Mike Leppala ’87 (Baker)
Rebecca Neudecker Leppala ’87 (Baker)

When Mike ’87 and Rebecca Leppala ’87 were considering where they each wanted to go to college, the cost of higher education was a huge factor in their decision processes. “We both came from middle-class families, so our choices were limited. Not many prestigious universities were affordable,” Mike says. “Rice was a game changer for both of us — at the time it was even less expensive than my in-state tuition,” adds Rebecca.

The Leppalas were overjoyed when they first heard the announcement about The Rice Investment. “The university’s history and values are all about making education accessible to everybody,” Rebecca notes. “This initiative is bringing these values back to the forefront of the university’s priorities, and we could not be prouder to call ourselves Rice alumni.”

“This is a major turning point for the cost of higher education.”

The university’s new financial aid initiative also holds personal significance for their extended family, as the Leppalas’ niece, a current Rice student, may be supported by The Rice Investment. “We could not be more excited that this new policy might relieve financial stress for my sister-in-law, who is a widow,” Mike remarks. “It’s going to give our niece a richer college experience. She can focus on pursuing her dreams, and the socially and economically diverse student body will expose her to different perspectives.”

Rebecca adds, “I really valued the diversity of the student body when I was at Rice — I was exposed to people of really different backgrounds, of all extremes. And I never felt intimidated by any of my classmates. We were all equal once we arrived on campus, because Rice was about merit.”

As longtime Rice Annual Fund donors, Mike and Rebecca were thrilled to discover that they could now designate their yearly gifts toward The Rice Investment. While the university will rely on financial aid endowments to make The Rice Investment a permanent reality, current-use scholarships from the Annual Fund play a vital role in ensuring that this important commitment to access and affordability can take effect immediately.

“Mike and I will probably never be in a position to be among the biggest donors to Rice, but we make sure that we are consistent with what we can give,” Rebecca says. “Going forward, we will continue to support the Annual Fund, and we feel really good knowing that our donations will be supporting The Rice Investment.”


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