New residence hall to be named in honor of Lester and Barbara Rice

Pitt-Bradford will name its new residence hall in honor of Lester Rice, chairman emeritus and former CEO of KOA Speer Electronics Inc. and the Mukaiyama-Rice Foundation, and his wife, Barbara. 

Pitt-Bradford will name its new residence hall in honor of Lester Rice, chairman emeritus and former CEO of KOA Speer Electronics Inc. and the Mukaiyama-Rice Foundation, and his wife, Barbara. 

The University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees approved the naming of Lester and Barbara Rice House at its meeting today in Pittsburgh. 

Rice House will become home to 109 students this fall. Pitt-Bradford broke ground for the $9.3 million residence hall, which is located near Hanley Library, in October. 

“Les Rice, and his wife, Barbara, are tireless advocates for our campus and, by example, helped to establish a legacy of giving not only to our campus, but to this community in general,” said Dr. Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford.  “We’re honored and thrilled to have their names grace our newest residence hall.” 

The Rices, along with KOA Speer Electronics and the Mukaiyma-Rice Foundation, have provided substantial gifts to Pitt-Bradford over the course of many years and at critical times in the university’s development. The gifts have supported such initiatives and activities on the Bradford campus as the renovation and expansion of the Frame-Westerberg Commons, the renovation and expansion of what is now the Richard E. and Ruth McDowell Sport and Fitness Center, and the creation of an annual scholarship fund that has supported an average of 10 students each year since 1998. 

In 1997, Pitt-Bradford awarded Lester Rice its highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Distinction, given to those who make significant contributions to the campus and the community. 

The Rices are Detroit natives, and Lester Rice got his start in electronics in the U.S. Navy, where he attended Electronics Technician School. Later, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electronics engineering from the University of Michigan in 1951. 

The Rices also lived in Elmira, N.Y., Pittsburgh, and St. Marys before settling in Bradford, where they raised five children, Scott, Jeff, Jody, Judy and Tim. They have 12 grandchildren. 

Lester Rice’s professional career began in 1951 when he joined Westinghouse Corp., where he worked seven years with the Electronic Tube Division in Elmira before transferring to the Semiconductor Division in Youngwood, where he remained for nine years. 

In 1969, Lester Rice joined Airco Speer, which was then located in St. Marys. The U.S. operations merged with KOA Corp. in 1980, and KOA Speer Electronics was established in Bradford. Today KOA is one of the largest resistor suppliers to the U.S. market and has 17 plants worldwide with distribution operations in Bradford, Germany and Singapore. 

Lester Rice has been active in trade groups and the Bradford community, where he has been active in the Bradford Rotary and Exchange clubs, the Bradford Family YMCA, the Bradford Area Alliance, the Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board and the board of directors of Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems.  

Barbara Rice graduated from Michigan State University in 1955 with a degree in education. She then taught elementary school and flew as a TWA stewardess prior to marrying Lester Rice and staying home to raise her family. Barbara Rice has been very active in the First Presbyterian Church of Bradford, including long-term service as a Deacon. She has served on the boards of the YWCA, Bradford Creative and Performing Arts, and the Bradford Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, where her accomplishments included initiating the Surgical Liaison Function and revitalizing the resale shop. 

Rice House will bring Pitt-Bradford’s on-campus capacity to 1,047. 

A formal ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony will be held in the fall.