Behind the Stories

A note from the editor

David Leebron at a favorite Rice University public art piece called Mirror by Jaume Plensa Mirror
An outtake from Tommy LaVergne's photo shoot for the story "End of an Era" captures David Leebron with one of his favorite Rice University public art pieces, Mirror by Jaume Plensa.

Each issue of Rice Magazine is the sum of collaborative talents, serendipitous moments and attention to what’s happening now in our campus community. Starting with the blockbuster cover illustration, our spring issue is a great example of this equation. Chock-full of Rice-y references to places, people and traditions — the cover kicks off our feature package honoring the legacy of president David W. Leebron, who steps down June 30, 2022.

For this milestone assignment, art director Alese Pickering turned to award-winning illustrator Michael Byers because, “he’s a master of packing lots of details into one cohesive and colorful picture that comes alive on the page.” First, she curated a list of dozens of touchstones for Byers to include in his work. “He got everything in there that we asked for,” Pickering added, “and I hope that our readers will enjoy finding little Easter eggs like the Valhalla wasp, an owl and squirrels.”

The feature story on Leebron’s legacy was written by Schaefer Edwards ’13, our newest writer in the Office of Public Affairs, and one who brings plenty of “only at Rice” knowledge to his assignments, including this (“hey, no pressure”) feature. Photographers Tommy LaVergne and Jeff Fitlow shine brightly in the accompanying photos and portraiture.

Some stories have their genesis in a previous issue. Such is the case with our feature on star sommelier Belinda Chang ’95, whose pre-COVID small business livelihood depended upon lavish in-person events. Chang’s pivot to hosting online food and wine-tasting parties is beautifully captured by Chicago-based writer Heather Lalley. We first learned about Chang while producing our beverage issue in summer 2018. Back then, she graciously agreed to create a popular pairing of, well, wines and their residential colleges. If you’re wondering which wine pairs well with your residential college, we’ve added that link online.

Our third feature connects readers back to campus with a focus on Rice Architecture. Freelance writer Erin Peterson asked a group of faculty and alumni to share the mindsets that underlie how they think about a variety of projects, from classrooms to homes, museums to animal habitats — and even makeup boxes. In turn, we hope readers take note of the ideas influencing the spaces where we live, learn, collaborate and celebrate. What’s the benefit? As Professor Carlos Jimenez put it, “[Good] architecture makes one feel alive, immersed in the amazing experience of the world.” We hope you enjoy these and many more stories throughout Rice Magazine.  — Lynn Gosnell