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Margarita Rodriguez, staff member, passes away due to COVID-19 complications

Courtesy Mario Rodriguez

By Talha Arif     11/5/20 9:46pm

Margarita Rodriguez, a member of the Rice Facilities Engineering and Planning custodial team for almost 40 years, passed away on Oct. 30 due to complications related to COVID-19. She is survived by her son Mario Rodriguez, who is also a member of the FE&P team.

Rodriguez worked at the Alice Pratt Brown Hall, home to the Shepherd School of Music, as a custodian for most of her time at Rice, including this semester.

Vice President of Administration Kevin Kirby said Rodriguez was fully participating in Rice’s weekly testing program. 

“We do not believe, from our detailed contract tracing, that this was transmitted on campus, but we can never be 100 percent sure,” Kirby said. “We believe she contracted the virus in early October, but Rice did not provide the test that confirmed her diagnosis.”

Kirby said he was heartbroken when he heard about Rodriguez’ passing.

“We’re so grateful for the work she did on campus, and we’re especially grateful for the joy she brought to the Rice community,” Kirby said. “We are working closely with the family to provide support, and to honor her life and service to Rice in a number of ways that will be announced soon.”

FE&P Associate Vice President Kathy Jones said Rodriguez cared very much about the staff, faculty and students at Rice.

“When we were asked to provide athletics with a picture of her to display on the scoreboard at the Rice football game this weekend, we asked her son if he had a picture that he preferred over the one that we had, which was in her uniform,” Jones said. “Her son said that he wanted to keep the one of her in her uniform because she was very proud of it and loved Rice so much.” 

Jones wrote in an email to the Rice community on Thursday regarding a remembrance for Rodriguez this Friday from 1-3 p.m. in the RMC Grand Hall. The email was sent to spam for several Rice Gmail accounts. 

“She brightened every office gathering through her joy of cooking and there was never a holiday party that you would not find her dancing with her friends,” Jones wrote in the email. “Margarita’s smile was unforgettable and her service to the university and the happiness she brought to our community is something we will be forever grateful for.”

Brown College senior Stephany Marchany organized a GoFundMe to support the Rodriguez family. 

Rodriguez came to the Alice Pratt Brown Hall when it opened in 1991, according to Marty Merritt, director of information and music technology at the Shepherd School.

“She quickly came to understand the unique qualities of musicians and music-making, and took great care to look after the faculty, students and staff that came to be like family to her,” Merritt said. 

Robert Yekovich, dean of the Shepherd School of Music, said his interactions with Rodriguez were mostly when passing in the hallways but she was always gracious, warm and never stopped smiling.

Rodriguez would often work overtime for weekend evening concerts, such as the orchestra, faculty recitals and hall rentals, according to Merritt.

“We always knew we could count on her to unlock rooms early and clean the halls and restrooms to be ready for the public. Certainly the presence of Margarita saved us a lot of worry for many years,” Merritt said. 

Merritt said he worked with Rodriguez likely more personally than anyone in the Shepherd School, going over schedules and events with her and keeping her updated on Shepherd’s activities.

“In turn, she always asked about my wife and daughter and greeted them enthusiastically when they came to concerts,” Merritt said. “She tolerated my attempts to speak Spanish with great good grace and she always let me know about problems in the building and repairs that were needed.”

Merritt said Rodriguez was present for hundreds of concerts and recitals, and came to deeply enjoy the music she heard.

“She particularly loved hearing our percussionists practice marimba and the concerts of local children’s choruses,” Merritt said. “During the pandemic, we haven’t been presenting public concerts, but when we do perform for the public again, it will be very strange and sad not to see Margarita present.”

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