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Thursday, November 30, 2023 — Houston, TX

Mark Ditman awarded inaugural Y. Ping Sun Award

Courtesy Susann Glenn

By Prasi Desai     11/7/23 10:39pm

Mark Ditman was the first recipient of the Y. Ping Sun Award for Outstanding Community Engagement after almost 29 years of employment with Rice as the former associate vice president for Housing and Dining. During Ditman’s tenure, he secured a $100,000 grant for mass timber projects at Rice, including the construction of the New Hanszen College Wing, the first mass timber residential building in Texas. Ditman, who retired June 30, was also instrumental in promoting solar energy on campus and developing the college serveries.

President Reggie DesRoches said Ditman played a large role in furthering Rice’s community involvement through a high school culinary internship program and on-campus farmer’s market active prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mark was fully dedicated to Rice during his tenure here and was known for his work ethic and positive attitude,” DesRoches wrote in an email to the Thresher.

The award was named after Y. Ping Sun to honor her contributions to the Houston community. Sun is a board member of several nonprofit organizations, such as the Asia Society Texas and Teach for America, and the wife of former Rice President David Leebron. 

“I hope the award will encourage more people to be involved in our community,” Sun said.

Ditman said he viewed Sun as a role model and was thrilled to be chosen for the award.

“Her name on the award made it that much more meaningful to me,” Ditman wrote in an email to the Thresher.

Sun said she knew Ditman well and was supportive of him being the first recipient of her namesake award.

“He really represents the best Rice has to offer,” Sun said.

Kelly Fox, the executive vice president of finance and administration, worked closely with Ditman since assuming her role last year and said she is glad he received the award. Fox said Ditman was instrumental in changing the ranking of Rice Housing and Dining in the Princeton Review from among the worst in the 1990s to one of the best today. 

According to Fox, Ditman was a strong leader and went to great lengths to ensure students were safe during disasters like Hurricane Harvey. 

“He regularly would sleep on campus [during natural disasters] to help make sure everybody was safe and taken care of,” Fox said.

Fox also said Ditman was a good mentor to students, helping them make sustainability-focused projects a reality.

Ditman said he is passionate about sustainability, especially the usage of solar power and rainwater storage.

“I feel Rice should invest in becoming a world leader in harvesting sunshine and rain water, and putting them to their very highest use for community wellness,” Ditman wrote.

Susann Glenn, the director of communications for finance and administration, said she has worked with Ditman for more than two decades. She said Ditman was passionate about creating opportunities for younger colleagues and students as he believed these individuals were critical to Rice thriving in the future.

“He serves others silently and never has sought out recognition for his efforts,” Glenn wrote in an email to the Thresher.

Ditman said he aimed to promote education through culinary arts and believes this goal is still prominent in H&D. He said his leadership style aimed to prioritize the well-being and empowerment of his employees.

“My goal was to foster servant leadership as part of our group’s culture. It’s quite well developed among the current leadership team — my absence won’t change that,” Ditman wrote.

According to Glenn, Ditman was known for always saying “Leave things better than how you found them.”

DesRoches said Ditman’s efforts truly represent Rice’s values.

“He has truly embodied Rice’s culture of care both on campus and off,” DesRoches wrote.

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