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2017 Laureates Award Honorees

Gold Medal

Lynn Laverty Elsenhans ’78

Lynn Laverty Elsenhans’ passion and dedication to Rice, along with her estimable professional achievements, are simply remarkable. Even as an undergraduate student at Rice, Elsenhans distinguished herself among her peers. She earned recognition as a member of the women’s basketball team during its formative years, and was honored with the Student Service Award for her achievements both on and off the court. She went on to earn an MBA from Harvard University in 1980 before embarking on her 28-year-long career with Royal Dutch Shell, where she rose to executive vice president of Global Manufacturing.

In 2008, Elsenhans became the first woman to lead a major oil company as president and CEO of Sunoco, a role she held until 2012. She has received numerous professional awards in recognition of her remarkable career, including being named to the Forbes “Most Powerful Women” list for four consecutive years.

Elsenhans has served Rice through involvement in the Rice Annual Fund, the Nanoscale Leadership Committee, the Jones School Council of Overseers, the Association of Rice Alumni Board, Women’s Athletics, the Advisory Board of the Brown School of Engineering and the Board of Trustees, for which she served from 2002 to 2015. She has been an outspoken advocate for student professional development and has influenced the creation of Owl Edge externships and internships, Sallyportal and other impactful professional development programs.

As one nominator summed up, Lynn’s tireless dedication to the university and enthusiasm for making lasting contributions is of the “highest level, and Rice is better because of that engagement.”

J. Dennis Huston

During his nearly 50 years at Rice, beloved English professor J. Dennis Huston influenced the lives of thousands of Rice Owls as an educator, mentor, friend and scholar. As one nominator described, for the many students “who took his classes, lived with him in Hanszen, played on his teams and knew him in late-night rehearsals, no case needs to be made. They know that Dennis Huston was the best teacher they ever had.”

His singular voice and electric energy are legendary. In fact, his “Shakespeare on Film” class was so popular among students that it often had a wait list. Known primarily as a Shakespeare scholar, he also taught classes in writing, performance, and Renaissance and modern drama. Huston also is an accomplished actor and was a frequent performer in student productions, most notably in plays by Shakespeare. Continually a presence on the Rice campus, Huston served as master of Hanszen College twice from 1978 to 1982 and from 1992 to 1998.

Huston is the recipient of many illustrious teaching awards, including Rice University’s George R. Brown Teaching Award (six times) and the Nicolas Salgo Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1989, he received national recognition as Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation. He has authored several publications, including “Classics of the Renaissance Theater: Seven English Plays” (1969) and “Shakespeare’s Comedies of Play” (1981).

Distinguished Alumni Award

Richard A. Chapman ’54, ’55, ’57

Richard A. Chapman, a celebrated innovator in technology research and development and Rice University Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in physics from Rice University. An active student as well as a talented athlete, he was selected as the All Southwest Conference defensive guard in 1952 and the All Southwest Conference tackle in 1953. In 1954, Chapman was selected as one of the MVPs of the Cotton Bowl and was a first round draft choice for the Detroit Lions, but he turned down a football career to pursue postgraduate degrees at Rice.

After earning his doctorate, Chapman accepted a position at General Electric. He spent two years developing commercial nuclear reactor cores until receiving an offer to join the Central Research Laboratories of Texas Instruments in Dallas. At Texas Instruments, he began his work with transistors for silicon integrated circuits. These transistors were crucial for the advancement of devices that have helped to define the modern world, such as digital wristwatches, calculators, computers and cellular phones. Chapman retired after achieving the rank of senior fellow, and later accepted a position as a research scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he still works today.

Chapman has served the university as a member of the Rice Alumni Association Executive Board and was elected as an alumni governor advisor and a trustee advisor for the Board of Trustees. His and his wife Barbara’s ’54 generous support helped to create the Chapman Lecture Series, which brings visiting scientists in nanotechnology to the Rice campus.  

Mary Lou Sauer Henry ’60, ’61

Throughout her stellar career as an urban planner, Mary Lou Sauer Henry has been known as a “mentor and an inspiration” who constantly works to “promote the best in urban planning,” according to one of her nominators. Over the past 50 years, Henry has helped to frame much of the successful growth and development in Houston, Texas. In fact, when she began her career in the city of Houston’s Planning and Development Department, she helped lay the foundation for some of the city’s current developments. When Texas passed its landmark annexation law in 1963 to protect growth areas for cities, Henry was assigned the task of researching the growth history of Houston to produce the first official annexation map. Additionally, she developed the first major thoroughfare plan covering the 1,700-square-mile area outside of the city limits — an undertaking described by one nominator as a genuine feat. In 1964, Henry transitioned to the private sector at Neuhaus & Taylor and, in 1971, joined her late husband Vernon Henry as a partner at Vernon Henry & Associates, Houston’s oldest land planning firm.

Henry was recognized in 1985 with the American Planning Association (APA) Diana Donald Award for contributions to women’s rights and the planning profession. In 1999, she was inducted in the first class of the Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners, the APA’s highest honor. In 2014, Henry became the first recipient of the Texas Planning Legend Award. She has served on the board of directors for the Main Street Coalition, South Main Alliance, Scenic Houston, Houston Fire Museum, Boulevard Oaks Civic Association and the University Place Super Neighborhood. Henry received a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in architecture from Rice University. 

