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The Builders Awards Celebration

Hosted jointly by the Association of Rice Alumni and the Rice Annual Fund

The Builders Award Celebration is one of the premier young alumni events of the year. The annual celebration gives all young alumni the opportunity to connect with their peers and with leaders in the Rice community, as well as celebrate a range of contributions to Rice. The 2016 celebration was held March 20, 2016, at the Anderson-Clarke Center and honored young alumni leaders Akilah Mance (Jones ’05) and Kate Gunn Pagel (Lovett ’05).

2016 Builders Awards Recipients


Akilah Mance (Jones ’05) currently serves as co-chair of Rice’s 50th anniversary of black undergraduate life, for which she is helping coordinate a yearlong series of events, leading a campus-wide volunteer effort and strengthening outreach to the Houston community.  As president of the Association of Rice University Black Alumni, she has helped increase engagement in cities around the U.S., while strengthening ties with Rice’s Black Student Association. She also is a member of the Association of Rice Alumni Board of Directors, the Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admission and the Rice President’s Council on Diversity & Inclusion.

A native of Stone Mountain, Georgia (Metro-Atlanta), Akilah received her bachelor's degree in English and political science from Rice in 2005 and her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 2008. While attending Rice, Akilah studied abroad in Germany and continued her desire for international education by studying abroad in law school at Oxford University in England. 
Akilah recently joined the Houston-based law firm Olson & Olson LLP, where she specializes in municipal law and litigation for several cities in the Houston area. Her specialty is in dealing with public information requests, representing city police departments and councilmembers, as well as representing governmental bodies in tort lawsuits.  She spent the first six years of her career as a felony assistant district attorney in the Harris County District Attorney's Office specializing in serious felonies.  

While building her legal career and volunteering for Rice, Akilah has continued her involvement in the Houston community at-large. She is a high school mentor through the Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) Program and a former youth basketball coach for the YMCA. In 2012, she was honored as “Judge of the Year” by the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Board of Advocates and as a "Local Hero" by the Houston Lawyer's Magazine.  She also is a sponsor and host committee member for the National Black and Hispanic PreLaw Conference. 


Kate Gunn Pagel (Lovett ’05) is known for her tireless enthusiasm and active, personal outreach, both of which have had a deep impact on Rice’s campus and alumni communities alike. Described by one nominator as the “epitome of a Rice leader,” Kate is a constant and visible presence in the Houston community. As the former chair of the Houston Young Alumni Committee (2008-09), she led an engaged group of young alumni volunteers who organized several social gatherings around the city and planned signature young alumni events. Along with her husband Garner, she serves as a Lovett College associate. 

Kate also has shined as a passionate philanthropist. She led her class’s giving efforts since graduation and has served on the Rice Annual Fund Steering Committee for several years. As co-chair of her 10th reunion, she achieved the highest 10th reunion participation since 1997 and was named Participation All-Star in recognition of her outreach to countless classmates and her motivation of fellow volunteers. She is currently serving as vice chair of the Rice Annual Fund Steering Committee. 

A native of Houston and Brenham, Kate graduated from Rice in 2005 with a degree in history and went on to earn her master’s degree in public administration from Sam Houston State University in 2010. She currently works in the Corporate Partnerships office of Baylor College of Medicine, where she fosters strategic affiliations between nonprofits and corporate partners. 

Kate’s leadership and enthusiasm for philanthropy extends to other Houston organizations, as well. She is a member of the Junior League of Houston and is a committed volunteer for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, for which she serves as the magazine committee vice chairman and editorial board supervisor, as well as a trailblazer committee captain.  She supports the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Houston Museum of Natural Science and Shakespeare at Winedale.

2016 Builders Awards Selection Committee

Meghan Davenport ’15 Priyanka Duvvuru ’14
Akash Morrison ’13 Liz Young ’12
Josh Ozer ’11 Steven Loh ’10
Larissa Charnsangavej ’09 Dionella Martinez ’08
Christi Cahill ’07 John Fossum ’06
Rebecca Lamb ’05 Kurt Kasper ’06 Ph.D.

Former Builders Awards Recipients

Ryan Aipperspach ’04; Kurt Kasper ’06 Ph.D.

Julie Tam ’03; Sparky Frost ’07, ’11

Katherine D. Hallaway '04; Matthew Haynie '03; Daniel Williamson '08

Melissa Kidonakis ‘07; Kaleen Tison Povis ‘05; Felisa Vergara Reynolds ‘00

Tony Castilleja '09; Jenny West Rozelle '00; Julia Smith Wellner '01

Holly Williams '03; Bryan Guido Hassin '01

Theresa Sandoval Hanson '96; Corey Devine '03; Stephen Herce '03

Michol Ecklund '97; Mitra Miller Roehr '92

Sidney Crenwelge '95; David VanHorn '00; Stephen Herce '03

Jen Cooper '90, Pat Huttenbach '92, Yve Thaller Huttenbach '94

George Webb '88; Barry Donovan '90


View 2016 Builders Awards Photos on Flickr

Builder's Awards 2016

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