Editor's Note: Winter 2021

With the new year in its infancy, there’s a hopeful spirit in the air. Hope shines forth in the triumph of scientific research, collaboration and discovery that have resulted in COVID-19 vaccines. Hope shines in the voices of activism and civic engagement among alumni and students. And what else but hope underlies the Rice community’s extraordinary efforts to learn, work, care for others and be together, however distant. 

 Our cover feature, “One for the Books,” began when art director Alese Pickering enlisted a group of talented student photographers to capture moments of their unique fall semester. Here’s what caught the students’ attention:  slices of life from real and virtual classrooms, ordinary spaces altered by COVID-19 rules and the joy of being outdoors. Staff photographers Tommy LaVergne and Jeff Fitlow contributed to this series as well, which continues online at magazine.rice.edu.

 We owe Peter Fasullo ’75 a debt of gratitude for suggesting that we look into the groundbreaking work of his former suitemate, Barney Graham ’75, one of the key developers of the National Institutes of Health/Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. An email to Graham elicited the intriguing detail that another roommate, William C. Gruber ’75, was leading a vaccine project for Pfizer. Graham and Gruber’s enduring friendship and intertwining research careers are the subject of science writer Cindy George’s feature on solving the COVID-19 vaccine puzzle. 

It turns out that even beginnings are hard-won products of time and attention, collaboration and courage, and research and reckoning. In 2021, we raise a glass to the Owls who make new beginnings possible.

Last summer, we caught up with Mark Little ’08, whose unconventional career path captured our attention. Little earned a Ph.D. in geology and geophysics at Rice, but traded Earth science to work in support of strengthening the economic fabric of impoverished rural communities in his home state of North Carolina. N.C.-based journalist Elizabeth Leland paints a portrait of Little’s creative advocacy.

In Sallyport, we write about the on-campus protests, which began last August, at the statue of William Marsh Rice. For almost a year, a group of students and alumni have called on the university to address “what is not told” about the founder’s history as a slave owner. In a related story, we learn about the current efforts of Rice’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice, which is headed by historians Caleb McDaniel and Alex Byrd ’90. The work of the task force has gained new visibility through a weekly webinar series called “Doc Talks” and a spin-off podcast by the same name. 

It turns out that even beginnings are hard-won products of time and attention, collaboration and courage, and research and reckoning. In 2021, we raise a glass to the Owls who make new beginnings possible. 

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