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2018 Laureates Award Honorees

Gold Medal

Bruce Dunlevie ’79 

Bruce Dunlevie

Bruce Dunlevie’s leadership, professional achievements and generous philanthropic support underscore a lifetime of substantial contributions to Rice University.

As a pioneer in the world of venture capital, Dunlevie’s acute business sense has been an invaluable resource for Rice. One nominator explained that he “pushes the thinking of Rice’s leadership forward.” A founder and general partner of Benchmark Capital, he has backed some of technology’s biggest winners, including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, OpenTable, Yelp, Zillow and Zipcar. This readiness to support new, and sometimes radical, ideas is combined with a willingness to devote time and resources to the betterment of others. One nominator noted that Dunlevie’s entrepreneurs see him as “more than just an investor, but also a wonderful coach, mentor and friend.”

Dunlevie has served in those same mentoring and coaching roles for Rice, sitting on the board of trustees from 2002 to 2010. While chairing the Academic Affairs Committee, he helped shape Rice’s academic priorities for the next several decades and made a significant contribution to the Call to Conversation by instilling an aspirational approach to growth, research and undergraduate education. He was an influential contributor to Rice’s assessment of athletics in the mid-2000s. Additionally, Dunlevie was essential to the establishment of the Rice Management Company, the body tasked with stewarding the university’s substantial endowment fund. He received the Association of Rice Alumni’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001 and currently sits on the Rice School of Humanities Advisory Board.

A notable proponent of the humanities, Dunlevie earned a bachelor’s in English and history from Rice and an MBA from Stanford University, where he currently is the chairman of the board of the Stanford Management Company.

Mary McIntire ’75 

Mary McIntire

For more than 40 years, Mary McIntire has empowered Houstonians and lifelong learners from around the world to build brighter futures. After earning her Rice doctorate in English in 1975, McIntire joined Continuing Studies as a program director. An exceptional series of courses like Interpreting America and Living Texas materially connected Rice to the city of Houston and set high standards for the array of courses to come. McIntire was named the founding dean of the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies in 1986, making her the first woman at Rice to lead a school. Under that leadership, enrollments increased from hundreds per year to nearly 20,000. In addition, she joined Susanne ’62 and Melbern ’61 Glasscock to lead the campaign for the 2014 opening of the state-of-the-art Anderson-Clarke Center, the home of the Glasscock School.

McIntire’s many contributions to Rice also include serving as university representative to the Texas Coordinating Board, co-chair of the groundbreaking committee for the Baker Institute for Public Policy, co-chair of the Rice United Way Campaign and member of the Friends of Fondren Library board. Beyond Rice, she served on United Way committees and as a member of Leadership Houston, Leadership America, the Rotary Club of Houston, and the Greater Houston Partnership Education and Workforce Advisory Committee. Active in the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, she served as its president and chair of the board from 2007 to 2010 — their first president to serve while maintaining a full-time career. Her honors include Houston YWCA Woman of the Year in Education, Houston Women’s Federation Woman of the Year and the Association of Rice Alumni Meritorious Service Award. In 2008, she was named to the inaugural group of “Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women” by Houston Woman Magazine.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Jim Blackburn ’74 

Jim Blackburn

A renowned conservationist and environmental lawyer, Jim Blackburn’s love for the Texas coast has yielded pioneering environmental scholarship, preservation solutions and thousands of impassioned students versed in Southeast Texas ecosystems.

In addition to practicing environmental law at Blackburn & Carter, a firm he founded in 1977, Blackburn is a Rice faculty scholar at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, a professor in the practice of environmental law, director of the undergraduate minor in energy and water sustainability, and the co-chair of Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center — an organization that raises public awareness of the risks associated with severe storms and hurricanes.

As co-founder of the Galveston Bay Foundation, Matagorda Bay Foundation and Houston Wilderness, Blackburn advocates for the preservation of Texas’ coastal wetlands. A thought leader in Gulf Coast flood mitigation after Hurricane Harvey, Blackburn has published multiple articles directly addressing the region’s flooding problem, including “Living with Flooding in Houston” and “Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey: Policy Perspectives.” His books include “The Book of Texas Bays” and “A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast.” 

Blackburn is the recipient of the Bob Eckhardt Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Award and the Barbara C. Jordan Community Advocate Award and has been awarded an honorary membership by the American Institute of Architects. In 2017, he was presented the Good Egg Award by the International Crane Foundation for outstanding courtroom expertise on behalf of the endangered whooping crane. Blackburn holds a bachelor’s and law degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s in environmental science from Rice University.

