The celebrations honoring Reginald DesRoches as Rice University’s new president filled the campus for three days leading up to the final and formal fête that saluted his investiture as only the eighth president in the college’s storied 110 year history. Throughout, DesRoches was proudly welcomed also as the university’s first Black and first immigrant leader as he hails from Haiti.
The black-tie evening followed the official investiture that took place earlier in the day. It was attended by Rice faculty, staff, students and trustees and more than 150 representatives from colleges and universities across the country, each dressed in their academic regalia. The festivities took place in the Academic Quadrangle, where in the evening a sophisticated flock would gather for the black-tie dinner and program in a 20,000-square-foot pavilion (aka party tent).
“The Investiture Gala” was chaired by two Rice trustees — Gloria Tarpley, class of 1981, and Elle Anderson, class of 2001 — and Fred Oswald, who holds the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice. Rice Board of Trustees chair Robert Ladd welcomed the throng of some 400 Rice enthusiasts.
The evening included tributes to DesRoches and recognition of his family — his wife Paula Gilmer DesRoches and their children Andrew, Jacob and Shelby, who is a senior at the university. The new president was frequently praised for his intellect, leadership abilities, career accomplishments and desire to give back to the community.
“I think he’s the man for the time,” former Rice Board of Trustees chair Jim Crownover says. “He’s the appropriate person to lead us forward. We’ve accomplished so much, and we’ll do the same under Reggie.”
Among those on the program was Gary May, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, who reflected on his 35-year friendship with the new president. The men were students together at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked together at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“I honestly cannot think of anyone more deserving or more prepared to lead Rice University,” May says. “With this inauguration, Reginald DesRoches will carry on a long and proud tradition of excellence at Rice University. But I expect he will do much more than that.
“He’s a person with a grand vision for the future. And he has the charisma and the compassion to inspire others to work collectively for the greater good.”
The evening, with dinner from City Kitchnen, included a performance by students in Rice’s Shepherd School of Music and by Bella Electric Strings and concluded with an impressive drone show by Verge Aero . The 10-minute presentation featured images meaningful to Rice. This included the Athenian Owl, an owl flying through the Sallyport, one of the Rice campus’ iconic live oaks with the Rice logo and shield and more. The drones also spelled out the last name of every Rice president in the university’s 110-year history, and then the full name of the new president followed by his nickname of Reggie.
PC Seen: Rice Provost Amy Dittmar and Robert Dittmar, Rice University’s seventh president David Leebron and Y. Ping Sun, Nancy and Rich Kinder, Clarke Anderson, Bucky Allshouse, Pascal Desroches, Molly Crownover, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Patricia and Jonathan Kraft, Ann and Bob Baillio, Merinda Watkins and Reginald Martin, Susie and Mel Glosscock, Peggy and Stephen Klineberg, Geraldina and Scott Wise, Ann Doerr, George Tarpley, Linda Anderson, Ryn and Russell Bowers, and Shawn Rose and Donald Bowers.