 William B. Russel ’69

As one nominator stated, William B. Russel is a “devoted Rice alumnus, a commanding scholar and administrator, and a true leader among leaders.” He retired in 2014 after 12 years as the dean of the Graduate School at Princeton University, where he made his mark as one of the nation’s most highly respected graduate deans. In that position, he instituted new policies to enhance research and entrepreneurship, focusing on minorities and women engineers, and oversaw a 35 percent increase in the graduate student population. He first joined Princeton’s faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and later became chairman of the department before being named director of the prestigious Princeton Materials Institute.

Russel is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as chair of the Council of Graduate Schools and as a member of the board of directors for the Association of American Universities. He is the recipient of the 1992 William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering Literature, the 1999 Bingham Medal from the Society of Rheology and the 2007 Award in Colloid Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. Russel earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Rice in 1969 and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1973.

Gary H. Stern ’70, ’72

Economist Gary H. Stern has made remarkable contributions to U.S. banking practices over his long and celebrated career. Stern is best known as the 11th chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where he retired in 2009 after becoming the longest-serving president in Federal Bank history.

He first joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in 1982 as senior vice president and director of research. Prior to Minneapolis, he spent seven years at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and served on the faculties of Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis and New York University.

Stern’s contributions towards building a world-class research department and advancing public policy made him a standout member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policymaking arm of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. An adept economic analyst known for his considerable foresight, Stern co-authored the 2004 book, “Too Big to Fail: The Hazards of Bank Bailouts,” in which he accurately predicted key factors of the 2008 financial crisis. Stern earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Washington University in St. Louis and a master's and doctorate in economics at Rice University.

James M. Whitehurst ’89

A celebrated business leader and an innovator in organizational management, James M. Whitehurst currently serves as president and CEO of open source software giant Red Hat Inc. With an extensive background in business development, finance and global operations, Whitehurst has successfully grown the company’s revenue from $500 million to more than $2 billion in only eight years. Under his leadership, Red Hat has been named to Forbes’ list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” three times, Forbes’ “Fastest-Growing Technology Companies” and Investor Daily’s “Top 10 New American Companies.” Whitehurst is also a notable author, publishing “The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance” in 2015 with Harvard Business Review Press. The book examines how open principles of management can enable organizations to succeed in our connected and fast-paced era.

Prior to Red Hat, Whitehurst worked at the Boston Consulting Group, where he held several corporate development leadership roles. In 2011, Whitehurst transitioned to the Delta Airlines leadership team as acting treasurer and was later promoted to chief operating officer. Whitehurst was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, was honored by North Carolina State University with the William C. Friday Award and has received the CEO of the Year Award from the Triangle Business Journal.

Whitehurst graduated from Rice University with a bachelor’s in economics and computer science. He holds a general course degree from the London School of Economics and received an MBA from Harvard University.

Meritorious Service Award

Sofia Adrogué ’88

Sofia Adrogué, according to one nominator, is the epitome of a “trailblazer and a visionary.” A native of Argentina, she has been a commercial litigator for over 25 years and is currently a member of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP. She is a “Texas Super Lawyer;” a Latino Leaders U.S. “25 Most Influential Hispanic Lawyer;” a University of Houston Law Center Immigration Clinic Arrival Awards Immigrant Achievement honoree; a Greater Houston Women’s Chamber Hall of Fame inductee; and a Houston Chronicle / Channel 11 “Texas Legend.” She has been named an “Outstanding Houstonian,” an “Outstanding Texan” and an “Outstanding Young American.” 

A prolific writer and public speaker, Adrogué is the creator and editor of the Texas Business Litigation treatise. An alumna of the Harvard Business School (HBS) OPM, she served as the first female U.S. keynote graduation speaker for HBS OPM as well as U.S. class representative. Adrogué graduated from Rice magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated from the University of Houston Law Center magna cum laude and as a member of Order of the Coif and Barons. For both, she received full academic scholarships. 

A former Brown College president, Adrogué has served on the Rice SOLAR Board of Directors and the Association of Rice Alumni Board of Directors and as a Rice Hispanic Centennial Gala co-chair. She is a keynote speaker for the Rice Vision and Rice LEAD programs and a Houston Chronicle “Notable Rice University Graduate.”

Adrogué is co-host and co-producer of “Latina Voices: Smart Talk” and co-founder and co-chair of the Youth Leadership Forum. She is the mother of Sloane, Schuyler and Stefan and is married to fellow Rice graduate, Sten Gustafson ’89. Adrogué has been recognized for her public service by the city of Houston with “Sofia Adrogué Day.” 

