April 3, 2013
Rice Athletics and the “R” Association, which has represented and supported all Rice University letterwinnners since it was founded in 1913, have signed an affiliation agreement that will offer every man and woman who has earned a monogrammed “R” enhanced benefits and greater communication.
“Many individuals have worked very hard to make this affiliation a reality,” Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said. “Our purpose is to streamline our branding and messaging to everyone in the Rice family through the resources available in the Athletic Department in order expand on activities that were often handled on a volunteer basis. We value the mentorship that our former athletes can offer to our current and future scholar-athletes and we want to create an effective forum for letterwinners to network in the future to enhance their professional lives. Our letterwinners are history and the soul of Rice Athletics and everyone saw this initiative as the most effective way to solidify those ties and to revive the bond with members who may have lost contact over the years.”
“The “R” Association was formed in 1913 to support Rice’s intercollegiate athletic programs, to honor members who have distinguished themselves and brought honor to the University and to sponsor activities and foster communication among the members,” current “R” Association Board President John Coles ’70 (M Basketball) said. “With the support of the athletic department and this affiliation agreement we were able to engage the first full time Executive Director of the R Association, Jimmy Comerota. A Rice graduate and former Baseball letterman, Jimmy has made great progress reaching out to our members and working with the athletic department to build on the Mission of the R Association.”
“Greater communication will drive the success of this new affiliation,“ Comerota said. “We have worked closely with the Office of Alumni Affairs on a comprehensive letterwinner contact information database to vastly enhance our reach. I understand there will be questions about this new configuration and we’ve assembled materials as well as a restructured newsletter to help us guide our letterwinners through the process. We will be very active in all aspects of social media as well, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.”
A letterwinner is defined as any individual, male or female, who earns a letter for participation in a varsity sport. In recent years, this distinction has been expanded to include individuals who also participated on “freshman teams” as well as managers, trainers, cheerleaders and dance team members. Honorary members are individuals selected by the “R” Association to receive an “Honorary R” for their long-standing support of Rice Athletics.
All letterwinners at Rice immediately become members of the “R” Association with no dues required and there is no longer an “active” or “inactive” designation. However, letterwinners who had achieved Lifetime Member status will forever be acknowledged as such. These individuals are grandfathered into the “Gray” level of the Owl Club and will receive those benefits.
Comerota has several new projects and programs in development which will strive to keep Letterwinners not only connected but proud and engaged in Rice Athletics:
- Communications — In coordination with the Offi ce of Alumni Affairs and Athletics Development, the “R” Association has put together a comprehensive letterwinner contact information database with an increased focus on communication. The launch of a new e-newsletter, a revamped website and a newly established social media presence will allow for a variety of ways to stay connected.
- Networking — One “R” Association goal is to become a strong networking and professional development avenue for Rice letterwinners. A closer relationship between the “R” Association and the Office of Alumni Affairs is placing an emphasis on regional groups in cities across the country as well as furthering the engagement of young alumni.
- The Woodson Archive Project — Working with Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center, the association will work to preserve the history of Rice University Athletics. Initial stages of the project include the identification of and stories behind existing photographs in the Woodson collections and the digitization of outdated Athletics film.
- Volunteer Program — For groups visiting Rice University and Rice Athletics events, this program will create visibility for the “R” Association beyond the Rice community. Projects will emphasize academics and sports for local youth and will work in conjunction with those brought to campus through various marketing and group ticket sales initiatives.
The ‘R” Association will continue to recognize outstanding accomplishments by scholar-athletes with the annual Stancliff-Sass and Stancliff-Duckett Scholarships as well as supporting the effort of the Student–Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in order to connect Rice letterwinners with the projects of our scholar–athletes including the annual SAAC food drive in the fall and the spring blood drive.
Annual events such as The Night of the Owl, The Scholar–Athlete Banquet and The Senior Breakfast will continue to be mainstays of the academic calendar as will the “R” Association’s biennial induction of a new class to the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame.
Comerota will work closely with the “R’ Association Board of Directors. The “R” Association Board consists of a representative from each sport or group, and decade of Rice Athletics. The group takes leadership positions on “R” Association initiatives, projects and is always looking to add letterwinners with enthusiasm and passion.
Coles ’70 will be succeeded at the turn of the fiscal year in July by Gene Walker ’66 (Football).
Other Current board members are:
Jeff Vanover, Vice President, Football, ’04
Jerry Lewis, Treasurer
Mike Ecklund, Past President, Football, ’93
Wanna Hadnott, Past President, W. Tennis, ‘84
Don Rather, Past President, Football, ’59
John Sylvester, Past President, Football, ‘63
Tanyia Chuites, Trainer, ’96
Kristen Bayazitoglu, Soccer, ‘04
Julie Birch, W Swimming, ’98
David Gibbs, M Basketball, ‘71
Starla James, W Basketball, ’03
Kylie Pflieger, Cheer, ‘11
Jason Sosa, Sport Management
Jeff Pope, M Track & Field, ’92
Gus Speary, Football, ’69
Ray Torp, M Swimming & Diving, ‘83
Shannon Wright, W Track & Field, ‘04
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