Established by the Association of Rice Alumni and the Rice Annual Fund in 2005, the Builders Awards recognition program honors young alumni who have made outstanding contributions to Rice post-graduation and enhanced the reputation of Rice through leadership in their careers or communities. Past winners include notable regional alumni leaders, Annual Fund volunteers, affinity group trailblazers and other young alumni who are committed to supporting Rice and its community of students and alumni through their dedication of time, talent and energy. We invite you to recognize young alumni who are building a better future for the university by nominating candidates for the award.
The nomination deadline for 2020 is Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Selected honorees are announced in early spring and are honored each year at the annual Laureates Awards Dinner on the evening of Commencement. If you have any questions regarding the nominations process, please contact Mimi Edwards, Assistant Director, Alumni Programs at 713-348-2918.
Denny Lehman (Will Rice ’12) is the co-founder of the solar technology company Prodigal Sun Solar in San Francisco, where he manages product development and strategy. Hailing from Cleveland, Denny was determined to become a Rice Owl at a young age due to the university’s strong reputation in engineering. While studying chemical and biomolecular engineering, he passionately pursued volunteer opportunities, including work at the Mikos Research Group as well as with several nonprofits through Rice’s Alternative Spring Break program, among others. Denny was also an active member of Rice’s residential college system where he served as Will Rice’s chief justice and co-advised at Hanszen College for O-Week. He also served as captain for the Rice Lads soccer team, leading the team to a conference championship.
After graduation, Denny created stochastic modeling software to optimize oil pipelines and refineries from Canada to Ecuador as an engineering consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies. Education and youth empowerment remained at the core of Denny’s efforts, and this passion led him to create an internship program for young engineers. He personally mentored over 15 interns during his four years at KBC. Additionally, Denny volunteered with the PACE high school internship program in Katy, Texas, providing students with hands-on mentoring and college preparation. After serving on the program’s advisory board for two years, he was appointed chairman. During his tenure, the program doubled in size and now provides numerous opportunities for high school students in the Houston area to seek and find their passion.
Denny also serves as a board member of ProUnitas, an education startup in Houston that designs holistic, technology-based solutions for at-risk students. He is passionate about youth development and sportsmanship, and he volunteered as a youth basketball coach through the Weekly Family YMCA for four years. Denny also remains very active within the Rice community, volunteering as an interviewer for Rice Alumni Volunteers for Admissions, as well as serving as a college associate at both Will Rice and Jones colleges.
In 2015, Denny and his wife Sherry Lin (Jones ’12) founded a dinner and discussion group called “Nourish Your Noggin,” a monthly event where guests are encouraged to research the featured topic and come to the event prepared to share their knowledge over a delicious meal. Denny was inspired to create this event when he realized his conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances tended to circle around the same topics (e.g. work, family and weekend plans) with a fundamental missing component: His network found it difficult to make time to learn about new things outside of work. The first dinner had eight guests and the topic of conversation was education and healthcare. Since then, Denny has hosted over 30 dinners with varying topics, such as the future of transportation in Houston, the future of renewable energy, and a deep dive on NCAA sports and student athletes. The events have grown to nearly 50 participants and guests are always encouraged to bring others, strengthening the community from within. For each event, Denny invites experts from industry and the community. These experts have often been from the Rice community, ranging from professors to NCAA athletes to former athletics directors.
Denny maintains a consistent focus on identifying opportunities to give back to the Rice community. He seeks to foster a sense of wonder and encourage lifelong learning, capturing the spirit of his undergraduate education at Rice.