and CEO. Ocean Energy itself was the result of a merger with Seagull Energy Corp., where Hackett had been chairman, president and CEO as well. He has held high-level positions at Duke Energy and PanEnergy and also has energy experience in engineering, finance and marketing with NGC, Burlington Resources and Amoco Oil Co. Hackett has a B.S. from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Harvard University. He is an adjunct professor of management at Rice’s Jones School. Currently chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and chairman of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Hackett also serves as a director of Fluor Corp. and Halliburton and as a board member of the American Petroleum Institute, the National Petroleum Council and other industry associations. He is vice chairman of the board of Baylor College of Medicine and the former chairman and now a member of the Houston Grand Opera’s board.

Larry Kellner assumed his new role as president of Emerald Creek Group, a Houston-based private equity firm, earlier this year after stepping down as chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines — a position he held since December 2004. He joined the airline in 1995 as chief financial officer and was elected president of the company and to the board of directors in May 2001. He became president and chief operating officer in 2003. His pre-Continental career included positions as executive vice president and chief financial officer of American Savings Bank and as executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Koll Company, a private real estate investment and construction firm. Kellner graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in business administration from the University of South Carolina, which honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998. He is vice chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership and serves on the board of directors for Marriott International and on the development board of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Kellner also is a member of the board of directors for the Methodist Hospital, YMCA of Greater Houston and the Spring Branch Education Foundation.

Charles Szalkowski ’70, ’71, a senior partner and general counsel of Baker Botts L.L.P., has represented public and venture-backed companies and their investment bankers and investors for more than 30 years. He counsels private equity funds, hedge funds and institutional investors, including large insurance companies, Rice and other universities, and other endowments. He has been general counsel of Baker Botts since late 2005. A former president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA) board, Szalkowski has served as a committee or board member with numerous departments, schools and organizations of Rice University. Most recently, he served on the Humanities Research Center advisory board, as a judge for the Rice University Business Plan Competition and as a member of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship advisory board. He chaired the Rice University Fund Council and has helped raise money for the Rice Annual Fund and various capital campaigns, and he was recognized in 1995 for his efforts on Rice’s behalf with the National Philanthropy Day volunteer award. He received a Meritorious Service Award from the ARA in May.




“Rice will benefit greatly from Nick’s expertise in Latin America as the university advances its initiative in building relationships and programs across the Americas.” —David Leebron

Shumway Named Dean of Humanities Nicolas Shumway, former chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, has been appointed dean of humanities at Rice University, effective July 1. He succeeded Allen Matusow, who served as interim dean since July 1, 2009, when Gary Wihl stepped down to become dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Matusow will continue to serve on the faculty as the William Gaines Twyman Professor of History. Shumway, who was the Tomás Rivera Regents Professor of Spanish at UT, also was chair of the Program in Latin American Studies at Yale University and has served as a visiting professor in Argentina and Brazil. “Nicolas Shumway has a demonstrated record of success of building innovative programs of the highest quality,” President David Leebron said. “Rice will benefit greatly from Nick’s expertise in Latin America as the university advances its initiative in building relationships and programs across the Americas.” As dean, Shumway is responsible for 12 departments, four centers and four interdepartmental programs involving the study of literature, history, philosophy, the arts, languages and religion. “Rice is a wonderful school,” Shumway said. “It combines great accomplishments with great potential. It’s hard not to be seduced by such a university.” Shumway has been involved with foreignlanguage education and international studies throughout his 35-year career. “I hope to help Rice develop even deeper relations with the international aspects of the city of Houston,” he said.

“Rice is a wonderful school. It combines great accomplishments with great potential. It’s hard not to be seduced by such a university.” —Nicolas Shumway

His scholarship explores Latin American history and culture with particular emphasis on Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. He also studies advocacy and politics in the foreign-language classroom, ideologies of Hispanism, Latin-American writers and studies in Spanish–American literature. Shumway joined UT’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese in 1993. He was graduate adviser and chair of graduate admissions during 1994 and 1995. He served as director of UT’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies from 1995 until 2006, when he was appointed department chair. While at UT, Shumway was awarded Fulbright honors twice. As a Fulbright Professor, he taught at Universidade de São Paulo in spring 2000. In 2004, he received a five-year appointment as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Studies. Prior to UT, Shumway served on the faculty of Yale University from 1978 to 1993 and occupied several administrative positions there. In addition, he has served on the executive council of the Modern Language Association, the largest professional association in humanities. He is the author of “The Invention of Argentina,” which the New York Times Book Review cited as a “notable book of the year.” The book also received honorable mention for the Bryce Wood Book Award given by the Latin American Studies Association. Shumway said the book appeals to both an academic and a general audience and continues to sell well in both Argentina and the United States. —B.J. Almond

Rice Magazine

No. 7



As the nation debates the rise of childhood obesity, a new study by Rachel Tolbert Kimbro ’01, assistant professor of sociology and a Rice Scholar at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, finds that subsidized meals at school or day care have beneficial effects on children’s weight. The study, titled “Federal Food Policy and Childhood Obesity: A Solution or Part of the Problem?,” found that federal food programs were more likely to help solve the childhood obesity epidemic than serve as a source of the problem. The article appeared in the national policy journal Health Affairs.

School Lunches Fight Childhood Obesity

Read the abstract:

› ›› 57

“Although it is counterintuitive that increasing access to school food is a way to prevent obesity,” wrote Kimbro and her co-author, University of Houston Assistant Professor of Political Science Elizabeth Rigby, “we found that young, low-income children who participate in the National School Lunch or Child and Adult Care Food programs have a reduced risk of obesity at age 5. And we know that early childhood weight problems are a key predictor of obesity later in childhood. Of course, school meals will do the most to prevent obesity when they consist of healthy foods of high nutritional value and when they are available to the children who need them most.” In the study, Kimbro and Rigby looked into the relationship between food assistance and body mass index (BMI) for low-income, young children who are a primary target population for federal food programs as well as for efforts to prevent childhood obesity. With roughly one-third of all children in the U.S. overweight and an estimated 16 percent obese, efforts to evaluate such programs have increasing importance. Some food assistance programs began as a way to alleviate hunger rather than prevent obesity, so Kimbro and Rigby focused on children between the ages of 3 and 5 who receive benefits from a variety of federal programs. They examined the effect of each type of assistance on the children’s weight and controlled for simultaneous participation in other programs. The results of the study, Kimbro and Rigby wrote, demonstrated that “participation in federal food assistance programs can affect the BMI of young children.” But those effects vary according to the type of program or programs the children participate in as well as “the food environment in which these programs are experienced.” In particular, the study found that food assistance programs that subsidize meals were more effective at combating childhood obesity than programs that provide financial assistance to purchase food. Therefore, they recommended “increasing outreach to child care providers not participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, providing schoolwide presumptive eligibility for Title I schools (schools with large low-income populations) and instituting summer food programs for school children and their families.” Kimbro and Rigby also urged all federal food assistance programs to increase the nutritional value of the food they provide. Finally, the researchers underscored the importance of geography. Variations in food prices among cities can hamper efforts to control childhood obesity. Policymakers “need to take seriously this important role of local context, in which the same federal program, with the same federal guidelines and benefit plans, can have a different effect in some parts of the country compared with others.” Kimbro and Rigby plan to follow the children in the study as they grow older to monitor the relationship between food assistance and their weight trajectories. —Franz Brotzen




The Role of Private Foundations in Supporting Religion

Brains and Bronze

Although millions of Americans make individual contributions weekly at their places of worship, a new study by a Rice University sociologist finds that private foundations have a disproportionate influence on the religious sector — despite the fact that their contributions constitute only a fraction of all philanthropy to religion.

What do former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan have in common with Rice University’s founding president? Soon, they all will have been immortalized in bronze by noted American sculptor Bruce Wolfe.

Private foundations are influential in religion “because of their institutional independence, financial resources and unique ability to redirect energies within an institutional field,” wrote co-authors D. Michael Lindsay, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice, and sociologist Robert Wuthnow, director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton, in “Financing Faith: Religion and Strategic Philanthropy.” Published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, it is the first major study of foundation giving to religion. The authors examined all grants between 1999 and 2003 reported by private foundations to the Foundation Center, which maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grants and grantmakers. They chose that five-year window because it represents a time that included both significant economic expansion (1999–2000) and retraction (2001) in the U.S. economy. During that period, the Lilly Endowment Inc. was by far the biggest donor to religious organizations. It awarded 1,473 grants totaling more than $677 million. In second place was the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, with more than $94 million in contributions. The Lilly Endowment “has infused hundreds of thousands of dollars into the religious sector with a strong preference to developing the leadership capabilities of pastors and church staff members. Over the last decade, the endowment has allocated nearly $500 million to various programs across the country with the goal of recruiting, training and sustaining high-caliber ministry professionals.” This kind of directed giving has real impact, according to the study. Federal tax policy has played a significant role in affecting religious philanthropy, Lindsay and Wuthnow found. The Tax Reform Act of 1969 both defined “private foundations” and regulated their activities. Since then, federal legislation has shaped philanthropic giving by delineating a number of charitable giving vehicles, including donor-advised funds and supporting organizations. The authors reached several major conclusions, one of which is that private foundations have significant, strategic resources that allow them to set agendas in the religious sector, even though foundation giving is only 5 percent of all religious giving. Second, social conditions such as rising secularism, religious pluralism and globalization pose significant challenges for the religious sector. And finally, foundation giving may very well reshape the religious sector in the years ahead. The study was supported by the Aspen Institute, with logistical support from the Center for Civil Society at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Rice recently commissioned a nearly 8-foot bronze statue of Edgar Odell Lovett that will be placed in front of Keck Hall, where Lovett gave his last speech as Rice’s president. The university is seeking support from the Rice community to fulfill its plans for the statue and hopes to unveil it during Rice’s Centennial Celebration in 2012. “Rice is the outgrowth of the vision, direction and leadership of one man: Edgar Odell Lovett,” said John Boles ’65, the William Pettus Hobby Professor of History. “His ambitions for Rice and years of dedicated service shaped the entire university, and his influence permeates Rice even today.” The Wortham Foundation, whose founder, Gus Wortham, was a Rice trustee from 1946 to 1962, provided a $300,000 challenge grant to cover almost half the statue’s cost. Rice must raise the remaining $400,000 from its alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends. “The Rice Art Committee unanimously selected Wolfe for his remarkable skill in creating dynamic likenesses,” said trustee emeritus Raymond Brochstein ’55, who chairs the committee. He noted that the Lovett statue will be a valuable contribution to Rice’s campus. “Lovett believed that Rice should play a significant role in advancing the arts in Houston,” Brochstein said. “Because of its artistic, historical and sentimental value, the Lovett statue will be a centerpiece of the collection of diverse, site-specific installations that the Rice Public Art Program is building to enliven the campus.” Gifts to the Lovett statue count toward the Centennial Campaign, Rice’s $1 billion fundraising strategy to launch Rice into its second century. Donors pledging $5,000 or more will be recognized on a plaque placed on the monument.

To donate, visit or mail your gift to Rice University, Lovett Statue Fund–MS 83, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892. For more information, contact Sam Lasseter, Rice’s senior philanthropic adviser, at or 713-348-4387.

—Franz Brotzen

D. Michael Lindsay Rice Magazine

No. 7



SSPEEDy Warning

Existing dikes and levees along the Houston Ship Channel were barely adequate during Hurricane Ike and would not protect all refineries from the storm surge of a more powerful hurricane or even an Ikelike Category 2 hurricane striking farther south.

An analysis from experts at the Rice University-based Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center sounds a cautionary note for residents of the upper Gulf Coast: Even a moderately powerful hurricane could endanger tens of thousands of lives in the Houston/Galveston region and cripple the Houston Ship Channel. “There are warning signs across the board,” said SSPEED Center Director Phil Bedient, Rice’s Herman Brown Professor of Engineering and a co-author of the new report. “Ike was a Category 2 hurricane, and it caused $30 billion in damage. Had that same storm struck 30 miles farther south, it could easily have caused $100 billion in damage. Had it struck that location as a Category 4 storm, like Carla, the results would have been catastrophic.” The report was the result of SSPEED’s ongoing two-year study commissioned in 2009 by the nonprofit Houston Endowment Inc. SSPEED Center has assembled a team of more than a dozen leading experts from Rice, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and several other institutions to examine flood risks, evacuation readiness, industrial vulnerability, and both structural and nonstructural approaches for mitigating storm impact. SSPEED’s report indicated that: Existing dikes and levees along the Houston Ship Channel were barely adequate during Hurricane Ike and would not protect all refineries from the storm surge of a more powerful hurricane or even an Ike-like Category 2 hurricane striking farther south. More than 65 percent of water-crossing bridges in the Galveston Bay area may be especially vulnerable to damage from a powerful hurricane like Katrina. Highway infrastructure to evacuate the 1 million residents living in evacuation zones today is inadequate, and 500,000 more are expected to move into these zones by 2035. There is a “major disconnect” between the level of coastal flooding that would be caused by a major hurricane and the 100-year floodplains that flood insurance is based on. Bedient said one need look no further than the Houston Phil Bedient Ship Channel to get a clear sense of the region’s vulnerability. The ship channel is home to one of the nation’s busiest ports and about one-quarter of U.S. refineries. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that a one-month closure of the port of Houston would cost the national economy $60 billion. Despite this, government regulations require dikes and levees that can protect ship channel facilities against only a 100-year flood, which is 14 to 15 feet. Results from supercomputer models done at the University of Texas at Austin indicate that Ike could have caused a 20- to 25-foot storm surge along the ship channel if it had struck about 30 miles farther south. “There are dozens of communities along the coast, and each is unique in some way,” said Rice’s Jim Blackburn, professor in the practice of environmental law and co-author of the new report. “We are attempting to identify the most cost-effective and environmentally acceptable methods of providing a basic level of protection, including both structural barriers like the Ike Dike and other dike solutions, and nonstructural approaches that take advantage of natural features such as barrier islands and storm-surge storage in wetlands.” Blackburn said SSPEED’s goal is to propose policy options to decision makers at the state, local and federal level with an unbiased assessment of the economic and environmental costs and benefits of all approaches so that an informed decision on the future of the region can be made. “Make no mistake about it,” Blackburn said. “The solutions that are chosen to deal with this flood-surge problem will determine the landscape of the future for the upper Texas coast.” —Jade Boyd




Grass, Fungus Combination Affects Ecology The popular forage and turf grass called tall fescue covers a vast amount of the U.S. — an area that’s estimated to be larger than Virginia and Maryland combined. But a new study by ecologists at Rice and Indiana Universities suggests there is more to fescue than meets the eye. Results of the six-year study, which are available online in the Journal of Applied Ecology, show that a symbiotic fungus living inside fescue can have far-reaching effects on plant, animal and insect communities. Tall fescue is hardy, low-maintenance and stays green year-round, which makes it a favorite for home lawns, golf courses and highway rights-of-way across the U.S. But the grass, which is native to Europe and North Africa, also can have negative impacts. In addition to being highly invasive in North America, it can sicken livestock because it is home to a symbiotic fungus called Neotyphodium coenophialum. The fungus and fescue have a mutually beneficial relationship. The fungus lives inside the plant, where it gets shelter and food, and in return, it laces the plant’s leaves with toxic alkaloids that are a turnoff to some plant-eating animals. In 2002, study co-authors Jennifer Rudgers, Rice’s James H. and Deborah T. Godwin Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Indiana University at Bloomington ecologist Keith Clay studied fescue planted in 42 grassland plots, each about 1,000 square feet, at the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve north of Bloomington. The researchers used two varieties of fescue called Georgia-5 and Jesup, and two varieties of the fungus — one that produces alkaloids that are toxic to mammals and one that lacks these alkaloids. In addition, some plots were planted with grass that did not have a fungus.

“Competition and environment have traditionally been seen as the driving forces for community dynamics, so it’s significant to see that the composition and diversity of a plant community can be affected by changing a few genes in an invisible fungus inside one species of grass.”

