Despite heavy rain, more than 120 people gathered May 7 at the Cohen House to honor retiring Senior Associate Dean of Engineering Bart Sinclair ’73, who has studied, taught or worked at Rice since enrolling as a freshman in 1969.
Rice President David Leebron thanked Bart Sinclair, saying Rice “would not be what it is today” without Sinclair’s dedicated service.
“I feel like I’ve wandered into science fiction,” Rice President David Leebron said to the audience. “Fifty years ago, Bart came to Rice and never emerged. If you’ve seen ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ you know exactly what I’m talking about. But of course, it’s not quite the same, because Bart had such an enormous effect on this university.”
Sinclair earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering in 1973, 1974 and 1979, respectively. He joined the electrical engineering faculty in 1978 and served as associate dean for 20 years, handling responsibilities that at times have included finance, operations, planning, academic affairs and faculty recruitment. Rice’s Board of Trustees twice honored Sinclair’s service, first in 2007 and with its 2017 Distinguished Service Award. He was the inaugural recipient of the Rice Engineering Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2012 and is a two-time recipient of distinguished faculty associate honors from Brown College.
Leebron said Mechanical Engineering’s Marcia O’Malley aptly described Sinclair in five words: He’s everywhere and knows everything.
“To which I would add: is liked by everybody,” Leebron said. “To really put all of those three things together, and get things done, is extraordinary.”
“Only Bart could bring out this crowd in this kind of weather,” said Sidney Burrus ’65, a lifelong friend and colleague who, like Sinclair, earned three degrees from Rice and spent his entire career teaching and serving in both the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Brown School of Engineering.
Bart Sinclair ’73 (second from left) said he looks for forward to spending more time with his family after he retires June 30. Since arriving at Rice in 1969, Sinclair earned three degrees, met and married his wife, Diane ’73 (second from right), raised two sons, Stuart ’04 (right) and Andrew ’08 (left), taught for 20 years in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and served 20 years as associate dean of the Brown School of Engineering.
Burrus, one of four deans of engineering for whom Sinclair served as associate dean, said, “His dedication to higher education in general, and to Rice’s version of higher education, in particular, is wonderful. Bart is a great administrator. He has helped many, many faculty in this room achieve things they wanted to achieve.”
Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, said Sinclair’s experience, wisdom and counsel were invaluable when DesRoches arrived at Rice two years ago.
“One of the hardest things to do in Bart’s position is to transition from one leader to another,” DesRoches said. “You have to learn a new style. You have to adapt to new priorities. You have to educate a new person coming into Rice. Bart did this wonderfully, three times for three different deans, and he played a very critical role in making the transition between deans as seamless as possible.”
DesRoches and others noted Sinclair’s dedication to meeting with prospective students and their families.
“Bart has conducted information sessions for over 6,200 prospective engineering students at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen,” DesRoches said.
OEDK Executive Director Amy Kavalewicz presented Sinclair two unique, hand-made mementos from her staff: a custom luggage tag and a framed photo of the OEDK staff on the building’s green roof, which Sinclair often visited and had been known to hand-water at times.
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies Dean Robert Bruce showed his appreciation with an offer of free classes. “Call it a hunch, but I think you like this place. So we’re going to set it up so you can take some free classes and continue to hang out here. And when you’re ready, come back and teach for us.”
More than 120 people braved heavy rains May 7 to gather at the Cohen House in honor of Bart Sinclair ’73, who is retiring after a 40-year academic career in the Brown School of Engineering.
Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins lauded Sinclair’s attention to detail and thanked him for the fairness and integrity with which he worked to advance the Brown School’s goals.
“Bart is brainy and admired,” she said, quoting from a list of adjectives that Sinclair’s colleagues and co-workers used to describe him. “Bart is responsive. He’s respectful. He’s thoughtful and thorough. But beyond that, Bart is and was unflappable. I have never ever seen him lose his calm and reason and cool.”
Leebron said Sinclair’s dedication and service both define and embody the Rice spirit.
“At the end of the day, there just aren’t words that can express our appreciation for your contribution,” Leebron said. “The mass of people here for this occasion, I think, is an attempt to convey that. But on behalf of the entire university, past, present and future, I want to express our enormous appreciation and recognition that this university would not be what it is today without you. We are immensely glad that it has taken you 50 years to re-emerge from that place you disappeared. Thank you very, very much.”
Sinclair said the task of cleaning out old files recently reminded him “how fortunate I have been to work with some of the greatest people that I can imagine. Rice is a beautiful campus. It’s got a wonderful reputation. I love the location. But it all comes down to the people that I leave here. And that’s the students, staff, faculty and administration. It has been a joyful ride.”
Sinclair said that in addition to traveling and spending more time with his family, he looks forward to taking Glasscock School classes.
“We’re not moving,” he said. “I look forward to checking in.”
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