For the 13th straight year, Trinity was tops among colleges and universities that offer a full range of undergraduate and select master's-level programs in the western United States.
Trinity also was No. 1 in the best-value category and for academic reputation. And its engineering science department was ranked 21st among engineering programs at schools whose highest degree is a master's.
Marc Raney, Trinity's vice-president for university advancement, attributes the school's success to quality faculty and a commitment to technology.
"Students here are able to use technology and science equipment that's generally only available at the graduate level," he said.
Rice's participation in Division I-A athletics, a sore point for many faculty members, is certain to produce a few headaches for Leebron.
A report in April by McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, concluded that an annual deficit of $10 million in athletics was likely to worsen and that dropping football was a "viable option." The report also revealed an academic gap between athletes and nonathletes. The SAT scores of male nonathletes average 1447 out of a possible 1600, but those of male athletes average 1103. Athletes also tend to cluster in a few majors, such as kinesiology.
Although trustees decided to retain football and Division I-A status, Leebron will have to grapple with the financial and academic issues.
Another challenge will be attracting minority students. Rice has a special incentive because of its history: The school's 1891 charter said that only whites could attend.
That provision, as well as another clause that barred charging tuition, persisted until the 1960s. Blacks currently make up 6.5 percent of the student body, down from a high of 9 percent in 1995.
Broadening Rice's geographic reach is also a priority. Currently, about half of the students hail from Texas.
Leebron initially balked at Rice's overtures. He and his wife were happy with their life in New York. Their apartment in Manhattan was a gem, with plenty of space and light and a view of the Hudson River. The children were in good schools. Leebron liked his job at Columbia. And Houston isn't exactly in the snowbelt, which meant he wouldn't get to ski as much.
But Houston turned out to be more cosmopolitan than Leebron and Sun had expected. Its Chinatown impressed them, and that's saying a lot because Sun was born in Shanghai. In the end, the opportunity to lead a prestigious university was too enticing to pass up.
Even the city's legendary heat and humidity are tolerable, Leebron said, adding: "My only complaint about Houston so far is that Houstonians apologize too much for the weather."