Over the next six years, the team examined the plots and, in randomly selected areas, counted individual flowers, cataloged the number and species of every plant and even counted the number of stems of grass that had been gnawed by plant-eating voles. The investigation offered specific results for conservation managers: Jesup with either fungus works best for maintaining a fescue monoculture; and if a symbiotic fungus is desirable, the combination of Georgia-5 and the fungus that lacks animal-toxic alkaloids supports maximum plant diversity and minimal invasiveness. The study also suggested that the ecological effects of plant–microbe symbiosis aren’t easy to predict. For example, the researchers found that voles were less likely to eat fescue that contained either fungus, including the variety that lacks mammal-toxic alkaloids. “That indicates that plant–microbe symbioses have complex ecological effects. It signals the need for more investigations of the long-term effects of cooperative symbiosis,” said Clay, professor of biology and director of the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve. “Competition and environment have traditionally been seen as the driving forces for community dynamics, so it’s significant to see that the composition and diversity of a plant community can be affected by changing a few genes in an invisible fungus inside one species of grass,” Rudgers said. “This suggests that cooperative microorganisms should not be overlooked as significant contributors to ecological diversity.” Indiana University undergraduate Susan Fischer also co-authored the study. The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve. —Jade Boyd

—Jennifer Rudgers

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Forget the Checkout Line Long lines at store checkouts could be history if a new technology created in part at Rice University comes to pass. Rice researchers, in collaboration with a team led by Gyou-jin Cho at Sunchon National University in Korea, have come up with an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging. It would allow a customer to walk a cart full of groceries or other goods past a scanner on the way out of the store, and the scanner would read price information on all items in the cart, total it up and charge the customer’s account — all while adjusting the store’s inventory.

on just about everything you can buy. His team is working on tags that would hold a larger amount of information, while Tour’s lab continues to support the project in an advisory role and occasionally hosts Cho’s students. Tour said Rice owns half of the patent, still pending, on which all of the technology is based. “Gyou-jin has carried the brunt of this, and it’s his sole project,” Tour said. “We are advisers, and we still send him the single-walled carbon nanotubes produced at Rice.” There are several hurdles to commercialization. First, the device must be reduced to the size of a bar code — about a third the size of the one reported in the paper. Second, its range must increase. “Right now, the The technology, reported in the March issue of the journal IEEE practical distance to have it ring up all the items in your shopping cart Transactions on Electron Devices, is based on a carbon-nanotube-inis a meter,” Tour said. “But the ulfused ink for ink-jet printers first detimate would be to get a response veloped in the Rice lab of James Tour, “Right now, the practical distance to have it ring up back from every item in your store: the T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of what’s on the shelves, their dates, Chemistry as well as a professor of all the items in your shopping cart is a meter. But everything. At 300 meters, you’re mechanical engineering and materiset — you have real-time informaals science and of computer science. the ultimate would be to get a response back from tion on every item in a warehouse. The ink is used to make thin-film every item in your store: what’s on the shelves, If something falls behind a shelf, transistors, a key element in radioyou know about it. If a product is frequency identification (RFID) tags their dates, everything.” —James Tour about to expire, you know to move that can be printed on paper or it to the front or to the bargain bin.” plastic. Printable RFIDs are practical Tour allayed concerns about the fate of nanotubes in packaging. because they’re passive. The tags power up when hit by radio waves at “The amount of nanotubes in an RFID tag is probably less than a picothe right frequency and return the information they contain. gram,” he said. “You can produce one trillion of them from a gram of “We are becoming a society where RFID is a key player,” said Cho, nanotubes — a miniscule amount. Our HiPco reactor produces a gram a professor of printed electronics engineering at Sunchon, who expects of nanotubes an hour, and that would be enough to handle every item the technology to mature in five years. Cho and his team are developing in every Walmart.” the electronics as well as the roll-to-roll printing process that, he said, Co-authors of the paper include Rice graduate student Ashley will bring the cost of printing the tags down to a penny apiece and Leonard ’08; Minhun Jung, Jinsoo Noh and Gwangyong Lee of Sunchon make them ubiquitous. National University; and Jaeyoung Kim, Namsoo Lim, Chaemin Lim, RFID came into being in the 1970s and has been widely adopted by Junseok Kim, Kyunghwan Jung and Hwiwon Kang of the Printed the U.S. Department of Defense and industry to track shipping containElectronics Research Center, Paru Corp., Sunchon, Korea. ers as they make their way around the world. The tiny transmitters also are used for many other applications, such as identifying and tracking —Mike Williams products and farm animals. They’re in passports, library books and devices that let drivers pass through tollbooths without digging for change. Read the paper: To date, RFID tags have largely been silicon-based, and paper or ›› › plastic tags printed as part of a package would cut costs dramatically. Cho expects his development to replace the bar codes now festooned




Rice Remains Among Nation’s Top 20 Best Colleges For the seventh year in a row, Rice University ranked No. 17 in U.S. News & World Report’s guide to America’s best colleges. In the 2011 edition of “Best Colleges,” Rice tied with Vanderbilt University for 17th among 262 schools classified as national universities. In addition to placing among the nation’s top 20 schools, Rice is among 28 national universities identified as “Up-and-Comers” — schools that college administrators nominated as having recently made the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus or facilities. Rice is No. 16 on the “Great Schools, Great Prices” list — best-value schools selected on the basis of academic quality and the net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average level of need-based financial aid. On the list of schools demonstrating economic diversity — determined by the percentage of undergraduates receiving federal Pell grants, which are awarded to low-income students — Rice scored 11 percent in a six-way tie for 13th place. Among the best engineering programs whose highest degree is a doctorate, Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering is in a threeway tie for No. 19 with UCLA and the University of Maryland at College Park. Two engineering specialties highlighted in the rankings are biomedical engineering, which moved up to No. 6 from No. 9 last year, and electrical engineering, which moved up to No. 13 from No. 19. See the complete U.S. News & World Report rankings: ›› › / colleges

Rice Day 2010 The Countdown Begins

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This year, Rice Day, Oct. 12, is doubly special. Not only is it the anniversary of the university’s formal dedication and the perfect day to wear your Rice-branded apparel, it also begins the countdown to Rice’s Centennial Celebration in 2012. Special events will be announced throughout the year, so keep posted by visiting the Centennial Celebration website at centennial. And be sure to visit aboutrice to brush up on your Rice knowledge so that you can tell your friends and colleagues why Rice is one of the world’s leading universities.

Happy News It’s no news to us that Rice is a happy place, but the Daily Beast makes it official. The news and opinion website has ranked Rice No. 4 on its list of America’s 100 happiest colleges. The rankings were based mostly on information gathered from College Prowler, an online college guide created by students, and U.S. News and World Report. The criteria included student rankings of dormitories, party options for their campus and town, the average graduate indebtedness, the average freshman retention rate, school food, the number of student clubs and organizations, and the number of daylight hours that are sunny. The top three spots were taken by Claremont McKenna College, Harvard University and Pomona College. The 2010 edition of the Princeton Review’s “The Best 371 Colleges” ranks Rice No. 1 for best quality of life and No. 8 for happiest students. See the complete list of the Daily Beast’s 100 happiest colleges: ›› › Who Knew: ›› ›

Rice Named Best Place to Work Fifth Year in a Row Rice’s reputation as a first-rate educational institution has again been complemented by its reputation as a great place to work.

For the fifth year in a row, Rice made the Houston Business Journal’s (HBJ) list of “Houston’s Best Places to Work,” where it ranked in the top 10 in the category of businesses with more than 500 employees. “With this award we take five,” said Mary Cronin, associate vice president for human resources. “At the core of this wonderful institution are the faculty and staff who make Rice a great place to learn and a great place to work.” In recognition of five consecutive years of making the grade, the university also was honored with a 2010 Burnett Staffing Summit Award. Who Knew: ›› ›

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Only App-ropriate iPhone owners around campus are the beneficiaries of a new app thanks to Rice Information Technology staffers Chris Boyd and Hailey Hinson.

On their own time, Boyd and Hinson went to town on the app, which features guides to courses, dining, library services, athletics and loads of other information about Rice, including the Thresher and Rice News. A running calendar of events, a comprehensive directory and a map that shows the positions of campus shuttles have proved popular with users of the app. Ratings for the free app, which has the university’s blessing, have been favorable, and Boyd continues to refine it. He hopes it will see wide acceptance and lead to versions for other mobile devices, including Android-based phones and, eventually, Apple’s new iPad. —Mike Williams

Find the app at the App Store, iTunes or here: ›› ›


Recreation Center Takes the Silver The Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center has been recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as having achieved silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, an internationally recognized green standard for buildings. The Recreation Center is the third Rice building to earn a LEED certification — and the largest to date. Factors that contributed to the LEED silver rating include a focus on energy and water efficiency, extensive natural lighting, use of healthy building materials and the recycling of more than 2 million pounds of construction waste. Who Knew: ›› ›

All Hail Valhalla Valhalla, the popular Rice graduate student and faculty hangout celebrated its 40th anniversary May 7. Patrons and staff gathered to enjoy food and beverages, a live band, a Slip ’n Slide, a bounce house and a dunk tank. There also was a pie booth where guests could throw pies at a former manager. The event was sponsored by Valhalla and Rice’s Centennial Celebration. View a slideshow of the Valhalla birthday party: ›› ›


Triple Owl Flies High When Shannon Walker ’87 blasted off June 16 for a six-month stint aboard the International Space Station (ISS), she knew that keeping in touch with her husband and fellow astronaut, Andy Thomas, would be a lot easier than when he spent 130 days aboard Mir in 1998. Back then, they had to rely on ham radio and an occasional e-mail, but these days, he can check on her simply by turning on NASA TV. And the rest of the world can tune in as well or log on to her blog to catch the latest space flight news. Walker is a flight engineer on the crew of Expedition 24, which launched in two groups from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. She also serves as co-pilot for the Soyuz spacecraft that lifted her, astronaut Doug Wheelock, and cosmonaut and pilot Fyodor Yurchikhin into orbit. The first trio departed April 2. This is Walker’s first flight, and while she won’t be the first Rice alum to achieve orbit, she will be the first triple Owl, having earned her bachelor’s in physics and her master’s and doctorate in space science at Rice. She also is

also has been heavily involved in solving ISS problems from the ground during her years at Mission Control in Houston and at the Russian control center. “I know so much on the engineering side and not so much on the operations side,” Walker said. “I know how the control centers work. I know how to problem solve. I know who’s involved in working on the problems and can make a decision, and that’s a big comfort factor. I have absolute confidence in the people on the ground, having known them for so many years.”


“So much of our training focuses on the systems and how to operate the station but not on the day-to-day life — how to slow down and really enjoy the experience.” —Shannon Walker Walker and Thomas, who live in Seabrook, Texas, try to avoid talking shop at home, but Thomas did offer Walker hints on the practicalities of living in space. “So much of our training focuses on the systems and how to operate the station but not on the day-to-day life — how to slow down and really enjoy the experience,” Walker said. “He wanted to make sure I enjoy it and not just focus on work the whole time, as I am wont to do.” Two items that have special meaning for Walker went up with her aboard the Soyuz. One is a plaque for Rice that will be installed

The Expedition 24 crew will celebrate the record for the longest continuous manned presence in space — a mark previously held by a crew on Mir, which was occupied for just under 10 years. the first Houston-born astronaut. A graduate of Westbury High School, she became fascinated with space travel as a child and never wavered from her goal of going there someday. The Expedition 24 crew will celebrate the record for the longest continuous manned presence in space — a mark previously held by a crew on Mir, which was occupied for just under 10 years. She also will be present when the first commercial spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon, will rendezvous — but not dock — with the station. The Dragon is NASA’s choice to lift cargo to the ISS after the shuttle program ends, and while it will be capable of carrying crews into orbit, no manned missions have been set. Walker’s duties onboard the ISS include operation of the robotic arm, her specialty since early in her association with NASA. She

Walker will take part in materials science experiments and in ongoing work to understand how the body reacts in space. “But the one I’m particularly excited about that does somewhat relate to my training at Rice is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer,” she said. “One module of that will study the secrets of the universe by looking at cosmic rays and trying to understand information about antimatter and dark matter.” Walker places high value on what she brought to NASA from Rice. “Rice is a topnotch engineering and science school,” she said. “The education there — just the general broad-based education I got in the sciences — helped me get to where I need to be, because this is what NASA’s all about — science and engineering.”

in Rice’s Brockman Hall for Physics when construction is complete next year. She also took a watch owned by Amelia Earhart on behalf of the Ninety-Nines, Inc., the international organization of women pilots of which Earhart was the first president. “To me it represents how far women have come in the field of aviation,” she said, “and how far we can go.” —Mike Williams

Read Shannon Walker’s blog from space: ›› › Who Knew: ›› › / 8

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A Life-Altering Experience By Mike Williams

For a budding scientist, this has to be the greatest payoff ever to a summer job. Just a few weeks after receiving his diploma, Thomas Segall-Shapiro ’10 earned something else that was pretty great: co-authorship of what may be the most significant scientific paper of the 21st century so far. He is one of 24 authors of the paper published online by the journal Science that announced the creation of a bacterial cell controlled by a chemically synthesized genome — billed in the press as the creation of synthetic life. The native of Chevy Chase, Md., spent his last two summers in the Maryland lab of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), founded by the entrepreneurial scientist who in the 1990s challenged the federal government in a race to decode the human genome. Their success was announced jointly in 2001. Venter’s group assembled and implanted a synthesized genome into a mycoplasma capricolum and replaced the cell’s original DNA. The new genome successfully “rebooted” the cell, took over its operation and reproduced normally. Imbedded in the genome are “watermarks” that contain the names of people, famous quotes and, according to the authors, a website address. The paper was widely discussed in the days after its debut, with some scientists claiming the project is a step toward discovering the origin of life itself. President Barack Obama


“This is great for incoming freshmen to see. Thomas was able to get involved in a synthetic biology project during his freshman year through participation in the iGEM competition. Because he got involved in research so early, he was in a great position to make a contribution to this cutting-edge project during his internship at JCVI.” —Jonathan Silberg

immediately ordered a study of the research and its implications. Segall-Shapiro is no stranger to notoriety. He was part of Rice’s Bio-Beer team that, in 2008, won a gold medal in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition and earned worldwide media attention for its process to brew beer with resveratrol, a naturally occurring health supplement. Though the young scientist agreed that the new paper would look good on his resume as he prepared for graduate studies in synthetic biology at the University of California at Berkeley, he also said, “It’s kind of intimidating.” He noted that another recent paper, on which he was the second of three authors, dealt more specifically with the type of error-correction research he did at JCVI. “I’ll be able to say, ‘I knew him when,’” said Segall-Shapiro’s mentor, Jonathan Silberg, a Rice assistant professor of biochemistry and cell biology. “This is great for incoming freshmen to see. Thomas was able to get involved in a synthetic biology project during his freshman year through participation in the iGEM competition. Because he got involved in research so early, he was in a great position to make a contribution to this cutting-edge project during his internship at JCVI.”

Students Buried Shells Are No Treasure She saw seashells, but not by the seashore. In fact, they were quite far away, and they were skewing her study of the environmental impact of Houston’s rivers. Graduate student Fanwei Zeng and her mentor, Carrie Masiello, an assistant professor of Earth science, set out to fill a gap in the data about how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere by rivers planetwide. The current estimate is 1 billion tons per year — about the same amount those rivers deliver to the ocean, where various organisms put it to use in their life cycles. It’s a vital balancing act because plant growth naturally compensates for rivers’ release of CO2. Data on river CO2 for the tropics comes from a 2005 study of the Amazon River that Masiello participated in. Other research groups have generated data in temperate regions. But the global picture remains incomplete without data from the subtropics, and Zeng and Masiello thought that Houston was a good place to start gathering it. “We looked at Buffalo Bayou as an example of a completely urbanized watershed, while Spring Creek is primarily rural,” Masiello said. “We wanted to contrast those two ecosystems.” Spring Creek, which runs mostly through areas north and west of metro Houston, produced numbers in line with what Masiello had anticipated from the Amazon study. Buffalo Bayou, in the heart of Houston, is similar to Spring Creek in the amount of CO2 released, but the data from it contained a strange anomaly. Radiocarbon dating of CO2 in Buffalo Bayou water samples showed that some of its carbon was almost 5,000 years old.

