Messages from outgoing and incoming Association of Rice Alumni Presidents Monique Shankle '86 and Toya Bell '87

Monique Shankle '86 and Toya Bell '87

Dear Fellow Owls,

Serving as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni over the past year has been an incredible privilege and has further strengthened my appreciation for our alumni community. Together, we have weathered a worldwide pandemic and a host of challenges both large and small, and, at the same time, our community has thrived. We’ve learned from each other, supported common causes and come together in our shared commitment to Rice.

I am particularly proud of the ongoing work of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice Committee, which was formed to ensure quality learning opportunities, expand alumni education and collaborate with DEIJ initiatives within the campus community. The 21-Day Equity Challenge last fall was an exceptional first step in building more thoughtful actions around race, gender and sexuality, religion and disability. There is still much to accomplish within DEIJ, and I am grateful to know that Toya and the DEIJ committee will be remarkable champions of ongoing efforts.

This was also a year that required flexibility and the ability to adjust quickly. Our hybrid Owl Together celebration allowed for many alumni to connect virtually, while still welcoming alumni and families to campus. This spring saw a more robust return to in-person activities, including our first-ever Young Alumni Weekend, as well as the return of some our favorite activities like Brains in a Bar, the picnic at Valhalla and the Alumni Tent at Beer Bike. And finally, we were pleased to honor this year’s Laureates recipients, including Gold Medal awardees John Casbarian ’69 ’72, Janice Doty ’60, and David Leebron and Y. Ping Sun. Thank you to all who attended and made each of these events a success.

Another highlight of the past year was the launch of Be Bold: The Campaign for Rice, a $2 billion fundraising effort that invokes the spirit of President Kennedy’s moonshot speech, given at Rice nearly 60 years ago. The campaign challenges us to face a new era of change and invest in the pathbreaking work of our students and faculty. Thank you to the many generous supporters who have invested in our stellar community. 

I am so grateful to my fellow alumni and friends for your support over the past year. Your enthusiasm and engagement have made this role especially fulfilling. I send my best wishes to Toya Bell ’87, an exceptionally motivated and capable leader, and I look forward to seeing all that she will bring to the ARA as this year’s president.


Monique Shankle ’86
Immediate Past President, Association of Rice Alumni



Dear Fellow Alumni,

I am thrilled to serve as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA) this year. As your president, I am committed to building on our core values, deepening alumni engagement and strengthening the global Rice alumni network. Monique Shankle ’86, our past president, has successfully guided the ARA through a challenging and productive year, and I’m truly grateful for her insight and wisdom.

I look forward to working alongside Tania Min ’90 ’92, president-elect, as well as new board members: Beverly Bian ’04, Jessica DeLorenzo ’07, Bryan Domning ’75, Ricky Mercado, Alayne Potter ’11, Selim Sheikh ’11, Hasti Taghi ’18 and Claudia Vassar ’99, the new alumni trustee. This is an exceptional group of alumni who will work toward advancing the ARA’s goals.

I also want to acknowledge, with my sincere condolences, the recent passing of Joe Graves ’70, who was about to start his first term on the ARA Board. Joe credited Rice for having “an incredibly positive influence on my life and happiness, as well as those of my daughter, Lindsay Hernandez ’09 ’16, and son-in-law, José Hernandez, Jr. ’10 ’11.” Joe’s talent, wisdom and dedication to Rice will truly be missed.

On Aug. 1, the new assistant vice president of alumni relations, James Hurley, joined the alumni relations staff at Huff House. He brings a breadth of experience and perspective from his work as a senior director on the development and alumni relations team at New York University, and I’m excited to see the many ways his insights will enhance our own program.

There is much to anticipate this fall, including the 60th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s moonshot speech on Sept. 12 and the well-anticipated inauguration of Rice’s eighth president, Reginald DesRoches, on Oct. 20-22. I hope to visit with many of you at Owl Together, our Homecoming & Reunion and Families Weekend, held on Oct. 28-29. Planning is well underway, and a robust agenda will include class reunions, the annual picnic and football game, the president’s town hall and much more. This will be an excellent opportunity to visit campus and engage with friends and classmates.

I also want to acknowledge two significant milestones for the university. First, the First Black Student-Athletes Celebration on Sept. 16-17 marks the 50-year milestone of Rice University’s first Black student-athletes and their transformational role in Rice’s history.  On Nov. 5, we will celebrate the anniversary of Latinx and Hispanic life at Rice. The Society of Latino Alumni of Rice (SOLAR) is leading a yearlong celebration marking the establishment of the Rice Association of Mexican American Students, a group founded by Dr. Richard Tapia and 16 students in 1972.  RAMAS, which later changed its name to HACER (Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice), has served as the roots from which several student groups have flourished, and we look forward to celebrating this legacy at a special gala.   

Undoubtedly, the Rice community is invested in the continued excellence of the university, in fulfilling our mission and in bettering our city, country and world. We are also invested in connecting with you and with providing an alumni experience that is enriching for all. Join your regional group, volunteer on campus, attend a virtual gathering — participate in ways that are meaningful for you and your current circumstances. In turn, let us know how best to support your efforts to strengthen this community for all.


Toya Cirica Bell ’87
President, Association of Rice Alumni