RICE UNIVERSITY: Special collections archivist Focke wins Elizabeth Gillis Award

The award, the university’s top staff accolade, is named for the wife of former Rice President Malcolm Gillis and recognizes staff members who, like Elizabeth Gillis herself, demonstrate unflagging commitment and service to the university.

Focke, a nationally recognized expert in managing oral history projects, oversees the university’s archives, rare books and manuscript collections. She works with campus constituents on processing important collections and integrating archives into teaching and learning. She also reaches out to the community on oral history projects.

Some of Focke’s most recent projects have been her most high-profile work.

She worked with the late activist Reginald Moore to document the brutal convict leasing system that thrived in Fort Bend County during the second half of the 19th century. She also partnered with the Houston Asian American Archive to chronicle the history of Asian American life in Houston.

After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Focke helped local synagogues preserve water-damaged records and taught students how to archive through the Harvey Memories Project.

Focke’s wide impact on the Rice community was apparent in the number of letters that poured in from departments across campus to nominate her for the award.

“Amanda’s integrity is rock-solid,” one letter read. “She is consistently constructive, always seeking a way forward, looking for a way to say ‘yes’ to the requests that make Woodson so essential to Rice’s history and current impact.”

Others described Focke as an indispensable colleague. “She represents the best of Rice University, whose reputation and profile have only grown because of her outstanding work.”

“Amanda is an extraordinary leader who shares the sense of mission and purpose,” another nominator wrote. “Her kindness, accessibility and encouragement have made the Woodson a wonderful place to experiment and innovate.”

Comments are closed.