“We knew from the isotope data that there was carbonate input to Buffalo Bayou similar to what might be released by limestone, a sedimentary rock composed of shells and other organic material compacted over millennia,” Zeng said. “But there are no limestone formations in this region that might account for the bizarre readings.” Then she and Masiello looked down. “It took us almost six months to figure out what was going on,” Masiello said. “We finally noticed all the shells in the ground and wondered where they came from.” The simple answer is Galveston Bay. As far back as the 19th century, contractors dredged the bay for oyster shells, crushed them and mixed them with concrete or used them for roadbeds. The practice was outlawed in the 1970s. “Shell roads built in the early 20th century are buried under the surface, and they’re slowly decomposing,” Masiello said. “Urban acid rain falls on the shells and dissolves them, releasing pools of CO2 that move into the groundwater. On a rainy day, that CO2 gets swept out of the soil and pushed into the river. So when we date CO2 in Buffalo Bayou, it’s extremely old because it’s carrying the age of these fossil shells.” Since Spring Creek doesn’t suffer from leaching from buried shells, it gave the researchers data on subtropical rivers that they can plug into the global carbon cycle model. But Buffalo Bayou was another matter. “Buffalo Bayou doesn’t tell us anything about ecosystem carbon residence time,” Masiello said. “But it was a surprising new find about the way human activities affect the ecosystems around us.” The study was reported in the online journal Biogeochemistry. The researchers did their radiocarbon dating at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and the study was backed by the Texas Water Resources Institute through a grant supported by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Institutes for Water Resources. —Mike Williams

The Little

Spinner That Could

The assignment for the Introduction to Bioengineering and World Health class was difficult: develop a way to medically separate blood in remote rural areas where electrically powered centrifuges are rare at best. But sociology major Lila Kerr (right) and political science major Lauren Theis (left), both minoring in global health technologies, had a simple, durable and inexpensive solution. Their device, created from a revamped salad spinner, was dubbed the Sally Centrifuge in honor of the Sallyport in Lovett Hall. The two students field-tested prototypes during the summer through Rice’s Beyond Traditional Borders program — Kerr in Ecuador and Theis in Swaziland — and a third team took one to Malawi. Who Knew: ›› › / 9

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Turn on the Baby Bubble Machine “Baby Bubbles” had a lot riding on it: a share of more than $1 million in prizes offered by the Rice Business Plan Competition, the world’s richest business plan competition. But as the Rice infantAIR team members took the floor to present their new continuous positive-airway pressure device for aiding infants’ breathing, they knew they’d already met their most important judges: the stakeholders in Rwanda who would use the device. “Visiting the neonatal wings of several hospitals and seeing infants who were clearly having difficulty breathing was a very sobering experience,” said Jocelyn Brown ’10, the team’s undergraduate engineer. “The design team and business team had always been excited about our product, but seeing the need in person made me realize the huge responsibility we had in trying to implement the device. At that point, our course grades didn’t really matter — we had a much larger motivation for designing and commercializing the device.” The infantAIR team was part of a unique global health technology commercialization class offered in the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business and taught by Marc Epstein, distinguished research professor of management. Other teams in the class were Life Packs Inc., whose product is a suite of medical backpacks; SmartDrip, whose product is an intravenous-therapy drip monitor; and Easy-Dose, whose product is a clamp to regulate dosing for oral syringes. The medical technologies were developed by undergraduate students involved in Rice 360º: Institute for Global Health Technologies, which is led by the BioScience Research Collaborative’s Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and founder of the Beyond Traditional Borders initiative. The teams were advised by Epstein and Maria Oden, professor in the practice of engineering and director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.


Counterclockwise, left to right: Michael Pandya, Jocelyn Brown, Katie Schnelle, Haruka Maruyama and Joseph Chang

This is the second consecutive year four teams made up of four Rice MBAs have traveled to Rwanda with faculty members to commercialize their innovative health technologies, but it is the first year that Rice 360º undergraduates joined each team as technical advisers. “Working directly with the undergraduates — the inventors of the devices — was helpful,” said Will Pike, an MBA student on the infantAIR team. “Jocelyn was amazing. She fit into our group perfectly, and her technical expertise was complementary to our understanding of business. She was probably our best presenter.” The teams learned a lot from the Rwanda businesspeople they were working with. “We met with some of the highest officials in every institution related to health care there,” said Vani Rajendran ’10, the engineering undergraduate for the Life Packs Inc. team. “Going to the country was essential in helping us understand the need for our products while also getting a sense of how easy or difficult it would be to implement the technologies.” For the infantAIR team, that task will be a little easier thanks to its success in the business plan competition, which netted it about $11,750, including first prize for Best Social Venture. —Jessica Stark

Watch a video of the trip to Rwanda: ›› › Read a blog about the experience: ›› › Learn more about Rice 360º: Institute for Global Health Technologies: ›› ›


Thresher Wins Two Top-10 Awards The Rice Thresher won its first Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) award for the paper’s website and nabbed its sixth consecutive Best of Show award for the print edition at the spring National College Journalism Convention in Phoenix. Martel junior Anna Wilde, editor-in-chief of the Thresher, and Martel junior Dave Rosales, Thresher multimedia editor, were among some 450 student journalists from approximately 80 colleges and universities who attended the convention. In the Best of Show competition for weekly newspapers produced at fouryear universities, the competition allowed students to submit one issue from their publication. The Thresher was awarded sixth place for its Feb. 19 issue, which featured the Vietnamese Student Association’s

Lunar New Year celebration, coverage of the Student Association presidential debates and a preview of the 2010 Rice baseball season. In the small-school website category for Best of Show, the Thresher placed eighth. Including this year’s honors, the Thresher has placed in the top 10 in the ACP’s Best of Show category for weekly college newspapers six times: two first-place awards (2005 and 2007), two third-place awards (2006 and 2009) and two sixth-place awards (2008 and 2010). The Thresher has also won a third-place award for Newspaper of the Year (2001).

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Have you had a paranormal experience? If so, you’re not alone. Approximately 70 percent of respondents to recent surveys by the Gallup Organization, the National Science Foundation, Eastern Virginia Medical School and the University of Central Oklahoma, among many others, say they have had an experience that might be considered impossible. A pure materialist might declare that all these people are deluded or are simply experiencing anomalous brain states that have produced a semblance of an altered reality. But therein lies the crux: What is reality? And is consciousness equivalent to neural activity in the brain, or is it something else? “I think this subject is close to a lot of people’s hearts,” said Jeffrey J. Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Professor in Religious Studies. “But we don’t talk about it.” That lack of discussion is why he wrote “Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred” (University of Chicago Press, 2010). This fascinating and thought-provoking book is not about whether particular paranormal experiences are true or false. For Kripal, that’s not the pertinent question. Instead, the book is a contemplation on the intersection of consciousness and the material world, wherein the boundaries of both are breached to reveal a third or middle realm that appears to participate in both mind and matter, subject and object, at the same time. Call it a philosophy of mind based on the paradoxes of realworld paranormal experiences. One might wonder why a professor of religious studies engages in research on paranormal phenomena given that the subject is taboo not only for most organized religions but also within the academe. For Kripal, it’s a logical extension of the research he did for his previous book, “Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion” (University of Chicago Press, 2007), for which he interviewed many people who had these kinds of experiences or who had spent years studying them.

“I’m just doing what I was trained to do: studying people’s extreme religious experiences,” Kripal said. “People usually think that the study of religion is just about studying encounters with the sacred in the distant past, but people have these experiences every day, every hour, every minute all around us, and they’re often framed as the paranormal. That’s why the subtitle of the book is ‘The Paranormal and the Sacred,’ because I think this is what the sacred looks like in our own era and our own culture.” The other element that fascinated him was that, while he has studied Christian and Hindu mysticism for 25 years, he’d never heard of any of the four authors whose work he covers in the book, even though their ideas are foundational for research into phenomena that have a strong mystical connotation. “It was strange and somehow troubling that I’d never heard of these four gifted authors because that means the field has essentially excluded this whole area and focused on more traditional or orthodox religious experiences that are certainly legitimate enough but that are safely distant in both time and space,” he said, “Why would we only study fantastic beings descending from the sky in 1st-century Palestine or 16th-century Italy but not here and now? If we really want to understand people’s religious experiences, our own experiences, as wild and unbelievable as they appear, are just as important as those of any other time and place. Indeed, in many ways, they are more important, since our access to them is much more direct, nuanced and reliable.”

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“Paranormal experiences can be understood as ‘living texts’ or uncanny stories that are about meaning.” —Jeffrey Kripal

”The Impossible” Kripal calls the general topic of the paranormal “the impossible” in part because most intellectuals consider these events to be literally impossible. But he stresses that what is possible and impossible is relative to cultures and time periods. “The history of science is filled with impossible things becoming possible, and the history of religion is very similar,” he said. “‘Impossible’ things happen to people all the time. I don’t call the experiences impossible; I call these writers ‘authors of the impossible.’ They’re authoring — and authorizing — these impossibilities in the sense that they’re making them possible — making them understandable — and they’re giving people tools to take them seriously.” Our culture, he says, has two principal venues in which the paranormal is publicly discussed. One is what he calls the Larry King Live or the History Channel stream, where a believer or experiencer faces a skeptic, and they cancel each other out like matter and antimatter. The second is the route taken by science fiction, fantasy and comic superheroes. “There’s this huge hole between those two that I’m trying to plug into and say these experiences aren’t pure fantasies, although they’re the source of a lot of fantasies,” Kripal said. “I’m trying to suggest that they can’t be accepted or dismissed in the way the believer or the skeptic do, that they contain both trick and truth, and that it would serve us well to think more paradoxically about them. Basically, I’m encouraging a form of thought that is both– and, not either–or.” Kripal breaks “the impossible” into two major categories. One contains the spiritual and mystical — which is what his earlier books


are about — and the other the psychical, occult and paranormal. The first category has deep roots in the history of religion, while the other is linked to 19th- and early 20th-century science. “Researchers into these phenomena use scientific or parascientific language to talk about them,” he said. “They reject, for example, the term ‘supernatural’ because they think these events are natural, but we just don’t have models to explain them. Every culture employs the scientific understanding of the world of its place and time, whether it’s accurate or not, and modern people who express their experiences of the sacred in paranormal terms are doing the same thing. They’re not doing science, though. They’re doing religion with scientific terms and categories.” The problem with that, he said, is that paranormal experiences are not necessarily amenable to scientific analysis. “I’m using the tools of the humanities to look at a set of extreme religious experiences that have been looked at with other methods, but not very successfully,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to be heard as being antiscience. I want to be heard saying that the humanities have something really important and really interesting to offer here. Paranormal experiences can be understood as ‘living texts’ or uncanny stories that are about meaning.” Kripal said that when the experiments of laboratory parapsychologists are successful, they produce a very tiny statistical anomaly. The reason the anomaly is small is precisely because it’s measured in a laboratory. “Whatever paranormal events are,” he said, “they did not evolve so that a bored sophomore can look at playing cards and try to send an abstract shape to another bored sophomore. They are about and mean something else.”

Instead, paranormal experiences validate the viewpoint that reality is neither subjective nor objective, but both. “These sorts of experiences are clearly subjective in that the brain is doing whatever it’s doing and culture is doing whatever it’s doing”, he said. “But things are happening out there in the physical environment that are not reducible to brain states, and we have no way of explaining them with our present materialist or subjectivist models.” The Authors The four authors whose work Kripal covers, however, have made an attempt to put together a way of looking at reality that is both subjective and objective. They are Frederic W. H. Myers, a 19th-century Cambridge classicist who helped found the Society for Psychical Research; Charles Fort, the early 20th-century collector of odd phenomena whose name gave us the word Fortean; Jacques Vallée, a scientist who had a hand in developing the first computerbased map of Mars and creating ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, and who worked on Project Blue Book, the U.S. government investigation of UFO data; and Bertrand Méheust, a sociologist and philosopher who has written about the study of psychical and paranormal phenomena, mostly among elite intellectuals in 19th-century Europe. “Frankly, there’s a lot of nonsense and bad scholarship in the study of the paranormal,”

Kripal said. “A lot of paranormal phenomena are fraudulent, and often people misconstrue or over-read whatever it is they’re experiencing. But there also is ground for the true believer, because that true believer has been through a dramatic religious or quasi-religious experience that he or she knows happened.” Kripal doesn’t think that either of those two viewpoints are ultimately persuasive for someone who’s neither an experiencer nor a materialist. The middle space between the two is much more creative, allowing agreement that the person really had an experience but also agreeing that the content of that experience functions in a symbolic or metaphorical way. They are not literally true, but they also are not false. Instead, they signal or signify something that we are having a difficult time reading because we are not yet deep or subtle enough readers. “That’s the method of the study of religion,” he said. “We don’t believe, but we don’t dismiss. These four authors impressed me the most as sitting in that space in sophisticated and subtle ways.” The Filter Thesis One of the main problems with literal acceptance, Kripal said, is that our experiences and perceptions of the world are always filtered. “I think that 99.9 percent of cognitive and sensory function is brain,” he said, “but I don’t think that consciousness can be completely reduced to brain function, although that goes against the orthodox neuroscientific view.” The “filter thesis,” which goes back to Myers and his associates, suggests that consciousness is filtered or transmitted by the brain, not produced by it, and that consciousness is not confined by space or time. This is why people can have a precognitive dream or a telepathic cognition. Consciousness, then, is not restricted to the brain but is essentially everywhere. When people have these types of paranormal cognitions, whatever is pouring through the intuitive, symbol-making right brain is getting immediately translated by the left brain, with its linguistic, cultural and linear processing. “To take that translation as what’s truly out there is a serious error,” Kripal said, “but it’s also an error to say there’s nothing out there. Méheust has spent decades with this stuff, and he does think there’s an X out there, but the older he gets, the more he’s convinced that the filter through which it passes is really thick. You get into all sorts of trouble by accepting what the filter tells you because that which is filtered is never exactly the same thing as reality. Consciousness is essentially my X that is ‘out there’ — and ‘in here’ — but that always appears to me as something else, as something filtered, as something encultured and languaged.” The hypothesis under which Kripal works

basically says that paranormal phenomena are, in essence, living symbols produced by a superconsciousness of which we are a part in order to assist us in creating our own storyselves. And for him, the self is finally a story — that is, a string of memories put together to form a narrative or personal novel, as it were. “Paranormal events are not arranged through cause but work like texts through metaphor and meaning,” he said. “They suggest that the world isn’t just made of numbers, but it’s also made of words and stories.” The idea that the paranormal assists in “writing us” is difficult for most people to accept. “Being religious and being written often are more or less the same thing,” Kripal said. “Many people want their beliefs written for them, and they don’t want to question them

powerful and ultimately convincing because of its broad historical perspective and Jeff’s subtle, sophisticated, and paradoxical way of thinking about such things.” Jones immediately optioned the book. “What ultimately sealed the deal for me was that the sheer weight of the stories as they pile up — together with the striking patterns that they begin to form — makes it difficult to escape the conclusion that something very real and very strange is going on,” he said. “If Jeff is even partially correct, he’s pointing toward much more than just a new way of thinking. He’s pointing toward a new way of being.” “We’re all really excited,” Kripal said. “We’re trying to make a high-quality documentary, not just another bad TV episode or cheesy film on the paranormal. Most of all, we

The hypothesis under which Kripal works basically says that paranormal phenomena are, in essence, living symbols produced by a superconsciousness of which we are a part in order to assist us in creating our own stories. or the world.” Eventually, though, there enters the realization that we’re being written by our religions and cultures, and that idea introduces the truly radical notion of what Kripal calls “authorization,” where we choose to participate in the writing. “A paranormal event suggests that we are engaging in that process over generations and centuries, and that we are writing ourselves in some profound way,” he said. “Not individually, though. This is where I think the New Age makes a mistake. I don’t think individuals can create their own universe. But cultures can. Disciplines can. And centuries can.” Filming “the Impossible” All this is pretty heady stuff for a book, so it might seem to be a paranormal experience in itself that “Authors of the Impossible” is being made into a film. After the publication of “Esalen,” Kripal’s daughter kept coming home from a friend’s house and saying her friend’s father was wondering when the book was coming out in paperback. Kripal got together with the friend’s father, Scott Jones, owner of XL Films, a company specializing in corporate films. Jones wanted to do a project that was a little more interesting than a corporate film, but Kripal had to tell him that “Esalen” had already been optioned by a film company in Los Angeles. Then Kripal told him about “Authors of the Impossible,” which was still in manuscript form at the time. “When I read ‘Authors of the Impossible,’ I knew immediately that I wanted to make a film based on it,” Jones said. “The book is so

want to do something provocative, meaningful, helpful and, above all, beautiful.” The film is in the early stages of production, so it has yet to take final form. Or forms. “It could be anything from a television program to a feature film,” Kripal said. “We’re looking at various distribution channels. We’re making something to hit the mainstream, but in the end, we’ll probably also edit a version for classroom use.” Along with the film, there is another work in progress for Kripal: a follow-up volume titled “The Secret Life of Superpowers.” In it, he examines authors and artists in popular culture who have written explicitly about their own paranormal experiences as the secret of their creativity and art. “They use these experiences to create art and fantasy that has punch because it resonates with the impossible experiences of readers and viewers,” Kripal said. “Science-fiction and fantasy are so popular because they reflect our own unusual experiences.” Kripal doesn’t believe that there is an adequate theory for the paranormal, but he thinks that if we begin taking very seriously people who have had these sorts of extreme experiences without buying into the mythical and cultural frames in which they are expressed, we have a really good start. “If we approach these events as profoundly meaningful stories — essentially as mystical experiences coded in sci-fi language,” he said, “we’re well down the road to understanding them and making the impossible possible.”

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Rice University is not the first place that comes to mind during a conversation about hip-hop culture. But that may soon change — and, for at least one night last spring, it already did. Big names from the Houston music scene converged on campus the evening of March 23, 2010, for five panel discussions about hip-hop, past and present. he Houston Enriches Rice Education (HERE) Project — led by Founding Director Anthony Pinn, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and professor of religious studies — organized the event, titled “Celebrating 25 Years of Hip-hop in Houston.” “This anniversary,” Pinn said, “was a prime opportunity to bring people to campus and have a conversation concerning what hip-hop has meant to Houston and to acknowledge the debt that we owe to cultural developments that have taken place across the city.” Since the HERE Project was founded in 2007, its goal has been to advance Rice’s relationship with the larger Houston community. HERE also works to enhance faculty research and undergraduate and graduate education by augmenting available research materials and bringing visiting lecturers and noteworthy speakers to the campus. The hip-hop panels accomplished all these goals — and more.

Keck Hall’s full house of university students, staff and faculty listened as the panelists, including such celebrities as Willie D, Bun B,


Slim Thug and Choice, discussed topics that ranged from “The Early Days of Houston Hiphop: 1985–1989” to “Where Do We Go From Here? 2006–Present.” The panelists acknowledged the hard work and struggle that went into making Houston a formidable community on the hip-hop scene — a difficult road that paved the way for the popularity of the genre today. “We had to start from scratch,” rapper Choice said. “Everything we did, we earned.” Bun B discussed the inspiration he found in Texas rappers in the early 1990s. “I can sit here all day and talk about the things I’ve done,” the rap artist said, “but it would mean nothing without the people who came before me.” The artists also encouraged the audience to look to the future of hip-hop and focus on love of the music. “The only thing that needs to change,” MC Wicked Cricket said, “is we need to respect each other.” A common theme for the event emerged as artists paid homage to the influence of James “J.” Prince, founder of Houston’s RapA-Lot Records, as well as to the record label itself. The evening culminated in the presentation of the first HERE Project Legacy Award, which was given to Prince in appreciation of

his extensive work in the Houston community. Prince’s community efforts have included building a recreation center in Houston’s Fifth Ward and making yearly donations of Christmas toys and school supplies to underprivileged children. He even helps pay for the funerals of people in the Fifth Ward whose families can’t afford the cost. By funding other record labels, Prince has helped struggling artists get on their feet. “There would be no Southern rap without him,” said Aundrea Matthews, the HERE Project’s assistant project coordinator and a graduate student in Rice’s religious studies department. Prince also has worked to educate the community about HIV/AIDS. To promote a healthy lifestyle, he created and markets his own line of condoms, Strapped Condoms, which he often gives away at events. He is a co-sponsor of one of the largest HIV/ AIDS testing events, where more than 15,000 Houstonians are tested every year. Everyone who gets tested is given a free ticket to a hiphop concert that takes place during the multiday affair. Prince has been recognized for his community work, including accolades from former Houston Mayor Bill White. Ronda Prince, J. Prince’s sister, presented the Legacy Award, saying, “James Prince is one who does not just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He leads by example for many of us. I see this man doing every day what a lot of people will not do.”

The idea for the celebration was generated by Matthews and HERE Project Coordinator Maya Reine in connection with Pinn’s Religion and Hip-Hop Culture in America course. Matthews took the lead in securing the class’s guest speakers, and through those conversations the details of the event took shape. The course, which explores the religious dimensions of the hip-hop musical genre, “gives students a way of thinking about religion beyond the usual suspects — churches, synagogues, mosques,” Pinn said, “and gives them an opportunity to think about the ways in which religious images and questions are embedded in our cultural interactions in very general ways.” Students examine many aspects of hip-hop, including its aesthetics — what people wear, graffiti art and dance — as well as rap music as the language of hiphop. Pinn also teaches his students about the historical development of rap and how it fits into the larger continuum of music. Once the class members have an understanding of the history, they begin to

in particular. “We want to give students a sense of how this happens within the context of the city they’ll live in for at least four years,” he said. “In terms of guest speakers, we want folks who not only are involved in the industry, but who think about what they are doing on a larger level.” In spring 2011, Pinn will co-teach the class with Bun B, who was a popular and informative guest speaker during past iterations of the course. Pinn developed his interest in the relationship between religion and hip-hop at an early age. “I grew up listening to it, so I had a personal interest in the music. As I moved into the study of religion, it seemed clear to me that it wasn’t just preachers who commented on the religious lives of folks. There was a generation of people for whom there was this alternative way of understanding the world and living in it. That had deep religious meaning and consequence.” The course offers students a way of critically engaging this information — information that matters to them both academically and personally. During the fall 2009 course, Pinn,

focus on the ways in which artists engage religion in the various types of rap music. They discuss artists who have an explicit religious commitment, such as Sunni Muslims or members of Christian churches, and those artists’ personal relationships to their faith communities and how that gets expressed in their music. Because some artists use their songs to critique religious institutions, the class examines how that gets played out in their music as well. Pinn emphasizes the Houston scene

Matthews and Reine realized that the 25th anniversary of hip-hop in Houston was taking place in March. It seemed the perfect time to make an effort to further educate the entire Rice community about Houston’s hip-hop culture and to integrate Rice with that culture. “We decided to do something that’s a bit larger than the confi nes of the course to get more people involved,” said Pinn. “It was also a way to get the larger Houston community to begin thinking differently about Rice.”

Another goal of the evening’s panels was to initiate an expansive dialogue — outside of the classroom — about the intellectual and historical aspects of hip-hop and how it emerged in the community. The HERE team hopes to use this information to build an archive for Rice’s Woodson Research Center that would chronicle the history of hip-hop in Houston and in the South. Once completed, the research would be available to people worldwide through Woodson’s website. “What I hope is that the archive will eventually influence how we teach, what we teach and how we do research,” said Pinn. “My goal is to have undergraduates and graduate students doing course work that requires them to make use of this material and, in that way, to get an education that is sensitive to their local situation — that they are in Houston and what they’re learning ought to have some sort of impact on and relationship to the city.” But Pinn’s plans for the archive are even bigger than the impact it could have on Rice academics. “This archive will make Rice and

Houston a major destination for researchers. If we are able to grow the component on hiphop culture, it would quickly rival Harvard’s hip-hop archive and will attract scholars from across the country. That benefits Houston, it benefits Rice and it benefits scholarship.”

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Rice Magazine

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( ) Human ities Interaction B y

C h r i s t o p h e r

D o w

When Rice anthropologist Michael Fischer founded Rice’s Center for the Study of Cultures in 1987, he was seeking to create a bridge between historians and anthropologists. But time proved that the venture had a vitality that went beyond interdepartmental collaboration. Known since 2006 as the Humanities Research Center (HRC), it has significantly expanded its collaborative ties to include almost every school at Rice, making it one of the university’s most far-reaching scholarly enterprises.


Humanities Research Center bills itself as “an agent of intellectual integration within and beyond the School of Humanities.” “What we want to capture with that phrase is the very diverse ways in which we create a kind of quickening environment across the university,” said the center’s current director, Caroline Levander, professor of English and holder of the Carlson Chair in the School of Humanities. “Despite Rice’s small size, there’s a tendency for the different areas to be very targeted in thinking about their intellectual boundaries and for there to be less transinstitutional conversation and collaboration than there might be. The center plays a very important role in helping create a broader intellectual flow across the university.” Melissa Bailar, who graduated from Rice in 1997 with a B.A. in French studies and stayed to earn a Ph.D. in French studies in 2005, started working as a graduate student assistant for the HRC in 2001 under then-director Werner Kelber, a professor of religious studies. Now the HRC’s associate director, Bailar oversees the center’s day-to-day operations and some of the programs. “When I started, we had one postdoctoral researcher,” Bailar said. “We now have internal faculty, external faculty, three postdocs, dissertation fellows and undergraduate fellows. We’ve always been involved with cross-disciplinary faculty workshops and conferences, but we’ve extended bridges to many other areas beyond the social sciences, such as the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the Shepherd School of Music and the School of Architecture. We have many strong and growing ties beyond the university as well.”

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New Directions Much of that expansion is a result of the efforts of Levander, who took the reins in 2006. She oversees all of the major and minor initiatives and represents the center to constituencies within and outside of Rice. Two of the first elements to change when she came on board were the center’s name and its general focus. “I asked for an outside review of the center — the first it had had,” Levander said. “The review provided the occasion to have faculty and graduate students think collectively about what the center was doing, what its aspirations should be and how it connected or didn’t connect with other centers, not only on the Rice campus, but across the country.” Levander invited three consultants to evaluate the center. All of the consultants were directors at peer humanities centers at other institutions: the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for the Humanities at Washington University and the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago. One of the main things to emerge from the review was the idea that the ambition that faculty had for the center was much more represented by the term “humanities center” than by “cultural center.” “Humanities centers have been popular interdisciplinary think tanks and test beds across the country and internationally over the last 20 years,” Levander said. “So the shift in title was really to acknowledge the center’s role as part of the transinstitutional humanities climate.” The name change was more than cosmetic. It also indicated an increase in aspiration. One new initiative was the External Faculty Fellows program, which began about four years ago. The program, which Bailar said has produced some great long-term relationships, invites up to four external faculty fellows to Rice each year. This year, there were more than 100 applications for the slots. “The function is not to recruit faculty for hire but to bring temporary invigoration to the university,” Bailar said. “We look for people engaged in research that might fulfill specific needs or whose work doesn’t fit into established categories.” While many of these scholars don’t fit comfortably within traditional departments, they create sparks across


that are happening among faculty across disciplines. One recent HRC postdoc was a digital humanities specialist who was instrumental in campus discussions on digital humanities and interdisciplinary programming. Currently, the center would like to bring in someone with a focus on medical humanities, an area that engages Rice faculty from religious studies, philosophy and English as well as people from the Texas Medical Center.

Student Perspectives

“The HRC is the kind of center that can facilitate not only faculty interest, but also outreach to the Houston community and public interest in big visions. All of this helps raise the profile of Rice humanities nationally and internationally.” —Caroline Levander

departments in exciting ways. The center’s Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is another initiative that saw growth under Levander’s leadership, going from one to three positions. “Postdocs have been in the center for a number of years, but they have had less of a role in the humanities than in the sciences,” Levander said. “We bring in the postdocs who work in emerging areas, such as Latin American studies or visual culture, to spur scholarly community and activity in key interdisciplinary areas.” In addition to teaching courses, postdocs take part in active conversations

Students also have become a major focus for the HRC. “Back when I first started, we were really only about faculty research, and we did nothing with students,” Bailar said. “Now, we have graduate and undergraduate fellows.” One important student initiative is the Andrew W. Mellon Research Seminars, also funded by the Mellon Foundation. This collaboration between Rice’s best graduate students and faculty is intended to increase the involvement of graduate students in the center. “The Mellon Seminar program provides a model for a new generation of scholars in residence,” Levander said. “The foundation was very interested in starting the pilot program at the HRC because of Rice’s quality, its small graduate programs and the caliber of faculty research.” More recently, the HRC established the Undergraduate Fellowship Program. There had been no undergraduate involvement in the center when Levander became director, and she considered that a missed opportunity. “A number of undergraduate students are not only doing really excellent work in their disciplines,” Levander said, “but they’re also interested in connecting what they’re doing in a department or a major to a larger humanities fabric.” HRC undergraduate fellows have a lecture series called Big Questions and Future Directions of Humanities, but more important, the fellowship program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to connect with faculty and take part in research. This year, thanks to requests by undergraduate fellows, the center instituted a summer internship for 10 undergraduates who want to be involved in ongoing faculty research projects. Students also can assist faculty in organizing academic events such as conferences and symposia.

Beyond the Hedges One of the most exciting of those events was last fall’s Emerging Disciplines symposium, co-sponsored by the HRC and the Council on Library and Information Resources and funded by the Mellon Foundation. The symposium’s six speakers, who addressed topics ranging from cultural economy to digital humanities to music and neuroscience, drew a standing-room-only audience from Rice and the larger Houston community. It also generated a lot of outside interest in the HRC. “The HRC is the kind of center that can facilitate not only faculty interest, but also outreach to the Houston community and public interest in big visions,” Levander said. “All of this helps raise the profile of Rice humanities nationally and internationally.” The event was so successful that the center is considering hosting another in the near future, and Rice University Press has published a book containing polished versions of the talks. HRC symposia and lecture series often become opportunities for humanists to reach out to the broader Houston community and beyond. A couple of years ago, the center hosted “Houston and Katrina,” a public event that featured Mayor Bill White and other Houston leaders as well high-profile scholars. “That drew a nice range of Houstonians onto the campus,” Levander said, “so we have a number of those kinds of collaborations going on with Houston.” The HRC also extends its outreach to Houston public schools through its Public Humanities Initiative, which takes Rice faculty to classrooms to speak about what they do — how, for example, religious studies scholars think about their subject or how literary studies scholars read and write about literature. In 2011, the HRC and the Houston Museum of Natural Science will co-host a traveling exhibit from the Library of Congress titled “Discovering the Civil War.” “This is going to be a big draw with a very synthetic learning environment,” Levander said. “We’ll be in charge of programming, but we’re also thinking about ways to bring those visitors from the museum to the Rice campus through public art installations and lectures.”

