Wanda and Richard Gass encourage generosity with $250,000 gift to Rice Engineering

Rice alumni hope to inspire others to give to Rice during university's annual 24-Hour Challenge.

Dean Luay Nakhleh, left, Wanda Gass and Richard Gass wearing hard hats and standing atop the Ralph S. O'Connor Building.

Wanda Gass ’78, along with her husband Richard ’78, recently donated $250,000 to Rice Engineering and is encouraging others to be generous during the 24-Hour Challenge, the university’s annual day of giving on Tuesday, April 4. 

“I know what Rice has given me, and I am expressing my gratitude by giving and by encouraging others to give,” said Gass, a pioneer in the development of digital signal processing.  

The 24-Hour Challenge is the day when alumni, parents, students and friends of Rice University come together to give to their favorite school, residential college, research initiative or student club. Gifts may be directed to these funds or, at any time, to the Dean’s Fund for Engineering Excellence. It’s an opportunity to see the impact of even small gifts to the university.   

Gifts to the Dean’s Fund for Engineering Excellence support the school’s efforts to boldly make a difference in the world through strategic initiatives. 

“This year, we are providing critical support to the Rice Engineering Innovation Conference and Workshop effort that is backing six teams of engineering researchers to enhance the reputation and scholarship across the school and using funds to support the Rice Engineering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Outreach Center” said Luay Nakhleh, dean of the engineering school.  

“Every gift makes a difference,” Gass said. “Most gifts to Rice and 88 percent of them to Rice Engineering total less than $1,000. Together they add up to millions for student awards, academics, research and programs so we can educate future leaders and tackle the grand challenges.” 

To bolster the 24-Hour Challenge, David Courtwright ’79 and Shelby Miller, former Rice art librarian, have offered a challenge of their own: When 4,400 donors make a gift of any size on April 4, they will donate $300,000 toward need-based scholarships. 

Gass is a Texas native who earned her B.S. in electrical engineering from Rice in 1978, and became part of the team that developed the first commercially viable digital signal processor at Texas Instruments (TI). She retired from TI in 2012 and two years later started Design Connect Create, a Dallas-based nonprofit that encourages and prepares women to pursue careers in STEM fields. 

For more than seven years, Gass has served on the George R. Brown School of Engineering Advisory Board and currently serves as its chair. She is also a member of the Rice Board of Trustees and the Association of Rice Alumni Board. 

“I owe my career and much of my success in life to my time at Rice – the excellent faculty, the facilities, the opportunities Rice gave me to learn and grow. We owe it to our students to give them the same chance to succeed,” Gass said.   

Pictured at top: Luay Nakhleh, left, Wanda Gass and Richard Gass standing atop the Ralph S. O'Connor Building for Engineering Science.