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Centennial seeks Rice stories

By Josh Rutenberg     10/12/11 7:00pm

With 100 years of history, the community of Rice University has many tales to tell. In an effort to capture that history, the Centennial Campaign is encouraging anyone with a connection to Rice to share their story through videos, pictures and in words.

"We want to get a sense of the richness and variety of stories, and not in the typical way Rice talks about itself," Director of Development Communications Jeremy Miller said. "Everyone knows the story of Edgar Odell Lovett, but there are other stories out there."

The Centennial Story Project began this summer and will continue through Rice's Centennial Celebration next year. A booth for the project was present at President David Leebron's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, as well as at the Rice Day picnic that same evening. Miller said the National Public Radio StoryCorps series partly inspired the idea to capture Rice's history through individual stories.

StoryCorps consists of one-shot recordings in which people recall specific events from their lives to be archived. Similarly, Miller said the project would collect and feature stories during the course of the year and eventually hold the stories in permanent safekeeping.

Anyone connected to the Rice community can submit a story, Miller said, including students, faculty and staff, as well as parents, donors, Houstonians and others. Those wishing to submit a story to the Centennial Story Project can do so in three different ways.

The first way to contribute is by telling a story on video. The video can be uploaded to the Centennial Story Project's website, http://centennial. rice.edu/stories/, using a video camera, phone or other recording device. Miller said videos can even be uploaded directly from a laptop camera to the website. Individuals can also participate in the project by sending in a picture of him or herself "flashing the owl sign," holding hands spread apart with thumbs interlocked in the shape of the owl. Miller said the project has already received pictures from places as far away from Houston as the Grand Canyon and Rome. Finally, those wishing to express themselves in written word may do so by submitting an essay on why they celebrate Rice.

Director of the Rice University Centennial Kathleen Boyd (Jones '80) said the project helps honor the past, celebrate the present and anticipate the future.

"This project deepens our engagement with the Rice family, reengages us with people we've lost touch with and creates new ties," Boyd said.

Boyd said the Centennial Campaign has worked with Rice Public Affairs and students from each college to plan events. Students have been a driving force behind the project by forming a Centennial Student Involvement Committee, helping to promote the Centennial celebrations within their colleges and organizing Centennial-related events, including the Town Hall meeting and Rice Day picnic, Boyd said.

"The Student involvement committee was created last year by SA to connect students to the Centennial celebration," Karen Jong, chair of the CSIC said. "We have booths that we run with a videographer and photographer and we try to get people to talk about why they celebrate Rice."

McMurtry College senior Tawfik Jarjour said the one of the goals of the committee is to promote the centennial among the students on campus and get students involved in the celebrations. "Hopefully this gets people excited about the university as a whole," Jarjour said.

The CSIC is divided into different committees, Jarjour said. Jarjour works on the volunteer subcommittee that has promoted the building of a Centennial House and will host a pancake fundraiser for Parkinson's Disease in the spring.

Miller said the Centennial celebrations provide a once-in-a-century opportunity for such a project.

"Our goal is to encourage the Rice audience during a really important time," Miller said. "This is a way for everyone to participate, and they can do it from anywhere in the world."

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