“When I started, we had one postdoctoral researcher. We now have internal faculty, external faculty, three postdocs, dissertation fellows and undergraduate fellows. We have many strong and growing ties beyond the university as well.” —Melissa Bailar

Filling Niches In addition to conferences and symposia, there are ongoing collaborations between humanities faculty and those in disciplines not usually seen in the company of humanists. One, for example, is Technology, Cognition and Culture, a speaker series co-sponsored by the HRC, Fondren Library and the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. The series features speakers who address humanities sorts of questions using technologies developing out of the engineering department or, vice versa, approaching engineering

by asking more humanistic types of questions. Sometimes these collaborations blossom into full-fledged programs of their own. A case in point is a feminist reading group that originated in the center in the 1980s. The group then became the Program for the Study of Women and Gender Studies, which in turn morphed into the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. Two other examples are HRC workshops in Asian studies and African studies. The former became the Chao Center for Asian Studies, and the latter is now one of Rice’s new interdisciplinary minors. “These examples highlight how important the center is in generating new kinds of institutional infrastructure that doesn’t happen within departments,” Levander said. “Departments are very much about hiring top-notch faculty to teach and do research within a particular department’s requirements, but the HRC is a rich and malleable place for cross-departmental and cross-institutional ventures to take shape.” Levander’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the last five years, the HRC has become a hot center known nationally and internationally for doing innovative, collaborative work. “We’re known for being intellectually entrepreneurial and very ambitious,” Levander said. “We’ve gone through a rapid growth phase, so a lot of our programs are new, and there’s considerable energy that comes from doing a lot of innovative work in a relatively short period of time.” Levander would like to see the center continue to raise Rice’s profile as an international focal point for humanistic inquiry. “In some ways, humanities broadly asks what it mean to be human in a global era, and what global humanism might look like,” she said. “Those are important questions that we’re asking with ever more energy, and humanities centers are where those conversations happen. Houston — a gateway city to the Americas — is a very propitious location from which the HRC can take a leadership role in asking those questions. It’s not hyperbole to say that the HRC is a real jewel in Rice’s crown, and I want it to continue to have luster.” Learn more about the HRC: ›› ›

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Home Is Where the Heart Is

How does one define love? Is it a roaring flame? A passing fancy? Or an adventure that unfolds over time?

That last description would be a pretty good way to characterize what Joe and Ann ’80 Hightower share. The Rice professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering and his wife of nearly 30 years have followed an extraordinary path and touched thousands of lives along the way. BY MIKE WILLIAMS



or 42 years, since about the time he started at Rice, Joe has been the steady hand at the helm of Hospitality Apartments, a Houston institution he co-founded that gives people of slender means a free place to stay while being treated, often for cancer, at facilities in the Texas Medical Center (TMC). The Hightowers and a large volunteer staff have welcomed approximately 6,350 families from 49 states (all but Rhode Island) and 64 countries and given aid and comfort to families facing the most difficult challenges of their lives. Patients may occupy an apartment for up to three months while undergoing treatment. There’s never a shortage of need for Hospitality’s services. Joe estimated the apartments have been filled “99-plus percent of the time” over the years. “You could probably have four projects this big in Houston and just barely meet the demand,” Ann said. “And then you would uncover another layer of need.” To many, Hospitality Apartments are a critical link to the care they desperately need. “They’re not posh,” Ann explains, “but they’re perfectly nice and totally functional, with linens, dishes, a stove and oven, a microwave, TVs and access to free laundry.” Volunteers — many of them from the Rice community — maintain the buildings, transport patients to clinics, keep the office running and perform dozens of other tasks that ease the burdens of resident patients, who occasionally are children. Too often their tales end in sorrow, but success stories are legion. Joe displayed a picture of a young man from El Paso, Texas, in a cap and gown at his college commencement. “He was 2 when he stayed here, and he wasn’t expected to live,” Joe said. “Every year since, his granddad has sent me an update.” It’s a remarkable story made even more remarkable by the fact that the Hospitality Apartments nonprofit has never applied for or received money from any government agency. Instead, the organization relies on personal fundraising efforts by the Hightowers and friends and the generosity of Houston congregations, private foundations and hundreds of individual contributors. It has no debt, pays no salaries and operates each apartment for less than $10 a day. Joe was new to Houston in 1968 when the need for such a facility presented itself. “I started attending the Bering Drive Church of Christ, which was fairly new and had several young professionals with small children,” he said. “We had bull sessions occasionally on weekends. The group was half activists and half philosophers.” Joe was one of the activists. “I asked the leaders of the church if they had programs we could get involved in,” he recalls, “and they

said they wanted us to come up with some ideas. One of the philosophers suggested that there might be needs in the medical center for food, transportation or housing. Housing seemed to click.” One of the other members of the congregation owned an old Army barracks that sat alone on three lots just across Braes Bayou from the TMC. The new tax-exempt foundation arranged

only when they learned they were born on the same day 10 years apart. “We knew each other for the four years it took me to get my master’s degree, and we got married the day after I graduated,” said Ann, who enjoyed a long career as a chemical engineer at Exxon. Since retirement, she has volunteered at The Branch School in Houston, where she has served as president of the board

Volunteers — many of them from the Rice community — maintain the buildings, transport patients to clinics, keep the office running and perform dozens of other tasks that ease the burdens of resident patients, who occasionally are children. loans to buy the building for $500 and the land for $49,500. “The barracks had four small, furnished apartments,” Joe said, “and they literally were held together by paint.” “Paint and love,” Ann said. Over the years, the foundation purchased adjacent parcels of land and erected more

buildings. “There’d be a lull of a year or two,” Ann said, “and then Joe would get antsy and think, ‘I wonder who owns that lot?’ He’d track down the owner, tell the story and figure out a way to get them to sell him the property.” MD Anderson bought the original apartments five years ago to facilitate a planned expansion, and the Hospitality Apartments built a new 42-unit complex 50 yards to the west on Bertner Avenue. When Ann met Joe, he was well into his career at Rice and had built a reputation as an expert in catalysis, the process by which certain substances can be used to facilitate chemical reactions. He’s noted for his early work on exhaust control systems that are now part of every vehicle on the road and earned the American Chemical Society’s George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry in 1973. Ann was a 30-something graduate student in the same department, but they really met

and has taught nature studies and science. Joe was, in Ann’s words, “a perpetual motion machine” until he suffered a mild stroke in 2005 that slowed him, just a bit. “When I married him and realized what it was going to be like,” Ann said, “there were times I wondered if I was going to be able to keep up. He was so busy. He needed less sleep than I did, and he got more done during the day.” Joe continues to teach laboratory experiments for undergraduate and graduate students at Rice and, with Ann, sponsors the Ann and Joe Hightower Superior Award in Chemical Engineering, the highest academic award given by the department to a graduating student. And on top of it all, for years, Joe answered calls to the apartments at all hours of the day and night. “He was basically responsible for the entire day-to-day operation,” Ann said. “From Hurricane Alicia to somebody getting mad at a neighbor for making too much noise, Joe would hop in the car or on his bicycle, go over and fix it.” Now, two larger apartments at the new complex are reserved for resident managers who handle daily operations while their family members are in treatment at TMC. They often stay longer than the three-month limit in return for their services. Even with the extra help, the couple remains committed to the Hospitality Apartments — a fact the city recognized when it declared Feb. 15, 2007, as “Joe W. Hightower Day” in Houston. But maybe the best indication is the bread. Joe is the baker of a delicious sourdough that is another of his pride and joys. “I stopped baking when I married Joe,” Ann said. “There was no point. There was no way my bread was going to be anywhere near as good as his.” Every new guest at the apartments receives a loaf on the day he or she arrives. What could be more loving than a friendly home filled with the odor of freshly baked bread?

Rice Magazine

No. 7



By David Kaplan

In its 60 years, Rice Stadium has acquired a lively history. It has been the site of major sporting events, concerts and John F. Kennedy's announcement of the United States moon mission. It also hid MOB members on the run from enraged Aggies.


hen Rice Stadium, which was briefly known as Houston Staduim, was completed in September 1950, it was an awesome double–decker — a unique feature in those days. If it looked big from the outside, just wait until you walked inside and saw 40,000 more seats below ground level. Today, Rice Stadium still makes a fine impression with its stately grace and passageways filled with breeze and light. There’s a splendid view from every seat, and getting in and out is a snap. It remains a model stadium, and with its 70,000-seat capacity, it was the city’s largest until Reliant Stadium, completed in 2002, exceeded it in capacity by 1,500 seats. That last number is ironic because that was approximately the enrollment of Rice in 1949, when Rice Stadium was conceived. It might seem odd that Rice would build such a gigantic facility, but the world was a very different place then for Houston sports fans. In those days, college football ruled, and the Rice Owls, coached by the legendary Jess Neely, were legendary themselves — they had just won the Cotton Bowl and were ranked fifth nationally. At the time, Rice was playing in the 37,000-seat campus stadium at Main Street and University Boulevard, but the arena was much too small for the big games. According to Rice Stadium architect Milton McGinty ’27, Neely liked the idea of a new stadium with 70,000 seats, and local movers and shakers felt that a booming, postwar town like Houston needed something on a grand scale. Urged by Neely and others and buoyed by the success of the ’49 Owls, the Rice Board of Governors decided to strike while the iron was hot and voted to build a new campus stadium. Fabulous news came immediately from Rice trustee George R. Brown, who announced that his Brown & Root construction company would build the stadium at cost: $3,295,000. Rice Stadium’s planners gave themselves the almost impossibly short deadline of only two months to design the facility and a mere nine months to build it. They wanted to finish in time for Rice’s


Sept. 30, 1950, season opener against Santa Clara University. Facing this hair-raising challenge was a building team comprised almost entirely of Rice graduates. They included architects Hermon Lloyd ’31 and William B. Morgan ’27 of the firm Lloyd & Morgan and Milton McGinty and Bradford McGinty ’46 of the McGinty Partnership. Walter P. Moore ’27 was structural engineer, and from the mechanical and electrical engineering firm Lockwood & Andrews came Mason Lockwood ’27. Herbert Allen ’29 oversaw the project. Construction began in November 1949 and continued almost nonstop using two crews that worked alternate 10-hour shifts. Brown & Root put up large viewing stands on Rice and University boulevards, and people would stop by after work to watch the construction. But as with the sport of football, the construction didn’t always go as planned. During excavation, construction crews ran into a vein of water-bearing sand 20 feet below the surface at the northeast corner of the site. To prevent possible flooding of the arena, they had to build a clay cutoff dam to channel the flow into conduits. As the weeks and months passed, the suspense mounted. Would the crews finish on time, or would Rice and Santa Clara

players have to sidestep construction workers? A nervous Rice Besides being graceful and offering a fine view, Rice Stadium President William V. Houston stopped by the site twice a day to possesses one other extremely important characteristic: It has seek reassurance. When asked if the stadium would actually be good hiding places. This was a feature that the MOB, Rice’s saready for the season opener, George R. Brown reportedly replied, tirical marching band, found vitally necessary on Nov. 17, 1973. “Is it a day or night game?” The MOB so angered the Aggies during the halftime show that, And just like any exciting game, it all came down to the wire. after the game, Aggie students and alumni waited to pounce on Three days before game time, workmen were still pouring conMOB members. The band first hid in the stadium tunnel then crete; just one day before the game, the last seats were installed; moved to a space under the “R” Room and remained there for and only hours before kickoff, electricians completed work on the two hours until the incensed Aggies finally dispersed. scoreboard. But all of that was invisible Rice Stadium also has been the to the opening game’s 68,000 spectators, site of numerous nonathletic events. who were dazzled. Rave reviews for the The most historic occurred on Sept. stadium poured in. The June 1952 issue 12, 1962, when President John F. of Architectural Forum declared that Rice Kennedy announced plans for the Stadium “is so well thought out it [is] United States moon mission. JFK capable of absorbing and discharging a knew his audience well: “Why, some great number of people at the amazing say, the moon? ” he asked rhetorispeed of 7,000 per minute.” cally. “Why climb the highest mounThe beauty of Rice Stadium — both tain? Why does Rice play Texas? ” in form and function — can be attribThe stadium also has hosted several uted to a number of key decisions by rock concerts over the years, includits creators. They decided to drop the ing performances by Pink Floyd, the lower stands below ground level not Eagles, Elton John, Billy Joel and only to save on construction costs, but George Strait. The most memorable, also to make it easier for spectators to though, may have been the first: climb to upper-level seats. The upper the 1988 “Monsters of Rock” heavy President Kennedy delivers his space exploration address in stands were given a concave shape to metal extravaganza. Rice Stadium Sept. 12, 1962. improve the view for spectators at each Rice Stadium hasn’t really end and to add a graceful touch. The changed much since 1951, but there main concourse extending around the field was based on a similar have been some renovations. The wooden benches were refeature of the stadium in Berlin where the 1936 Summer Olympics placed with aluminum, the end zone seating was eliminated, had taken place. And there was no track field surrounding the and the stadium’s south end has seen the addition of the John football field, so spectators could be close to the action. L. Cox Fitness Center and the Owl Club. The Owl Club was deIn its early days, the stadium drew huge crowds. The average atsigned by Jack McGinty ’57, son of Milton, and the locker room tendance the first year was almost 52,000, and offices by his brother, Milton and in 1958, the average was more than Jr. ’70, which means that Celebrate the Memories If You Dare! McGinty 57,000. In ’61, ’62 and ’64, there were four McGinty family members — all individual crowds of 73,000. These staRice grads — have made architecFootball fans at Rice’s Sept. 25 game against tural contributions to Rice Stadium. dium records were made possible by the addition of temporary bleachers on the In 2006, Field Turf, a system that Baylor University will be treated to a special concourses above the end zones. The combines elements of traditional natuhalftime show by Rice’s infamous MOB. The ral grass fields with the benefits of a ’61 game was against Louisiana State performance will celebrate memories shared synthetic surface, replaced the old University, and the other two games featured the University of Texas. The in historic Rice Stadium while offering a few carpet-style surface. In addition, a new most recent crowd of 70,000 was in 1970 scoreboard complex was constructed new decorating ideas. against UT. Attendance began to drop above the north end zone. Rising 60 substantially in the mid-1960s, a trend feet above the north concourse, the that coincided with the rise in popularity Daktronics scoreboard features a video of pro football. screen that measures 20 feet high by 35 feet The stadium has wide. Fans can now view in-game entertainbeen home to many ment and information along with video great Rice games over highlights and features. the years. Some say At 60, Rice Stadium has aged well, and the two most exhilait remains a wonderful place for football rating were the Owls’ — to date, more than 10,000,000 fans 1957 upset of No. 1-ranked have watched Owls football there. “It was Texas A&M in front of 72,000 the last great stadium built on a college camfans and Rice’s 1994 thrilling, pus,” noted sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz rain-drenched 19–17 victory over once said. “It was world-class when they Texas after 28 straight years built it in the ’50s, and it still is.” without beating the Longhorns.

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Attaining Sustainability BY TRACEY RHOADES

In 1995, former Rice President Malcolm Gillis signed the Talloires Declaration, a 10-point action plan developed by the Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future. His signature represented the university’s commitment to environmental education and to becoming an environmentally responsible institution. Now, more than 10 years later, Rice is not only talking the sustainability talk, it’s walking the walk and making green strides along the way. Prior to the signing of the declaration, Rice, not unlike many other universities across the country, didn’t have a dedicated sustainability effort in place. The university’s first “official” recycling program was begun in 1972 by student Duane Marks ’74, who used a university vehicle to pick up glass and cans across campus. When Marks graduated, his grassroots recycling campaign was not recycled. Student recycling efforts were intermittent after that. In the 1980s, the student-run Recycling Club was formed, and glass, cans and newspapers were collected from residential colleges, Willy’s Pub and Valhalla. Facilities and Engineering provided an electric cart for the students to use, and materials were taken to a small shed near the Rice Media Center, where they were bundled, washed and crushed before being delivered to a recycling facility. In 1995, Facilities and Engineering took over the operation and increased coverage to include academic and administrative departments. Designated recycling bins were put in place, and recyclables were expanded to include white paper and cardboard. Beginning in fall 1998, the Environmental Programs Steering Committee, funded by the President’s Office, sponsored the university’s first environmental intern — Ryan McMullan ’98 — who evaluated recycling and disposal practices across campus. By 2000, disposal and recycling services were consolidated and services for reducing and reusing materials were incorporated, which marked the creation of the Rice Integrated Waste Management Services, a partnership between the departments of Facilities Engineering and Planning (formerly Facilities and Engineering) and Housing and Dining. This consolidation marked the beginning of a more cohesive approach to sustainability efforts across campus, and in 2004, the university named Richard Johnson as its first director of sustainability. Johnson, a 1992 Rice graduate with a B.S. in civil engineering, was charged with assessing the state of Rice’s environmental practices and ultimately ensuring that the university could meet the needs of coming generations. It was a tall order for even the most seasoned of environmental crusaders, but Johnson came fully charged and had the help of a game plan — the Rice University Sustainability Policy — to help stoke the sustainability fire.


