Dear Fellow Alumni: When I graduated from Rice in 1977, I never imagined the major role Rice would play in my life both as an alumnus and as a proud parent (Matthew ’14). My involvement with the university began in earnest through my participation with the Austin Chapter of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, then blossomed when a number of us founded Austin Rice Alumni, the Austin Parents’ Committee and Rice Attorneys in Austin. I’m now genuinely excited to be embarking upon a term as president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA). In that role, I’m following in the footsteps of a number of former presidents who have served as mentors to me, including outstanding leaders such as Gloria Tarpley ‘81, Bob Clarke ‘63, Scott Wise ’71, Donald Bowers ’91 and — most recently — Sue Oldham ’90, who was such an innovative and dedicated leader that the notion of stepping into her shoes is a bit intimidating.
Due to my focus on building our family and my career as a trademark and copyright lawyer, my own engagement as an alumnus was, frankly, a little slow to develop, and when it did start to emerge it wasn’t because I was actively looking for volunteer outlets. Instead, with every modest step along the path, I found increasing fulfillment, fun and intellectual stimulation as I met more and more Rice people — whether fellow alumni and parents or the many students, faculty members and administrators I encountered.
Many of those positive experiences arose from my involvement with several of our alumni groups; over the past few years, the number and diversity of our 70+ alumni groups has dramatically increased, providing an incredible array of platforms for making connections to Rice and Rice people. Those include regional groups in more than 20 cities throughout the world, as well as affinity groups that allow Owls with common interests to flock together. I would strongly recommend that you consider taking steps to become engaged in one or more alumni groups that resonate with you. A full list of our current groups can be found at alumni.rice.edu, as well as information about upcoming events.
In addition to alumni group activities and regional events, this fall Rice will launch our most state-of-the-art alumni and student networking resource to date: Sallyportal. On Oct. 12, Rice alumni and parents can connect with students and each other through this virtual community to create job opportunities, volunteer as mentors and engage with campus partners. Sallyportal will be the first resource of its kind developed by the university to offer a professional networking platform dedicated solely to the Rice community. Read the Rice news story at news.rice.edu, and be on the lookout for additional details as we anticipate the Oct. 12 launch date.
Given the focus of this edition of the All-Alumni Letter on great food and drink, I was asked to recall some of my best memories about food at Rice from my student days. While the warmth of the food service staff and the fellowship my friends and I enjoyed over our meals in the Sid Rich commons were truly highlights of my tenure at Rice, I’m embarrassed to admit that my most striking food-related memory from that era involved a lunchtime food fight amongst several dozen members of our college that spontaneously erupted when a student used a handful of cake to “escalate” a good-natured political discussion to the next level. I will say that one of the biggest — and most unexpected — surprises during the first Families Weekend my wife and I attended in 2010 occurred when we encountered the outstandingly tasty and diverse array of foods that now emerge every day from Rice’s state-of-the-art serveries. Without question, the quality of the food at Rice has come a long, long way in recent years!
Joining me as new members of the ARA Board are seven dedicated Rice alumni who began serving their three-year terms on July 1. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Jeff Abbott ’85, Adrieanna (AJ) Beard ’01, Teddy Bucher ’08, Corey Devine ’03, Adriana Grivas ’08, Wanna Hadnott ’84, and Marty Sosland ’75, as well as our newest Alumni Trustee Scott Wise ’71.
I continue to be amazed at the accomplishments and diverse paths of our fellow alumni, and yet one thing ties us all back together: Rice. I encourage you to stay involved with Rice by attending events in your area, volunteering when called upon and letting us know how we can better support your experience as an alum. I look forward to working with you over the coming year.
Shannon Vale '77
President, Association of Rice Alumni