Sandy Havens ’56

Neil “Sandy” Havens, professor emeritus of art and art history, led the Rice Players for 36 years as the group’s first professional director. He originally joined the troupe as a student actor in 1952 — the second year of the Players’ existence — and served as a student coordinator until his graduation. Havens continued to pursue his acting and directing career interests, and earned a master’s degree in theater from Indiana University Bloomington. He then worked as a production assistant and stage manager on Broadway before returning to his alma mater in 1964 to interview for the position that would define his career. In fact, the interview panel included a number of Rice Players, who were ultimately responsible for choosing Havens as their favored candidate.

With his arrival, the Players entered an era of artistic ambition in the 1960s and 1970s, staging Houston premieres of innovative works and garnering critical praise. A former student reflected, “Under [Havens’] guidance, the Rice Players became known as a creative force on the Houston theater scene, with their openings attended by theater critics from both of Houston’s major daily newspapers.”

A passionate educator, Havens mentored innumerable students during his years as director, guiding his students’ development on and off the stage. He even moved his family to campus, serving as Jones College master with his wife, Helen ’57, from 1971 to 1977.

As one nominator said, Havens touched the lives of students “across every academic discipline at Rice with an approach to theater — and any other endeavor — that held up collaboration, consensus, respect, enquiry and commitment as the tools to solve any problem.” 

Judy Ley Allen 

Judy Ley Allen, co-manager of Allen Investments and manager of Ley Investments, is an accomplished businesswoman and active philanthropist. She spent two years at Rice before completing her bachelor’s degree at Stanford University. She then became one of the first women to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. Despite her relatively short time as a student at Rice, her dedication and philanthropy towards the university is remarkable.

Allen served as a Rice trustee from 1981 to 1987 and is currently a trustee advisor. She served on the Association of Rice Alumni Honors Committee, the Rice University Fund Council and the University Standing Committee on the President’s Lecture Series. Allen is a Rice Associate and a member of the William Marsh Rice and the Captain James A. Baker Societies. In 1998, she was invited to join the Jones Graduate School of Business Council of Overseers, where her professional success as a business owner is an invaluable resource.

A co-originator of the Crownover Scholars Program, Allen has helped to raise significant funds for the endowed MBA scholarship in honor of Jim Crownover ’65. With her husband, the late Robert H. Allen, she established the Robert and Judy Ley Allen Scholarship at the Jones School. The Ley Student Center, built in 1986, was funded by gifts from Allen and her family in honor of her parents, Audrey Moody Ley ’35 and Wendel D. Ley ’32.

Robert R. Maxfield ’63, ’64

Robert R. Maxfield’s passion and support of education and research at Rice are just as impressive as his professional accomplishments as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. After receiving dual undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering from Rice in 1963 and 1964, as well as a master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1966 and 1969, he co-founded ROLM Corporation with three fellow Rice alumni. As executive vice president and director of the innovative computer and telecommunications manufacturing company, he helped guide the successful acquisition of ROLM by the tech giant IBM in 1984. Maxfield continued to build on his impressive professional career as an investor and corporate executive, and for the past three decades he has served as a consulting professor in the Management Science and Engineering Department at Stanford University.

In 1988, he established the Maxfield Foundation to further his passion for cutting-edge science and education. Through the foundation’s support and Maxfield’s hands-on involvement, Rice’s OpenStax — an initiative that provides students with free or low-cost high school and college textbooks — has become a resounding success. This year alone, OpenStax textbooks have saved students an estimated $100 million. 

Maxfield has continued to serve in several roles at Rice, including university trustee, chair of Rice’s Financial Affairs Committee, and a member of Rice’s Campaign Leadership and Technology Transfer Committees. According to one nominator, his “enthusiasm, creativity, and unstinting willingness to share his time, energy and resources” have made a lasting impact on the university and the Rice community.

Rebecca Richards-Kortum

According to one nominator, Rice bioengineering professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum has impacted “not only her students and the study of bioengineering at Rice, but also disadvantaged populations around the globe.” Founder and director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, she was awarded a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship — also known as the “genius grant” — for her groundbreaking work as a pioneer in science and education. More recently, under Richards-Kortum’s leadership, the Rice 360° Institute’s NEST 360° suite was named a semi-finalist for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. NEST 360° (Neonatal Essential Solutions and Technologies) is a comprehensive set of technologies that will allow clinicians to provide quality newborn care in low-resource settings. Partnering with four other organizations, Richards-Kortum and her team will work to make the NEST 360° suite available throughout Africa in the next decade. Richards-Kortum was also recently named to Fortune magazine's 2017 "World's Greatest Leaders" list.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received numerous honors, including the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Optical Society’s Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award, Rice University’s George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s highest honor, the Pierre Galletti Award. Richards-Kortum is the author of more than 300 research papers, more than 40 patents and the textbook “Biomedical Engineering for Global Health,” published by Cambridge University Press.  

As one nominator stated, “[Richards-Kortum's] leadership, character, personal qualities and intellect are creating real-time, life-changing experiences for Rice students.”  

Laureates Nomination Forms

To submit a nomination for one of the three Laureates awards, please use the form below.

Selected honorees are announced in early spring and are honored each year at the annual Laureates Dinner on the evening of Commencement. If you have any questions regarding the nominations process, please contact at 713-348-4057 or

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