With a number of initiatives already in place, such as water conservation, a composting pilot project and campuswide recycling, as well as several centers and institutes with a strong focus on energy and the environment, Johnson had a solid foundation on which to build. “When I started, I found considerable support for my work and for sustainability initiatives across campus,” Johnson said, “but the change over the past six years has been dramatic. The types of conversations and initiatives now under way would not have been possible six years ago.” Johnson admitted that the topic of sustainability can be challenging for universities because it requires a high degree of interdepartmental research and collaboration. But Johnson found that the connection between Rice’s curriculum and the campus is unique. “Students in general are more interested, and now there are so many ways for them to engage.” While today’s curriculum includes a more robust offering of courses across all disciplines directly related to sustainability, the university began offering a sampling of such courses in the late 1990s. Topics ranged from an independent study that analyzed the campus composting system to a class that quantified Rice’s carbon dioxide output to conducting an environmental audit of Rice and then creating recommendations based on the results. These courses gave Johnson a starting point from which to begin expanding Rice’s sustainability efforts. Stepping into the classroom, Johnson was able to educate and engage his main constituents — the students. One of his courses traces its roots back to one of the initial classes taught in the 1990s. “The student projects from those classes are at the origin of many of Rice’s environmental success stories,” Johnson said. “Our next step in the academic sphere needs to be a holistic assessment of Rice’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities regarding sustainability education and research and then matching that assessment with what Rice’s academic peers are doing in order to understand how best to move forward.”

Richard Johnson


Duncan College, Rice’s 11th residential college, is one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings ever built in Houston and received Rice’s first LEED-Gold rating for new construction.

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen

Conscientious Construction

Cleaning Green

2006 was a momentous year for Rice. The Rice Board of Trustees adopted the Vision for the Second Century, promoting as one of its 10 points the addition of spaces and facilities across campus.

While Rice has made sound environmental decisions about its outdoor environment over the last several years, one of the university’s greatest environmental success stories is often overlooked — the green cleaning program.

Building began in earnest in 2007, but prior to breaking ground on several buildings, Rice committed to constructing all new buildings to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. These standards encompass a series of guidelines for the design, construction and operation of buildings, including specific building materials, energy efficiency, water usage and the recycling of construction waste. This commitment ensured that all new structures and updates to existing facilities would be built “green” and, as a result, achieve some level of LEED certification. To date, eight buildings have been built to achieve LEED certification guidelines: the BioScience Research Collaborative, Rice Children’s Campus, the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, Brockman Hall for Physics, McMurtry and Duncan colleges, and the new wings of Baker and Will Rice colleges. Both the Children’s Campus and the Rec Center have already achieved LEED-Silver, and a ninth structure, the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (formerly campus’ Central Kitchen) was Rice’s first renovated building to be awarded a Gold rating by the council. Duncan College, Rice’s 11th residential college, is one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings ever built in Houston and recently achieved Rice’s first LEED-Gold rating for new construction. Featuring a green roof with low-maintenance plants to reduce heating and cooling needs, smart controls to automatically shut off air conditioners and prefabricated bathrooms that reduced on-site construction waste, Duncan, along with other campus initiatives, contributed to Rice being named the top environmental performer among universities in the state of Texas. That’s an achievement worthy of shouting from the rooftop — the green one.


Over the past decade or two, Eusebio Franco, Facilities Engineering and Planning’s (FE&P) director of custodial and grounds, and his team of custodians have adopted a new way to clean. Using hot water, steam and EnvirOx, a general purpose cleaner consisting of hydrogen peroxide, citrus oil and a biodegradable surfactant, custodians have eliminated the need for special glass, toilet bowl or surface cleaners. In addition, cleaning personnel no longer use string mops, which actually spread dirt instead of eradicating it. Instead, they use microfiber mop heads that can be laundered and reused. “Our custodians tend to stay for decades,” said Johnson, “so they are not only creating a healthier indoor environment for occupants, they are no longer exposing themselves to harsh chemicals every day.” But incorporating these green solutions was just scratching the shiny surface. Franco wanted his team to understand the “whys” of cleaning as opposed to the “hows,” so in the mid-1990s, he adopted Cleanology, a 16-step educational program that teaches custodians the science of cleaning. The program enables custodians to achieve different certification levels with the ultimate goal of becoming a registered cleanologist who handles workspaces without supervisor intervention. Johnson believes that this approach has a strong social sustainability component to it as well. “The turnover rate for FE&P custodians is very low in comparison to the profession as a whole,” Johnson said. “Mr. Franco has created a culture of continuous improvement in the workplace for both employer and employee, with sustainability and health at its core.”

Greening the Colleges from the Grassroots

Rice’s EcoRep program is backed by some of the greenest students — students who see red if their peers aren’t paying heed to Mother Nature. What began as a pilot program in fall 2006 with only one college and a single student representative has evolved into a full-blown sustainability movement that now encompasses all 11 residential colleges and employs a team of EcoReps — students who are guided by the ambitious mission to reduce the university’s environmental footprint. Initiated by the departments of FE&P and Housing and Dining, the program grew — greener and greener — when an Envision Grant provided the necessary funds to support projects focused on sustainability. The Office of Sustainability added support for EcoRep salaries, while Housing and Dining allocated “green funds” for each residential college. Less than two years later, the program went from one to nine EcoReps, with two more EcoReps representing Duncan and McMurtry Colleges debuting in fall 2010. “The idea for the program came from the Greening of the Campus conference held at Ball State University in 2005,” said Johnson. “Other universities had had success with the program, and it seemed like a good match for us given our residential college system.” Johnson, who oversees the program and employs one student per college, recruits EcoReps in the spring so that they hit the ground running in the fall when the semester begins. While all conservation ideas are encouraged, the program thus far has seen several initiatives come to fruition, including utility reduction, recycling and environmental education. “EcoReps are like entrepreneurs in a sense,” Johnson said. “They have a network of fellow EcoReps and access to resources, so there is a lot of opportunity to be successful. Plus, I give them considerable space to take an idea and put it into action in their respective colleges.” So far, that philosophy has worked, with energy efficiency at the top of the savings grid. Since the program’s inception, EcoReps have gone door-to-door and replaced more than a thousand incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. That simple step was just one of several student and

BioScience Research Center

university measures that have contributed toward a reduction in residential college utility usage by 5 percent. In dollars, that’s a savings of $170,000 — more than $10K per college. With the addition of Duncan and McMurtry Colleges — buildings that meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards — Rice students now have structures that support a sustainable lifestyle. To capitalize on these new environmentally friendly spaces and more directly address student practices within these buildings, the EcoReps turned up the heat in November 2009 with the launch of the Green Dorm Initiative (GDI). The GDI, the first program of its kind, was based on the LEED program’s point system for certifying buildings with gold, silver or bronze status. After an initial evaluation, participants were given a preliminary certification based on their answers. They were then asked to keep a log for two weeks to track how many times they did laundry, how long they showered, what temperature they kept their rooms and so forth. At the end of the two-week period, participants were surveyed again to gauge improvement in their habits. Rebecca Sagastegui, lead EcoRep who helped get the GDI off the ground, said, “We have not yet attempted to quantify the results of the initial program in terms of environmental impact, but in the end, —Richard Johnson all colleges participated and 120 certifications were issued — 24 gold, 65 silver and 31 bronze.” With some modifications, the program will be implemented again this fall. “We want students who are self-starters, and fortunately we have many creative students full of ideas on how to green their colleges,” Johnson affirmed. “And with green funds and the support of the sustainability office, college budgets and various studentoriented grants, we can usually find a way to take an energetic student’s idea and turn it into a success story.”

“EcoReps are like entrepreneurs in a sense. They have a network of fellow EcoReps and access to resources, so there is a lot of opportunity to be successful. Plus, I give them considerable space to take an idea and put it into action in their respective colleges.”

Rice Children’s Campus

Rice Magazine

No. 7



From Institute BY



On July 1, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the name change of the Rice Institute to Rice University. Why did that change occur?


hen William Marsh Rice and six of his close associAt that time, most colleges and universities were primarily teaching ates wrote out the charter of incorporation in May 1891 institutions, with little attention on the part of either faculty or students establishing the William Marsh Rice Institute for the to fundamental research. In academic circles, the word “institute” had Advancement of Literature, Science and Art, the word come to mean an organization devoted to research, which Lovett felt “institute” was apparently chosen for its generic meaning of an organiwas the lifeblood of the emerging universities that he had observed zation for the promotion of a cause, although the precise nature of the on his round-the-world trip. In his address titled “The Meaning of the institute so formed was unclear. Perhaps in recognition of that lack of New Institution,” delivered Oct. 12, 1912, at the conclusion of the formal clarity, the charter provided that the trustees could retitle the instituopening ceremonies, Lovett was specific: “The educational programme tion and have it “known by such name as [they] may in their judgment of liberal and technical learning now being developed may justify the select.” The trustees apparently did not reconsider the name, and when designation ‘institute’ as representing the functions of a teaching uniRice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, versity of learning, and, at least in some of arrived from Princeton, he emphatically afits departments, those of the more recent firmed that name because he had bold amresearch institutions founded in this counbitions for the new institution. try and abroad.” In academic circles, the word “institute” The Rice charter is a vague document in Here and elsewhere, as in the wording had come to mean an organization devoted many ways, and it was unclear to the trustof the Rice diploma, Lovett often described ees after the death of Mr. Rice in 1900 preRice as a university, but the technical name to research, which Lovett felt was the lifecisely what should be the shape of his instiinstitute telegraphed the importance of blood of the emerging universities that he tute, for the charter called for “maintaining research. scientific collections; collections of chemiAs the Rice Institute matured, it added had observed on his round-the-world trip. cal and philosophical apparatus … artistic new departments, new majors and new models, drawings, pictures and statues”; the programs, especially after World War II, establishment of a library open to the pubwhen two significant spurts of building and lic; and the “establishment and maintenance growth of the graduate programs broadof a polytechnic school,” presumably at the secondary level. Nowhere ened Rice’s academic purpose. This growth spread beyond several were the words “college” or “university” mentioned. departments in the natural sciences and especially strengthened the Once Lovett assumed the presidency, he infused a purpose and humanities and social sciences. By the 1950s, the word “institute” was vision into the charter that focused on the institute becoming a mostly associated with research programs in technical fields, and the major university complete with a distinguished faculty, a handsome word “university” had come to mean institutions of higher education campus, talented students and a program that combined a strong with undergraduate and graduate training at the doctoral level in a wide commitment to research and scholarship with a dedication to teachvariety of fields, selected professional schools, and a strong commitment ing. Research was a key element. to research. In other words, as Rice had evolved since 1912 and the


to University

meaning of “university” had changed, it became evident to the trustees that “institute” was now a limiting term and not an accurate descriptor of the institution. Meeting in special session in December 1959, the trustees identified a number of ways that the original name Rice Institute was no longer appropriate: for many people it suggested too narrow a focus, perhaps even one not having an academic purpose (was its purpose to promote the cultivation and consumption of an edible grain?), that could mislead prospective faculty, students and even foundations about the nature of Rice. It also limited the ability to bring attention to new programs in the humanities particularly and to attract the best graduate students, and it compromised fundraising because of its perceived limitations in offerings. Finally, it complicated the ability John Boles to develop within the institution new research initiatives that more properly deserved the title “institute” — prescient of the later developAfter gauging the overwhelmingly positive rement of many institutes within the university. sponse of students, faculty and alumni, which conFor those reasons, the trustees anfirmed its original judgment, the board of trustees nounced in the January 1960 issue of the decided in March to go forward, and on April 6, 1960, alumni magazine, Sallyport, that they the trustees approved and filed with the secretary of were considering a name change from the state in Austin the proposed name change, to take efWilliam Marsh Rice Institute to the William fect July 1, 1960. The new name accurately described Marsh Rice University. The executive board the university that Rice had become in the almost of the Association of Rice Alumni had been 50 years since it opened for classes — the real uniinformed of the discussions under way and versity that Edgar Odell Lovett had envisioned and approved the name change. Sallyport magadescribed in his foundational address, “The Meaning Dedication plaque inside Lovett Hall's Sallyport zine sketched the history of the university of the New Institution.” and documented Lovett’s constant use of the term “university,” and it published endorsements by the presi—John Boles is the William P. Hobby Professor of History and author of dent of the alumni association and by trustee H. Malcolm Lovett, “University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute” who recalled how often he had heard his father refer to Rice as and “A University So Conceived: A Brief History of Rice.” a university and how certain he was that the founding president, were he still alive, would approve of the change. The Rice Thresher supported the name change in a Jan. 16, 1960, editorial.

Rice Magazine

No. 7



usic M

Conversing with

By Leslie Contreras Schwartz

The sign in the foyer of the Texas Children’s Hospital reads, “Heal Sick Children,” but on this particular morning, the healing isn’t medical. Instead, it’s in the soothing notes of George Frideric Handel’s “Passacaille” played by a chamber music quartet. Young patients — some in wheelchairs, some in their parents’ arms — pause to listen to the music, and they’re obviously enchanted. One boy waves his hands in the air as if conducting an orchestra, and a girl, listening to the violin, says, “It’s singing.” A 2-year-old boy with a heart condition sits with his father on the couches across from the musicians. Mesmerized by the music, he cries out in delight. His father smiles and says, “He didn’t realize it was being played by real people.” The real people in the quartet are volunteers from the chamber music outreach group of the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music: String Performance Outreach Coordinator Rose van der Werff on violin and graduate students Emily Herdeman ’10 on violin, Morgen Johnson ’10 on cello and Amy Mason on violin. The group plays at nursing homes, hospitals and schools in an effort to bring a little joy to those who need it most. As the last notes of “Passacaille” fade, the performers pick up the pace with Louis Chauvin’s “Heliotrope Bouquet,” an upbeat ragtime piece. “It’s wonderful to watch the faces of the people who walk by,” said Lauren McLaughlin, volunteer coordinator at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Every single one lights up when they hear the music, and you can see a sense of joy and calm wash over their entire being. After they hear the group, they tell others they must go and listen. It’s simply beautiful.” This sense of well-being created by music is something that the musicians strive to foster in children, and the outreach performances are just the tip of the iceberg. The main thrust of the Hammond Preparatory Program is noncredit private instruction in composition, theory, woodwinds, harp, piano, voice and strings for students in grade school through high school. In 2009–10, more than 30 students were selected to participate — enough to support 11 chamber music groups. Auditions are held at the beginning of the school year, and the classes are taught by Shepherd School graduate students. The

program is funded through scholarship money from the Brown Foundation. “The advantages of music study through our program are many and include exposure to concerts, music theory, monthly recitals, chamber music experiences and top-notch instruction,” said Virginia Nance, director of the Hammond Preparatory Program and lecturer in music. “All those involved in the program take great pride in this work and great joy in bringing the love of music to young people.” The involvement of children who are younger than average in such programs makes the program unique among similar efforts around the country. “Playing chamber music at this age is unusual to begin with,” van der Werff said. “Also, the more voices you have, the harder it is to fit them together.” Johnson, who graduated in May, worked with a group that included high school-aged students as well as students as young as 8 years old. She tells her students that chamber music can be compared to the architecture of a house. “Each instrument has its own special role,” she said. “The cello is the foundation, the floor. It needs to be strong and stable for the other instruments to play comfortably. The inner voices, the viola and second violin, are the walls, windows and curtains. They help make the house a home. And the first violin is the roof.” The most challenging part of teaching young students in a chamber group, however, is encouraging them to have a musical conversation with one another. “We have to instill the idea that they’re not playing as an individual but as part of greater whole,” Mason said. This lesson is taught through careful explanation of musical techniques and communication styles. —Lauren McLaughlin At the last chamber music practice session of the school year, for example, Mason taught a trio consisting of Bennett Johnson, 12, on violin; Brendan Egolf, 10, also on violin; and Devin Gu, 12, on piano. The trio practiced “Springtime” by Ignaz Pleyel, and after they played the piece, Mason told them, “I want a nice full beautiful sound. I want it nice and strong, not shy.”

“It’s wonderful to watch the faces of the people who walk by. Every single one lights up when they hear the music, and you can see a sense of joy and calm wash over their entire being.”


Left to right: Emily Herdeman, Amy Mason, Morgen Johnson and Rose van der Werff

The trio played the piece again and again until Mason finally stopped them. “Are you acknowledging the piano’s presence?” she asked Brendan. “It’s hard,” Brendan said. “Does that mean you shouldn’t do it?” she asked gently. She then showed him how to use body language to communicate acknowledgement of the other instruments. “What are you trying to say to each other?” she asked. “I want you to actually have a conversation: a question and an answer.” She then explained how the piano is “the person who always keeps on talking” while the violinists respond. In a room across the hall in Alice Pratt Brown Hall, a second

Preparatory Program. His sons have been in the program for four years. “It’s nice for them to play with other kids,” Le said. “It develops a different set of skills than regular orchestra playing. There is a back and forth. I think they’re able to listen better. It improves their intonation and tempo.” Brendan’s parents, Thomas and Regine Egolf, agreed. “The chamber music group gives young children a team setting and tunes them into the performance of the team,” Thomas said. Regine appreciates the fact that her son gains experience in playing not only in a chamber group, but also in a concert hall. “You don’t get those kinds of experiences in private lessons in a studio,” she said.

“Our hope is that students who walk through our doors take with them a lifetime love for music and will continue to enjoy playing and participating in musical activities for years to come.” —Virginia Nance

group practiced “Trio Sonata No. 1” by Giuseppe Tartini under the eye of Herdeman. Like Mason, Herdeman emphasized the importance of listening to one another as an essential part of the chamber music experience. “Be sure to keep matching parts of the bow,” she told the students: Lauren Huang, 12, on violin; Ethan Le, 12, also on violin; and Kevin Le, 10, on cello. “It’s risky to be too fast,” she said when they finished the four-minute piece. “It might be good to sing a part in your head. Pick a tempo that feels good, and watch Lauren’s bow.” After the students gave the piece another try, Herdeman told them to use speed and pressure to make up for forte and add a little bit of weight. The graduate student instructors’ musical sophistication and their use of these sorts of technical issues are elements that Ethan and Kevin’s father, Hung Le, likes about the Hammond

While musical communication can be difficult to teach to younger students, Herdeman said, it can be taught through concrete instruction. And the ideas imparted by musical communication can carry over after the class is finished. “The students can learn important lessons from music and apply them to other aspects of their lives,” she said. “I really try to cultivate their confidence to have opinions and encourage positive communication.” “Our hope,” Nance said, “is that students who walk through our doors take with them a lifetime love for music and will continue to enjoy playing and participating in musical activities for years to come.” Learn more about the Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program: › › ›

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Magical Grottos When New York artist Andrea Dezsö was growing up in Romania during the 1970s and 1980s, travel outside the country was not possible. And for Dezsö and her ethnic Hungarian family, it was difficult to travel even within the country. These were the years of Communism, Ceaus¸escu and the Cold War, and books became her means of mental escape. Today, Dezsö is known for her own “tunnel books”: boxlike objects in which she layers delicate, intricately cut paper forms to create dimensional, narrative scenes. Rice Gallery Director Kim Davenport and assistant curator Joshua Fischer fi rst saw Dezsö’s intimate 6-by3-by-7-inch books in a group show at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. Completely enamored by the work, Davenport and Fischer asked the artist if she would be interested in doing something on a larger scale. Dezsö was game, and the resulting Rice Gallery installation, “Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly,” was as hauntingly lovely as her other work, despite being 44 feet long by 15 feet high. Using the same techniques she employs to create her books, Dezsö constructed miniature worlds behind the expansive glass wall of Rice Gallery. Dezsö selectively blacked out the glass wall of the gallery with paint, leaving “windows” to reveal her environments.


Dezsö selectively blacked out the glass wall of the gallery with paint, leaving “windows” to reveal her environments. The artist spaced out rows of foam board walls behind each window and cut out everdecreasing openings into them, producing a grottolike effect.

The artist spaced out rows of foam board walls behind each window and cut out ever-decreasing openings into them, producing a grottolike effect. She then drew scores of different figures and structures, laser-cut their paper silhouettes and attached them to various layers of the board. In these glowing, multilayered scenes, fanciful creatures cavor ted among exotic flora and otherworldly architecture. Figures were caught in the act of climbing, swimming or falling. A multi-armed humanoid perched on an outcropping while a cluster of dendritelike figures tumbled beneath. Strange structures like water tower/spaceship hybrids rose from the ground, a row of “power line” stanchions receded into the distance and giant, decorative gears were poised to rotate for some unknown purpose. Each cave glowed with gradated color — emerald greens, deep blues, rich purpley reds. Dezsö’s work is akin to the timehonored tradition of set design, and with “Sometimes in My Dreams I Fly,” she combined simple materials — board, paper and light — to create a vision that was absolute magic. —Kelly Klaasmeyer

See more images of Andrea Dezsö's installation:

›› › 55 Video excerpts from the opening gallery talk:

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Arts Next at Rice Gallery

Small Room,

Rome Prize winner Sarah Oppenheimer, known for her aesthetically sleek and perceptually startling installations, will alter the Rice Gallery space with a hollow, winglike form that will span nearly 60 feet, dramatically bisecting the gallery as it rises from the floor and pierces the building exterior.



Rice’s newest art space may be only the size of an average bedroom, but the interest it’s sparking across campus is larger than its name implies. Matchbox Gallery, the creation of Christopher Sperandio, assistant professor of visual and dramatic arts and head of the studio art program, is Rice’s first student-run gallery. “Not having a student-run exhibition space was a clear lack in our program,” Sperandio said. “It was very obvious to me that such a space, properly run, would invigorate the visual arts on campus.” The mission of the gallery is to provide a unique opportunity for motivated students to direct, curate and manage a flexible exhibition space for young artists while engaging the arts at Rice with the greater Houston community. The gallery — which is located in Sewall Hall and opens onto the Sewall sculpture courtyard — welcomed its first exhibition Sept. 29, 2009, with then-junior Erin Rouse’s ’11 “To Uncle Buddy, with love.” “Erin’s installation kicked off the Matchbox idea really well,” said Logan Beck, a visual and dramatic arts senior and the gallery’s founding director. “She filled the space with balloons and streamers, and it ended up looking like the remnants of a party that you weren’t invited to. That opening was interesting because people would ask where the art was, and I’d just point to the little black room filled with balloons. It altered their expectations and their perception of what art can be.” The success of that first installation has led to six other exhibitions in the fledgling gallery, with more to come. “Giving a gallery space to our students to run has resulted in

an exciting series of exhibitions attended by the general university population and those from ‘outside the hedges,’” said Brian Huberman, chair of the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts and associate professor of visual arts. “A new face has been given to the visual and dramatic arts — one that states that the making of art is alive and well on campus and, in the words of composer Edgar Varèse, ‘refuses to die.’”

said. “The space can be filled fairly easily by a young and budget-conscious artist. It is a place for experimentation that one doesn’t find anyplace outside of the university.” In October 2009, Matchbox won a $2,500 Leadership Rice Envision Grant, which has helped fund structural improvements to the gallery space. The Envision Grant program provides start-up funding for projects that have a positive impact on Rice and the community. Matchbox also is supported by the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts and the Rice Public Art Program. The gallery, for which Rouse was

The mission of the gallery is to provide a unique opportunity for motivated students to direct, curate and manage a flexible exhibition space for young artists while engaging the arts at Rice with the greater Houston community. The first show of the spring semester was Nico Gardner’s ’10 “Intersections: Houston.” Gardner, a Rice senior at the time of the exhibition, built a rough map of Houston using wire and then hung string in varying lengths from the wire. The length of the string corresponded to the frequency with which he drove on that street. Afterward, he projected two videos that he filmed while driving those streets onto the string, which created a beautiful, ghostly effect. Other exhibitions have utilized equally varied mediums, from tiny drawings hung on the walls with magnets to LCD picture frames that slowly morphed images, causing the pixels that made up each image to interact. “I think the strength of the space is in its small size and the fact that there is room for people to hang out in the courtyard,” Beck

named director for the 2010–11 academic year, is exploring opportunities for additional private funding for renovations and operating costs. “Matchbox has been embraced by the faculty and students as a vital part of our program,” said Sperandio. “The credit of its success, however, is due to Logan Beck as well as to the individual artists who’ve exhibited. At its heart, this is a student initiative. The faculty and staff have been very respectful of the students’ desires, and in return, the students have done a terrific job of making and installing work that’s exciting to be around. We hope that Matchbox will continue for a long, long time.” —Jenny West Rozelle

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Rice Magazine

No. 7



Postapocalypse The

According to Cronin By Jessica Stark

It’s not often that a father gives his daughter a postapocalyptic world filled with bloodthirsty vampires, but to be fair, she gave him the idea. “She wanted me to write a book about a girl who saves the world, so that’s what I did,” Professor of English Justin Cronin said of his latest creation and this summer’s hottest book, “The Passage.” “Simply put, though, I would not have written the book had I not moved to Houston. Some of that has to do with Rice and some of it has to do with the kind of place that this city is — the way you interact with it and the real variety of people you get to know here.” “The Passage” — the first volume of a trilogy — chronicles the journey of an orphan girl as she becomes the 13th subject in a covert government experiment that has gone terribly awry and spawned a viral epidemic that transforms ordinary men and women into vampire-like creatures. One hundred years after the outbreak, the girl is only a teenager and wanders into a threadbare colony of human survivors on a decimated North American continent. Together she and a group of survivors embark on a mission to save humankind. Billed as an epic tale of love and loyalty, friendship and sacrifice, set against a devastated world, “The Passage” does not conform to any genre. It’s equal parts horror and coming of age, love and war, and science fiction and history. “It’s all these things, but it’s also a Western,” Cronin said. “It has two runaway trains, guns and ghost towns, and an almost-covered wagon. It’s a story of the pioneering sensibility and going West — a story of America.”


Going West

Billed as an epic tale of love and loyalty, friendship and sacrifice, set against a devastated world, “The Passage” does not conform to any genre. It’s equal parts horror and coming of age, love and war, and science fiction and history.

Cronin knows what it’s like to go West. After 22 years of living within the boundary of the Northeast Amtrak corridor, where “what was between New York and Boston was planet Earth, and everything else was a poor imitation of reality,” he took a job teaching high school in Hawaii. His next adventure was touring through Europe. And then he embarked on a life in California. “I drove across the country for the first time when I went to California, and in a sense, I never returned,” he said. “By accident or design or both, I am a member of the tribe that leaves home.” He said he spent the past 25 years of his life trying to pry himself loose from New England provincialism to experience more of the country. That has paid dividends in his writing. Everything in “The Passage” is based on something real. He has driven every mile mentioned in the book, and some of the locations are based on places he’s known particularly well, like Houston. “I’m writing a book about real places,” he said. “It’s not some mythical America that I’m using. It’s the real one. So places have names. Highways have route numbers.” Cronin said that Houston will become even more prominent in the second installment of the trilogy and that after a main character’s initial ambivalence to Texas, it turns out that it’s Texas that saves the world.


Three Parts From the beginning, Cronin knew that the story his daughter inspired him to write would be a long one. He imagined it as a very large novel broken into three parts. “It’s the oldest story structure known to man,” he said. “Beginning, middle, end. Childhood, adulthood, old age.” Only he aimed for each book to be a satisfying contained object that can set its own terms and not simply a continuation of the story. Cronin himself seems divided into three parts: the family man, the teacher and the writer. And he credits Rice University with allowing him the opportunity to live out each of those characters fully. “I owe a great personal debt to Rice,” he said, “because it came along just when I needed it.” Cronin had been carrying a heavy teaching load at a small college in Philadelphia and didn’t have much in the way of time off. He spent many nights staying up until 3 a.m. to make time for fiction writing and his assignments as a “writer for hire.” He recalls a moment in the midst of scrambling like crazy for every dime when he realized he was serving a death sentence of sorts. “I realized I wasn’t going to be able to keep doing that forever,” he said. “Because I wasn’t going to stop being a dad, and I couldn’t stop being a teacher, the thing that would have to take the hit was the fiction. And then Rice came along and said, ‘Here’s how you balance it.’” Encouraging Student Writers Cronin had time to write again, but he also made time for Rice’s creative writing program development. Working with then-Dean of Humanities Gary Wihl, Cronin helped the school establish several new writing-related positions and programs, including a position that brings a new visiting writer to Rice each year. Wihl, Cronin and Professor of English Susan Wood created the Parks Fellowship in 2004, which annually brings a new writerin-residence from the prestigious Graduate Program in Creative Writing at the University of Houston to Rice to teach for a year. The following year, Cronin helped his students establish the literary magazine R2: The Rice Review as a way to help young writers get their work out into the world and learn the process of getting published. “It’s the hardest thing in the world to publish your first story,” he said. “That is a mountain to climb. And nothing compares to it. There’s no day quite like that one. My first publication — that was the day I became somebody else.”

Whether “The Passage” changes Cronin remains to be seen. He is still a family man, first and foremost, still a teacher and still a writer. Though his teaching has taken a backseat the past few years so he could fulfill his publishing responsibilities, he remains steadfast in his commitment to Rice, building the creative writing program and helping young writers. “This whole experience has impacted my view of a number of things, but not of how you learn how to do this,” he said. “Because of the new destination, the path I went down has suddenly changed a bit, but that doesn’t mean I started from a different place. What I think about writing and learning to write has not changed at all.” While Cronin hopes that his success with “The Passage” inspires his students, he also fears it could give young writers a false sense of security on a road filled with detours and potholes. “Writing has always been an impractical career choice in the sense of why you choose a career,” he said. “It’s a cobbled together existence, an improvisational existence. And success makes that look easy. Like it didn’t take 25 years. Like someone waved a wand and, alakazaam, you’re a star.” Building the Buzz


15 pages, and you will find yourself captivated; read 30, and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It had the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.” With such success on the horizon, Cronin’s world might never be ordinary again, but he hopes that some normalcy will return and that someday he can get back to teaching. “I love the time I have spent with Rice students,” Cronin said. “They’re energetic, great self-starters and wonderful learners with all the virtues of youth.” He is quietly rooting for another Rice connection, too. “I hope my kids go there. Rice is a rare place with brilliant faculty who are the best in their fields actually teaching small classes. And it’s a small community in a big, culturally rich and diverse city. I have yet to find a better thing going.” Read “The Story Behind ‘The Passage’” by Justin Cronin:

›› › 5 3 “The Passage” website:

›› › YouTube interview with Justin Cronin:

›› › 54

About the same time that Cronin was promoted to full professor at Rice in 2007, “The Passage” received major buzz when it was purchased by Random House’s Ballantine Books after a heated auction between a number of publishers. The book sale was immediately followed by a Hollywood auction won with a seven-figure offer by Fox 2000 for Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions. “The Passage” will be adapted for the big screen by John Logan, whose writing credits include “Gladiator,” “The Aviator” and “Sweeney Todd.” The book auction and Hollywood attention generated so much excitement that the New York Times wrote a half-page feature on Cronin’s success. In January, the Wall Street Journal named “The Passage” one of the top books being published in 2010. editors listed “The Passage” as a top pick for June 2010. Even famed author Stephen King weighed in on Cronin’s work. “Every so often a novelreader’s novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination,” King said. “Read

Rice Magazine

No. 7



Beyond Humanism What does it mean to think beyond humanism? Is it possible to craft a mode of philosophy, ethics and interpretation that rejects the classic humanist divisions of self and other, mind and body, society and nature, human and animal, or organic and technological? Can a new kind of humanities — posthumanities — respond to the redefinition of humanity’s place in which the “human” is but one life form among many? In “What Is Posthumanism?” (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), Cary Wolfe, the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English, explores how critical thought, along with cultural practice, has reacted to this radical repositioning. One of the founding figures in the field of animal studies and posthumanist theory, Wolfe distinguishes posthumanism from transhumanism — the biotechnological enhancement of human beings — as he ranges across fields as diverse as bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, and gender and disability studies to develop a posthumanist approach to understanding ourselves and the world. Then, using posthumanist analyses of such diverse works as the writings of Temple Grandin, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” the architecture of Diller Scofidio +Renfro, and David Byrne and Brian Eno’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” he shows how this philosophical sensibility can transform art and culture. —Christopher Dow

Jones gives a pithy summary of what he has learned not just about trying cases, but also about how to be the most effective lawyer possible. The key is understanding and communicating with people.

