July 29, 2008–Even in the months before Robert Rice lost his battle with cancer during the summer of 2007, it wasn’t unusual to see him riding his bike with a helmet on, smiling as he peddled. His wife of 58 years, Joyce, also a health and fitness enthusiast, still enjoys traveling and fulfilling her grandma duties as her means of staying active.
Because of their dedication to healthy living, the Rices placed the $1.25- million Robert L. and Joyce T. Rice Presidential Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah.
“Staying active and making healthy choices was always a big part of our lives together,” said Joyce Rice, reflecting on time spent with her late husband. “Maintaining our health as we age is so important because you never know what life will bring, and with this gift we hope to encourage others to do just that.”
A beloved father, highly successful businessman, and lifelong health and fitness advocate, Robert Rice has contributed to the University in various ways, including $1 million to rebuild Rice-Eccles Stadium, a presidential endowed chair in the David Eccles School of Business, and endowed funding on behalf of cancer research, the College of Pharmacy, and the John A. Moran Eye Center.
Aside from their charitable efforts, the Rices have additional ties to the U of U. Many of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren graduated from, or are seeking advanced education at, the University. Some are even working on nursing degrees, which provided further inspiration for their gift.
Robert Rice was always a strong proponent of health and fitness. He opened the first fitness gym in Salt Lake City in 1952, which later became part of European Health Spas, at the time world’s largest physical fitness chain. Even in his latter years, Joyce Rice said her husband exercised religiously and loved to ride his bike.
“Robert and Joyce Rice felt so strongly about the importance of healthy aging that they placed this gift as a statement in support of staying active and living well, no matter our age,” said Maureen Keefe, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Dean of the College of Nursing. “The College is very proud to be honored with the Robert L. and Joyce T. Rice Presidential Endowed Chair in Nursing.”
According to Keefe, the Rice gift will enhance the work of the College of Nursing in the field of aging and will become the cornerstone of the new Hartford Center of Excellence in Geriatric Education. The Rice Endowed Chair will also serve as a tribute to the Rice family, she said.
The College of Nursing is currently conducting a search to find a chairholder. This person will be responsible for developing and executing research initiatives related to healthy aging.