Houston - Despite the overnight downpour of rain, the spirits of the 99th graduating class of Rice University could not be dampened, which included over 100 student-athletes.
Rice President David Leebron welcomed the graduates' friends and families to a ceremony that is often a hot and sunny affair. Overnight storms had left the morning cool and damp, and in Houston in May, he told the crowd, "this is what we call perfect commencement weather."
The day began early for the new student-athlete graduates as they gathered with their coaches and other members of the Rice Athletics Department for the annual Graduation Breakfast. Afterwards, they joined their colleges for the procession onto the Academic Quad to receive their degrees.
Among the honorees were Bryan Price and Tyler Henley, two former Rice baseball players who came back and earned their bachelor degrees. Also earning his bachelor degree was former Rice Owl and NBA basketball star Ricky Pierce, who proved it is never too late earn the sheepskin diploma. Graduate Ana Guzman would have walked across the platform, but she was busy with the Rice women's tennis team getting ready for Saturday's match against Ole Miss in the NCAA tournament in Oxford, Miss.
This year's commencement address was delivered by Salman Khan. Khan's address to the graduates focused on contributions of a different kind: He urged the students to do everything they can to "increase the net happiness in the world."
Khan is the founder of the Khan Academy, a free online education platform and not-for-profit organization that has made waves in the field of education. In 2004, Khan's online tutorials for a young cousin gained a wider audience, and five years later he turned his collection of free educational videos into the online Khan Academy. Today, his more than 3,200 online tutorials attract 6 million viewers every month, and Time magazine recently named him one of the world's 100 most influential people.
Rice awarded a total of 1,665 degrees to 1,609 students, including 881 degrees to 832 undergraduates and 784 master's degrees and Ph.D.s to 777 graduate students.