A Note from Association of Rice Alumni President Toya Cirica Bell ’87

Toya Cirica Bell ’87

Dear Rice Owls,

As we know, a Rice education goes far beyond the classroom and lasts beyond our time as students. Lifelong friendships, lessons learned and warm-hearted memories are part of the Rice bond that keeps us connected to our beloved university and the thousands of former students, faculty, friends and parents in our Owl family.

As an undergraduate, I was a student of the humanities with a passion for learning. I enjoyed courses in the sciences, English literature, African American history, French language and architecture. As an English major, I was accepted into the Humanities Internship Program led by Dr. Lynn Phillips. Her guidance led me to a second internship at Baker Botts prior to attending law school. At my swearing into the bar, I saw Dr. Phillips, who graciously introduced me to her husband, then Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, the Honorable Thomas R. Phillips. As a new lawyer, this was an inspirational and momentous occasion.

Time and time again, Owls and members of the Rice community show up for each other. The wonderful experience of serving on the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA) board came from Rice connections. As I have served on the board, I’ve shared this experience with college roommates, classmates and old friends who have supported this journey. While serving as president of the Austin Rice Alumni Association, Stephen McVea ’89, a former ARA board member and the brother of my Rice roommate, Kimberley McVea Thornton ’87, nominated me to serve on the board, and Stacy Gilstrap ’88 submitted a letter of recommendation on my behalf, demonstrating the longevity of Rice connections. After joining the board, I began traveling to Houston for meetings, staying at classmates’ homes, including Olethia Chisolm ’87 and Monique ’86 and Renee Shankle ’87, giving us an opportunity to reconnect. While serving in this role, I’ve also appreciated the thoughtful conversations about the future of Rice with my friend Cecilia Nunez O’Doherty ’87.

The ARA’s mission is to ensure the value of the Rice experience doesn’t stop when you earn your degree. This journey began the moment you received your acceptance letter and continues long after you venture beyond the hedges, meeting you at every stage of life. I’d love to hear more about how the ARA can best support you in remaining connected. Reach out at alumni@rice.edu.


Toya Cirica Bell ’87
Association of Rice Alumni President