Cultivating a Spirit of Excellence

A pioneer of modern-day tech, Jimmy Treybig ’63 is known for putting his stamp on the early days of Silicon Valley, but his biggest point of pride may be fostering a positive team culture.

“I am really big into people philosophy,” said Jimmy, who founded Tandem Computers, which manufactured the first fault-tolerant computer systems for ATM networks, banks and stock exchanges. “I have enjoyed helping CEOs build strong cultures within their companies where everyone is respected and cared for.”

Jimmy traces much of his professional success to his student days at Rice — and to the Rice professors who inspired him.

“The Rice faculty fostered a ‘spirit’ in me that ultimately gave me the confidence to evaluate and understand the future, to create a new future, and to evaluate others and their abilities,” said Jimmy, who studied electrical engineering at Rice. “Whereas any one professor or course may be very important and even grades are important, the confidence and framework for thinking trumps all. That’s what my Rice experience means to me, and that’s why the Center for Teaching Excellence caught my attention. I enthusiastically support any program that fosters such a spirit through teaching excellence.”

Jimmy and his wife, Drew, first heard about the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) years ago from John Hutchinson, the former dean of undergraduates and longtime professor of chemistry at Rice who founded the program. Impressed, the couple established the Treybig Teaching Excellence Leadership Fund to benefit the work of the CTE.

“The CTE is foundational for an inspirational learning environment, both for faculty and students,” Jimmy explained. “My hope is the program makes a difference for a diverse body of people with many, many touchstone moments.”

Founded in 2012, the CTE fosters outstanding teaching through evidence-based practices, strong community building and research in pedagogical sciences. The center offers a range of scholarly programs and teaching-focused resources to faculty and graduate students alike.

“I believe in the Center for Teaching Excellence, and I believe in Rice. I had great professors when I was here. People who work at Rice love Rice, and it’s because of the culture. We’re just helping build on what’s already working.”
— Jimmy Treybig ’63

In more recent years, Jimmy and Drew have seen the benefits of Rice’s excellent professors through their son, Cody, a 2020 Rice graduate who recently returned to Rice to pursue his MBA.

“As a freshman, he was required to take an English writing class, which he wasn’t looking forward to, because he was convinced while in high school that he wasn’t a strong writer,” Drew said. “Turns out he was blessed with an outstanding English professor at Rice who told him to throw out all the rules that were blocking him and just write. I’ll never forget when he told me he could indeed write well and that he loved writing, all because of this one professor who knew what my son needed as a learner. It changed his trajectory at Rice as he went on to become an English major.”

Their son’s experience is exactly the kind of touchstone moment they are pleased to support through the CTE. “This is what philanthropy is to me,” Jimmy said, “finding an area that you feel a close and personal connection to, and no matter the size of the contribution, your heart is touched.”

Giving to Rice

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