Lessons for Lawyers When Perry Mason takes on a new case, he has Della Street jot down a few notes and sends Paul Drake out to ask some questions. After looking thoughtful and voicing a couple of wellchosen phrases, he unmasks the real culprit during a tricky cross-examination that proves things aren’t always what they seem. But according to Frank G. Jones ’63, neither are television and cinematic courtroom dramas. Jones should know. For more than 40 years, he has been an attorney with the Houston law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. In that time, he has tried more than 100 jury cases and represented a wide range of clients from diverse industries. Among his many professional associations and accolades, he has served as chair of the Houston Bar Foundation and has been named in “Best Lawyers in America,” “Who’s Who Legal USA” and Super Lawyers magazine. Now, in “Lessons from the Courtroom” (Kaplan Publishing, 2009), he gives a pithy summary of what he has learned not just about trying cases, but also about how to be the most effective lawyer possible. The key is understanding and communicating with people. Along the way, he stresses that honesty and high standards are vital in both maintaining


a reputation and doing the best job for the client. He also talks about job stress, gaining experience in the courtroom, deciding what sort of — and how much — evidence is pertinent, and how to approach depositions strategically. Voire dire, the process of questioning prospective jurors to determine their backgrounds and biases before selecting them to decide the fate of your client, occupies one of the book’s longest chapters. The book winds up with discussions of final arguments and settling a case. Personably written and filled with examples and practical advice, “Lessons from the Courtroom” should interest any young attorney who wishes to become a more efficient and effective client advocate. —Christopher Dow



The Sunbonnet

More Mischief In a follow-up to his 2006 “Animal Mischief,” Rob Jackson ’83 charms once again with more impish high jinks in “Weekend Mischief” (Wordsong, 2010). This collection of poems geared for children ages 7 to 9 follows the escapades of a boy confronting the joys, frustrations and mysteries of growing up. Written as paeans to youthful imagination and the excitement of discovery, the poems show the protagonist coming to terms with the realities of life, such as how to deal with boredom, why things are as they are and why it is necessary to accomplish chores like homework. Instead of being preachy, though, the poems serve more as a vehicle to help young people learn to lead a balanced life that melds fun with work and scampishness with honesty. The poems are colorfully and amusingly illustrated by Mark Beech. —Christopher Dow

A lot of hats will protect you from the sun, but few are as iconic as the American sunbonnet. Pervasive and fashionable throughout westward expansion in the United States, the sunbonnet endures as work dress in some regions and elsewhere on quilts, dolls and children’s clothing. Costume historian Rebecca Jumper Matheson ’97 wondered why this particular working-dress accessory persisted long after it passed out of 19th-century fashion, and her research culminated in “The Sunbonnet: An American Icon in Texas” (Texas Tech University Press, 2009). In it, she surveys the history of the sunbonnet, details materials and methods of construction, and delves into what the sunbonnet reveals about American fashion, culture and ideas. Enlivened by oral histories, numerous archival photos and sunbonnet patterns, “The Sunbonnet” is a valuable resource for scholars as well as collectors, re-enactors and anyone else drawn to this emblematic American headwear. —Christopher Dow

“People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States,” by Michael O. Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology at Rice, with Rodney M. Woo (Princeton University Press, 2008)

“The Faery Taile Project: Book One,” by Christopher Kastensmidt ’95 and Jim C. Hines (CatsCurious Press, 2008)

“Bodies of Knowledge: The Medicalization of Reproduction in Greece,” by Eugenia Georges, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Rice (Vanderbilt University Press, 2008)

“Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State,” by Tara Branum Ross ’94 and Joseph C. Smith Jr. (Spence Publishing Company, 2008)

“The Multidimensional Data Modeling Toolkit: Making Your Business Intelligence Applications Smart with Oracle OLAP,” by John Paredes ’79 (OLAP World Press, 2009)

Rice Magazine

No. 7



By David D. Medina

Photography by Tommy LaVergne

Rendon Enters the

Pantheon of Rice Baseball Greats

Being selected the 2010 College Player of the Year by Baseball America magazine and winning the Dick Howser Trophy — the Heisman Trophy of college baseball — confirmed what many Rice fans suspected: Anthony Rendon is one of the greatest players to put on a Rice uniform — in the same league as former Owl stars Jose Cruz Jr. ’96 and Lance Berkman ’98. “What makes Anthony really good,” Rice baseball coach Wayne Graham said, “is that his whole game is sound. His hitting and defense are sound, and he’s a quiet leader. He doesn’t do a lot of shouting, but he says things that are correct.” The unassuming Rendon doesn’t like to shout off the field either, especially about his accomplishments. For a player to win so many accolades after only two years of playing college baseball is unusual, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to him. In fact, Rendon, who is known for being a genuine, happy person who always seems to play with a smile, can’t even tell you how many awards he’s won this year. “I really enjoy the awards a lot but I don’t pay much attention to that because I don’t want to get big-headed,” he explained. “Sometimes when I come up here to hit, someone will say, ‘Hey, congratulations.’ And I say for what? And they’ll say, ‘Well, you won this and that award.’” But even if he can’t name them all, the awards are many and highly impressive. Rendon is the second player in the country to be named Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year and then College Player of the Year as a sophomore. The only other player to accomplish that feat is Robin Ventura of Oklahoma State University, who went on to have a stellar professional baseball career after receiving the awards in 1986 and 1987. Also, Rendon is only the second player in Conference USA


history to be named Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Rendon has been selected as an All-American by a host of publications and was named the District VII Player of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Rendon was named C-USA Male Athlete of the Year and was honored by Mayor Annise Parker ’78 with “Anthony Rendon Day” in Houston. In addition to being selected to play on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team during its annual international goodwill tour, he also was named to the 2009–10 Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, which is reserved for student–athletes who compile a GPA of 3.0 or better. Unfortunately, during the second game of the international tour against South Korea, Rendon broke his ankle in a rundown. His surgery, however, came out better than expected, and Rendon will be ready to play in the 2011 season. This stream of awards honor a brilliant season for a player who put up some incredible statistics. Rendon had a batting average of .394 with 26 home runs, 85 RBIs, 64 walks, an .801 slugging percentage and a .530 on-base average. In each of the offensive categories, Rendon improved from the previous year, and his defense, which some considered lacking, also got better. In his freshman year, Rendon had 13 errors, which was partly due to a shoulder problem that lasted the whole season. “Some sportswriters said that I couldn’t play third base and that I couldn’t throw,” Rendon recalled. “I said, ‘all right, now I have to


do something about that?’ I took care of my arm in the fall, and I only made five errors this season. I wanted to show up my critics.” Working hard to improve himself has been a way of life for Rendon ever since he was 3. That’s when he started playing baseball. His father, Rene Rendon, remembers the first day his son showed an interest in the game. “We used to watch baseball games together, and then one day he grabbed a stick and started hitting some rocks,” the elder Rendon said. “The next day I bought him a bat, a ball and a glove.” By the time Rendon started playing organized baseball at five, his father had been training him for almost two years. His father continued working with him for years, teaching him how to play every position and using a chalkboard to go over game situations. Rene Rendon says that his son was afraid of catching short hops, so he hit him ground ball after ground ball until Rendon was no longer afraid of fielding them. “We practiced for hours and hours and he never complained because he loved the game,” says Rene. Rendon was so good that he always played “up,” or in an age group that was a year or two older than he was. Because he was the youngest on the team, Rendon was also usually the smallest one — about a foot shorter than his teammates. It wasn’t until he was 11 that the diminutive Rendon surpassed 5 feet. Right around that time, he met the coach who would mold him into a future star. After Little League, Rendon went to play for the Texas Thunder, a 12-year-old select baseball team coached by Willie Ansley, who had been the Houston Astros’ number one draft choice in 1988. “Coach Willie taught me everything,” said Rendon. One of the main things Ansley taught Rendon was to improve his attitude. “When I was younger, I would always get real mad if I struck out, and I would throw the helmet and cry,” Rendon admitted. “Coach Willie explained to me that you are not supposed to show your emotions too much on the field.” In hitting, Ansley advised Rendon to stay inside the ball and not to pull it. “He told me to throw my hands first and put the barrel of the bat to the ball, and good things will happen,” Rendon said. As for defense, Ansley instructed Rendon to put his glove down to the ground early when a ball was approaching. “I used to be a flipper,” Rendon said. “I would put my glove down right before the ball came.” Ansley remembers Rendon as “a little guy with really quick hands and strong wrists.” He was impressed with Rendon because the young player would always hit a fastball. “He had good pop for his size,” Ansley recalled. In the summer of his sophomore year in high school, Rendon grew 5 inches to stand 5 feet 10 inches and weigh 165 pounds. He was already showing signs of being a great

“He brings a joy to the game that I hope translates into pro ball. I have every reason to believe that he will be good for the great institution of baseball.” — Wayne Graham


player when he hit four home runs at Houston’s George Bush High School. In his junior year, he transferred to Lamar High School, where he finished his senior year with eight homers and a batting average of .516. The Atlanta Braves drafted Rendon in the 27th round, but Rendon decided to attend Rice. “I knew that Coach Graham was here and that he had a good track record,” Rendon said. “And Rice offered an excellent education.” He also wanted to be close to home so that his parents, Rene and Bridget, could watch him play. At Rice, Rendon, who is majoring in sports management and is a member of a Bible study group that includes Lance Berkman, has flourished. He grew to 6 feet, increased his weight to 190 pounds and became an even better hitter. In high school, he said, “Pitchers are so erratic that it’s more difficult to hit the ball. One pitch might be coming at your head and the next one is nibbling the outside corner. In Division I baseball, I knew strikes were coming and I was going to hit them.” So what’s left for a player who has won the highest honor in college baseball? “Omaha. I want to play in the College World Series,” Rendon said. “Rice made it to Omaha the four years before I got here, and we have failed to make it the past two years. I’m upset. I’ve heard that Omaha is such a great place.” Whether Rendon gets to Omaha will depend on many factors, but one thing is for sure: Rendon will go very high in next year’s baseball draft, maybe as high as No. 1. “He brings a joy to the game that I hope translates into pro ball,” said Graham. “I have every reason to believe that he will be good for the great institution of baseball.”

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Rice Magazine

No. 7





Owls Capture C-USA Men’s Tennis Title

The Rice Owls men’s tennis team ended four years of frustration as a pair of sophomores battled back to win three-set matches and give Rice the Conference USA men’s tennis title with a 4–3 win over the University of Tulsa at Jake Hess Tennis stadium April 25 before a raucous, supportive crowd. Sam Garforth-Bles and Isamu Tachibana delivered the clinching points, with GarforthBles tying the match with a win and Tachibana setting off a celebration with his own win just seconds later. The 41st-ranked Owls snapped a four-year losing streak to Tulsa in the C-USA title match and a five-year run of losses in their conference finale while running their record to 14–10. “It was a great college tennis match,” said head coach Ron Smarr. “This was one of the largest crowds we’ve had out here since I’ve been at Rice, which really helped. Don’t think that the crowd doesn’t help. It put the pressure on the guys who were left in the match. I’m proud of all our players and the effort they gave, but I especially want to praise the leadership of our seniors, Bruno Rosa and Dennis Polyakov. They really pulled this team together.” After the Owls had fallen behind 3–1, Rosa sparked the crowd with an emotional straight set win over 35th-ranked Marcelo Arevalo. Rosa continuously energized the crowd with his passing shots and admitted that he played to the crowd to help inspire his teammates on the other Hess courts. “The crowd was great, and I wanted to get them excited and loud so that all my teammates on the other courts would hear them,” Rosa said. “There’s no doubt it helped us. I could not think of a better way to end my last match at Jake Hess than to be celebrating with my teammates and holding the championship trophy.” Rosa, a two-time All American, closed out his home career by extending his unbeaten streak in singles to 10 matches. Even though Garforth-Bles lost his first set, he picked up momentum from there. “The crowd was amazing and really pushed me,” he said. “Once I got on a roll, they were even louder, and it was a lot of fun.” He jumped out to a 3–2 lead in the final set, but then saw Tulsa’s Philip Stephens break his serve to draw even. However, Garforth-Bles quickly made amends and broke Stephens in the next game to take a lead he would not relinquish.


Tachibana, who was playing on one of the back courts, said he had no trouble gauging how the match was progressing. “The environment was amazing,” he said. “I could hear the crowd cheering, and I knew it was coming down to the end. I kept my focus after that second set, and then it all came together so quickly at the end.” As he readied himself for a match-point serve from Marko Ballok, he heard the roar from Court 3 as Garforth-Bles closed out his match. Within moments, he clinched the title for the Owls in his third set with a 6–4 win that secured a berth for the team in its eighth consecu”I’m proud of all our tive NCAA tournament two weeks later. players and the Given the rugged schedule he laid out for his Owls, there were times this year when Smarr woreffort they gave, but ried that his team might not be able to continue the I especially want to streak. But the challenges of that schedule seemed to hone the Owls’ competitive edge as they adpraise the leadervanced to the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships in Baylor Tennis Center. ship of our seniors, Unfortunately, the tennis team’s run of magical Bruno Rosa and moments came to an end there as the 8th-ranked Baylor Bears blanked the Owls 4–0. Despite the Dennis Polyakov. outcome, Smarr was proud of the fight the Owls They really pulled continued to show, even as the contest drew to its inevitable conclusion. this team together.” “We fought to the end, but they have three —Ron Smarr great seniors, and they really play well at home,” Smarr said. “We have nothing to feel bad about, especially when you think back to when we were 6–8 and down in the mid-50s in the rankings. This team has a lot to be proud of. They showed great heart and really grew during the year. We turned those 4–3 losses into wins, and we have a conference title to show for it.” —Chuck Pool

View a slide show of Rice tennis: › › ›

Students Margaret Pack, surrounded by the graduate voice students selected to study Italian in Florence, Italy, through the Margaret C. Pack Language Institute for Singers.

“Big things happen at Rice. You don’t give to Rice — you invest in it.” — Howard Leverett

A Gift to Rice Students That Really Sings As an aviation machinist’s mate during World War II, Margaret Pack ’50 helped keep U.S. Naval planes humming. Now, she is helping to fine-tune a different kind of instrument: the voices of Rice’s most talented opera singers. Pack’s love for opera began at an early age when she first heard the Metropolitan Opera playing on her family’s radio. Her passion only deepened throughout her military career, which extended into the Army Reserve and her successful career with Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil). Eventually, she struck a chord with Rice’s Shepherd School of Music. With a portion of her retirement plan assets and other current-use gifts, she formed the Margaret C. Pack Language Institute for Singers, which will allow students to travel to Italy for intensive language study this summer and in the years to come.

[ Creative Giving Tip: Retirement Plan Assets ] Assets from a traditional IRA, 401(k) or 403(b) often are taxed at high levels when left to nonspousal heirs. Donating these assets is a tax-wise way to fulfill your testamentary plans while leaving more tax-efficient assets to family and friends.

To learn more about including the university in your estate or retirement planning and making a commitment to the Centennial Campaign, please contact the Office of Gift Planning. Phone: 713-348-4624



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This year, O-Week welcomed nearly 950 freshman students — Rice’s largest incoming class ever. If they seem happy and excited, it’s no wonder: The Princeton Review again named Rice No. 1 nationally for Best Quality of Life in its “Best 373 Colleges,” a survey based on responses by 122,000 students at four-year institutions nationwide. Among the Class of 2014 is the largest number of international students, who hail from nearly 90 countries. Rice’s diversity earned it the No. 2 spot in the Lots of Race/Class Interaction category for the way its students reach out to others of different backgrounds. Visit the photo gallery ›››

Rice Magazine Issue 7  

Rice Magazine is published by the Office of Public Affairs of Rice University and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, graduate stu...

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