An influential flock of black-tie-attired guests dined in silvery blue splendor Thursday night as Rice University formally celebrated its 100th anniversary with a grand birthday gala, an evening gloriously steeped in the rich history of the university.
As one in a series of celebrations marking Rice's centennial, the gala raised the bar on Houston party dynamics. The night began in an elaborate 25,000 square foot tent built specially for the occasion and erected in the university's Founder's Court. Rising 26 feet high with floor-to-ceiling glass walls at each end and flooded in silvery blue light, the sophisticated setting played host to friends of the university and alumni from across the country and from as far away as China and Germany.
An impressive line-up of alumni toasted Rice via video including baseball's Lance Berkman, fashion designer James Mischka, CBS News president David Rhodes . . .
The Rice family, and it indeed felt like a close family affair even with 1,000 guests, saluted the school's history in a thoughtful and entertaining video presentation shown on vast screens on either side of the tent. Decade by decade the university's milestones were presented with photos and clips going back to the first graduating class. Key figures in the university's life — James A. Baker III, former board chairs Charles Duncan and Bill Barnett, etc. — reflected via video on the university's 100 years.
In another video, an impressive line-up of alumni toasted Rice including baseball's Lance Berkman, fashion designer James Mischka, CBS News president David Rhodes and his brother, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speech writing Ben Rhodes.
In between presentations, guests dined (City Kitchen) beneath a canopy of white orchids (2,500 stems in all); the setting, the tent and the logistics the work of Richard Flowers and The Events Co. And let's not overlook the cake of 10 tiers that soared at the entry to the party tent.
The second act of this three-layered event found guests moving outdoors to the academic quadrangle for a truly amazing sound and light installation, played across the facades of the quadrangle buildings and reflecting the history of the university. Created by URBANSCREEN, based in Bremen, Germany, the "site-specific media installation" is like nothing seen before in Houston or, in fact, in the U.S. for this was the company's first project in the U.S.
Act three moved back into the party tent where champagne and birthday cake were served, a dessert buffet tempted and a band played dance tunes that even at the late hour for a weeknight had guests on their toes.
Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, both Rice graduates, were among the heady crowd.
None could have been happier with the evening than Cynthia and Bucky Allshouse (class of '71), who were key in organizing the festivities. As Centennial Commission co-chairs, they were joined in hosting the party along with Rice president David Leebron and Y. Ping Sun, board of trustees chair Jim Crownover and Molly Crownover and gala chairs Barbara and David Gibbs and Amy and Joseph Grinstein.
Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, both Rice graduates, were among the heady crowd that included Nancy and Rich Kinder, Fayez Sarofim, Isla and Tommy Reckling, Nancy and Lucian Morrison, Linda and Dr. Walter McReynolds, Judy and Bob Allen, Janice and Bob McNair, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Francoise and Ed Djerejian, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Sofia Adrogué and Sten Gustafson and two former Rice presidents George Rupp and Malcolm Gillis.