Gil Whitaker, ’53

I ran across this picture today and it occurred to me that you should always try to be kind to freshmen because you never know who they’ll turn out to be.

This bright eyed youngster, for example, a freshman in 1949, turned out to be a hugely important figure in Rice’s history:

Gill Whitaker Freshman 1949

Here he is again at the dedication of McNair Hall, a building made possible by his far sighted leadership of the Jones School, which was frankly foundering when he arrived back at Rice in 1997 to take over as dean:

Gil Whitaker Jones School McNair dedication

I think of Gil every single time I walk past the building, often laughing at the memory of the first time we met. I had been prepared for a fearsome veteran of academic battle, the former business school dean and provost of the University of Michigan, but I what I found instead–at least at first glance–was a kindly grandfather figure. Five minutes into the conversation I realized my mistake. I was in so far over my head the only thing I could sensibly do was sit at his feet and learn. Much of my understanding of the extremely tricky nuts and bolts of modern university operations came directly from him. I’ll always be grateful.

I’m even more grateful for the friendship that we quickly fell into. A true friend, he got me at various points both into and out of trouble, dried my tears, told me jokes and shared gossip with pure hearted joy. I still miss him badly and that’s really the only reason I have for posting this today.

His Rice News obituary from 2007 is here.

Bonus:

IMG_1941

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One Response to Gil Whitaker, ’53

  1. Betty Bixby says:

    He was a dear man. His wife, Ruth, was a true gem as well.

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