Joshua R. Earnest ’97

Josh Earnest

As the White House press secretary under former President Barack Obama (2014–2017) and currently a political analyst for NBC News, Josh Earnest has made an indelible mark on American political discourse. After earning a bachelor’s in political science and policy studies from Rice University, Earnest’s political career began with volunteer work on Lee Brown’s historic Houston mayoral campaign. His star in political communications rose quickly as he worked on Michael Bloomberg’s first campaign in New York City, Capitol Hill, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign in 2007.

In January 2009, Earnest began his tenure at the White House as deputy press secretary, managing the White House press office and occasionally substituting for the press secretary at the podium and on Air Force One. In 2014, Earnest was promoted by President Obama to White House press secretary, arguably the most visible job in American politics. He quickly earned the respect of Washington insiders in both parties for his ability to marshal facts and advance persuasive arguments. White House journalists surveyed by Politico voted Earnest the “best White House press secretary I’ve worked with” in 2015.

Earnest also distinguished himself by using his platform to advance core principles of American democracy, including transparency in government and freedom of the press. He was instrumental in efforts that encouraged journalistic freedom, including news conferences that President Obama convened with President Xi in China and President Castro in Cuba. He also organized the first all-women’s news conference held by a U.S. president in the White House briefing room.

 N. Wayne Hale Jr. ’76

Wayne Hale

N. Wayne Hale Jr. is at once an exceptional engineer and a proven leader — characteristics that rightfully earned him the post of deputy associate administrator of strategic partnerships at NASA. Hale began his 32-year career with NASA as a propulsion systems engineer in flight operations. Later, working for the Flight Director Office, he oversaw a total of 41 space shuttle missions.

When tragedy struck Columbia in 2003, Hale’s leadership was instrumental in remaking and restoring the Space Shuttle Program. Promoted to deputy manager of the program in 2003 and manager in 2005, Hale was responsible for overall management, operations and the complicated task of invigorating a team recovering from catastrophic disaster. One nominator explained, “Hale, through force of will, brought NASA back from the doldrums to the July 2006 overwhelmingly successful space shuttle Discovery STS-121 mission.”   

Hale’s nominators spoke to his unparalleled leadership and genuine concern for those he worked with. He was consistently described as embodying “‘the Rice way,’ with ethics, character and competence.” His essays on life, tragedy and the possibilities of space exploration, known affectionately as Hale-grams, infused the Space Shuttle Program with a sense of humanity and compassion.

Among a host of distinctions, Hale has been awarded the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement, the NASA Space Flight Awareness Leadership Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, Rice Outstanding Engineering Alumnus and Purdue University Distinguished Engineering Alumnus. He holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Rice University and a master’s in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.

Diana H. McSherry ’67, ’69

Diana McSherry

A pioneer in ultrasound imaging, Diana H. McSherry’s 40-year career has been dedicated to understanding and advancing human health. She developed digital technologies that assist cardiologists in the interpretation of echocardiographic studies, allowing for enhanced monitoring, remote interpretation and improved clinical care.

After earning a bachelor’s in physics from Harvard University and both a master’s and doctorate in nuclear physics from Rice, McSherry began her career in seismic imaging. She managed four major divisions of Digicon, a seismic acquisition and processing company, before transitioning to a new seismic software company, CogniSeis, where she set up international operations in London, Singapore, Melbourne, Jakarta, Calgary and Beijing. 

Following the sale of CogniSeis, McSherry returned to medical imaging and structured reporting work in Digisonics. As president and chief executive officer of Digisonics, McSherry has kept her company on the forefront of the medical imaging industry, expanding the company’s offerings while making invaluable contributions to diagnostic medicine and less invasive patient care.

McSherry’s nominators credited her accomplishments to her “talent, persistence, integrity and innovative skills.”  One nominator explained, “Diana always shows the intelligence, fortitude and compassion to overcome adversity. Her success is rooted in these attributes.”

McSherry’s volunteer contributions include serving as vice president of the board of trustees of the Leakey Foundation, an institution focused on human origins research and education. She has served on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast and the advisory board for the Rice Professional Science Master’s Program, where she established the Diana McSherry and Patrick Poe Endowed Fellowship in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Meritorious Service Award

Edward Cox

Edward Cix

Edward Cox’s contributions to Rice University include being a celebrated teacher, trusted adviser and accomplished scholar. Cox is well known for his academic expertise in Caribbean, comparative New World slavery and race relations, and civil rights history, as well as for his inspired teaching philosophy. One nominator wrote, “His ability to cultivate in all students a love for learning while also helping them to develop confidence in themselves and their work is rare.” Cox has volunteered extensively at Rice, serving on more than 25 committees, including the Athletics Committee, the Faculty Senate and the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

A professor of history for 27 years, Cox, now associate professor emeritus of history, mentored hundreds of students. He served as a college associate in both Martel and Wiess and sponsored numerous campus groups. One nominator explained, “He was a stalwart, comforting, inquisitive and Socratic adviser to the Black Student Association and to the Caribbean Students Society. His more than 20 years of work with these groups were critical to making Rice a place where a great diversity of black students could thrive.” As founding director of Rice’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, Cox nurtured and mentored minority students who wished to pursue doctoral degrees.

