Long-time School Supporter Homer C. Rice ‘Transformed’ School of History and Sociology

Posted June 13, 2024

Celebrated Georgia Tech Athletic Director Homer C. Rice passed away this month at 97, but he leaves an enduring legacy at Georgia Tech, the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, and the School of History and Sociology.  

"His vision for fusing liberal arts with sports studies transformed the School," said Johnny Smith, the Julius C. "Bud" Shaw Professor of Sports History. "By sponsoring the Sports, Society, and Technology program, Homer carved a path for me to join the faculty at Georgia Tech and fulfill my dream of teaching the history of sports at a great research university. I will remain forever grateful for his friendship."  

Rice is well-known in college athletics as a successful player, coach, and director who not only led the rejuvenation of Georgia Tech’s then flagging football program into a national champion, but also was a driver of and contributor to many significant movements at the intersection of sports and society over the past century. These include desegregation, gender equity, and athlete empowerment. While a coach at the University of Kentucky, he recruited the first Black football player to sign with an SEC institution. He’s also known for elevating women's sports, including at Georgia Tech.  

Among Rice’s many accomplishments, his greatest is perhaps the Total Person Program. The initiative encourages student athletes to lead “a balanced life that encompasses academic excellence, athletic achievement, and personal well-being.” The NCAA later adopted the program for its Life Skills Program now in use across college athletics. The most prominent national award for the college athletic director of the year also is named in his honor. 

While he retired in 1997, Rice continued his service with Georgia Tech, teaching a leadership fitness course, sponsoring a long-standing graduate student scholarship in the School of History and Sociology, and endowing the Homer C. Rice Chair in Sports and Society. 

In the interdisciplinary Sports, Society, and Technology program, Georgia Tech students explore history, politics, gender, race, immigration, and more through courses such as Soccer & Global Politics and The Sociology of Sports. The program also supports Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts faculty research, including publications on Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, Michael Jordan, the concussion crisis, and the WNBA.  

“Homer has reminded us throughout his career that the ultimate goal of intercollegiate athletics is to help student-athletes grow fully as people,” Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera said. “At a time of profound changes in athletics, Homer’s message and legacy of excellence is more important than ever.” 

Mary McDonald, the Homer C. Rice Chair of Sport and Society and director of the SST program, said Rice embodies the Georgia Tech ethos of living our values every day. 

"He was an incredible role model with a life-long reputation for being a person of integrity while serving as a thoughtful leader and mentor. He has had a tremendous impact on Georgia Tech and is a legend within college sports more broadly. To me, his greatest legacy is as the ultimate educator, committed to facilitating learning and growth while embodying positivity and a generous spirit." 

 Homer C. Rice received the Dean's Appreciation Award at the 2016 Ivan Allen College Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony. Watch the tribute video here or read more about Rice's impact in athletics: Georgia Tech Mourns the Loss of Dr. Homer Rice. 

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Di Minardi
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts