HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Former Rice University track athlete Jamila Mensah still beams about her alma mater.
"Rice is something we all wear very proudly," Mensah explained. And she means it, all the way down to her Owls accessories.
But Jamila, a Westfield High School product from Houston, says she would not have been presented with the opportunity to walk the paths at Rice had it not been for people who blazed a trail decades before her.
"It is meaningful in a way that carries a torch but also gives these individuals their shine and attention," Jamila noted.
This weekend, Rice will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the class of 1972, the university's first to include Black student-athletes: Rodrigo Barnes '73, LeRoy Marion '72, Mike Tyler '72, and Stahlé Vincent '72. Three of those four trailblazers played football. To honor them, the Owls will wear 1970s-themed throwback helmets for their game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, September 17.
Mensah, president of the Association of Rice University Black Alumni, says the celebration is significant for a university where roughly one-tenth of all students are Black.
"Historically, with the Black population at Rice, a very significant number of us have been student-athletes, and it's a very special, very unique experience," Mensah said. "It is wonderful to be recognized this way, in front of all these people."
Mensah will be among the people cheering on Rice this weekend, not only for what happens during the game.
"The faculty and staff is more diverse than it's ever been - as is the student population," Mensah said of her alma mater. "We, more than any other institution I think, really embody the idea diverse populations really engender results and success and positive experiences for everybody."
In addition to celebrating the first male Black student-athletes, Rice will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. While doing so, the Owls will honor Denise Bostick '80 and Leila Freeman '79, the university's first Black female student-athletes.
Rice will commemorate the transformational role the six student-athletes played in the university's history at the First Black Student-Athletes Celebration on September 16 at The Ion (4201 Main St.)
The event opens with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m. and a recognition ceremony at 7:30. Tickets are $50 per person or $25 for Rice young alums.
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