Cox is a four-time winner of the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching and has authored over 30 publications, including “The Free Coloreds in the Slave Societies of St. Kitts and Grenada 1763–1833.” He holds a bachelor’s from the University of the West Indies and a master’s and doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Barbara Jenkins Gibbs ’73 and David K. Gibbs ’70

Barbara Jenkins Gibbs and David K. Gibbs

Barbara Jenkins Gibbs ’73 and David K. Gibbs’ ’70 commitment to Rice reaches across university departments, leaving an enduring impression on Rice’s campus and student life. Their ardent belief that recreational and physical activity should be enjoyed by all undergraduate and graduate students is signified by the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, a state-of-the-art facility that has been nationally recognized as a model university recreational center.

The Gibbs are passionate supporters of Rice Athletics, including the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center, the George R. Brown Tennis Center, the Wendel Ley Track Pavilion, the Tudor Locker Room Project and the Women’s Basketball Assist Club. Additionally, the Gibbs are supporters of the Shepherd School of Music, the Moody Center for the Arts, the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Rice 360? Institute for Global Health, having established the Barbara and David Gibbs Endowment for Global Health.

David received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering from Rice before going on to found David K. Gibbs Associates, a real estate development and investment firm, in 1979. A student-athlete who played on the men’s basketball team, David is a past president of the R Association and a member of the Women’s Athletics Advisory Board. Barbara earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Rice and her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. A retired radiologist, Barbara serves on Rice’s Public Art Committee and the Friends of Fondren Library Board of Directors.

Paula and John Hutchinson

Paula and John Hutchinson

One nominator described Paula and John Hutchinson as the “best combination of parents, friends, confidants and caretakers.” As magisters of Wiess College from 1994 to 2001 and Brown College from 2003 to 2008, the Hutchinsons have extended their support to thousands of Rice students, building cohesive communities based on thoughtful leadership and genuine friendship. As a team, the Hutchinsons have welcomed students into their home, looked after their well-being, and encouraged them in pursuits both academic and personal.

In his 35 years at Rice, John has proven a talented and beloved teacher and administrator. As a professor of chemistry, he has won the George R. Brown Prize for Teaching Excellence twice, the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching four times and the George R. Brown Certificate of Highest Merit for Teaching Excellence. As dean of undergraduates and former associate vice president for student affairs, John has tirelessly dedicated himself to advancing the university while building consensus between faculty and the students they serve. He holds a bachelor’s and doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Paula is described by a nominator as “a friend of every Rice student.” She practiced law for 22 years with Fullbright & Jaworski and McDade Fogler. She is an adjunct lecturer for the Program in Writing and Communication, co-teaching a first-year seminar course titled Critical Thinking in a Democracy with John. Paula graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in journalism and earned a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

Leland A. Winston ’69

Leland Winston

Leland A. Winston has given over 50 years of service and commitment to the Rice community. As an undergraduate at Rice, he was a model student-athlete, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology while simultaneously winning two All-Southwest Conference Lineman awards. After graduation, he chose medical school over an offer to play professional football with the Kansas City Chiefs, enrolling in the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1969. Winston completed his residency at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, specializing in orthopedic surgery and started an orthopedic practice at Houston Methodist Hospital.

In 1974, under the supervision of James Butler, Winston became a consulting physician for the Rice Department of Athletics. Since 1990, he has served as the co-head team physician of the Rice football team. In both of these roles, he has consulted and treated thousands of Rice Owls, inspiring a number of student-athletes to pursue a medical profession. A dedicated team doctor, he was described by one former coach as embodying “all the aspects we seek today in pursuit of players to carry on the proud tradition of the Rice Owls football program.”

Winston is an NFL Players Association consultant team physician, an associate clinical professor at the University of Texas and a clinical instructor at Baylor College of Medicine. He is the author of numerous publications and is on staff at Memorial Hermann Hospital and the Methodist Hospital.

Laureates Nomination Forms

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

Submit a Nomination

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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