Roots to Branches: Celebrating 50 years of Latinx and Hispanic Life at Rice

Richard Tapia

Fifty years ago, a visionary young mathematics professor named Richard Tapia and 16 Rice students formed the university’s first student group dedicated to supporting Hispanic life on campus: the Rice Association of Mexican American Students. The acronym RAMAS, which translates to “branches” in English, was more than a fitting descriptor: over the ensuing decades, several more student and alumni organizations would blossom from these roots.

This fall, the Society of Latino Alumni of Rice (SOLAR) will celebrate 50 years of Latinx and Hispanic life at Rice during the Raíces a Ramas Gala on Nov. 5. The event will honor Dr. Tapia’s historic contributions and pave the way for the next 50 years by raising endowment funds for cultural programming and student enrichment.

Envisioned by SOLAR volunteers, the celebration involves months of event planning, fundraising and historical reflection. Its success can be attributed to a dedicated group of volunteers: SOLAR President Fernanda Pierre ’14 and officers Angelica Razo ’16, Myrna Garza ’16, Leslie Barrera ’13 and Ariana Engles ’20, in partnership with the Gala Planning Committee led by Honorary Chair Sofia Adrogué ’88, Co-Chair David Medina ’83 and committee members Nella Garcia Urban ’03, Estevan Delgado ’13 and Ricardo (Ricky) Mercado ’10.

For the volunteers, the phrase raíces a ramas — or “roots to branches” — has a rich significance, speaking not only to the past but also to the continual growth and achievement of the Latinx and Hispanic community at Rice. Through their efforts, the 50th anniversary honors this legacy and carries it forward to the next generation. To learn more, visit

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