Bob Rice ‘will be missed’

Robert Rice, a longtime U donor after whom the U’s Rice-Eccles Stadium is named, died Wednesday night.

Rice was being treated at the Huntsman Cancer Center when he died from cancer-related complications, family members said. He was 78.

Friends, relatives and U administrators remember Rice for his compassion and generosity, as well as his admiration for U athletics.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a more avid fan of the university football team,” said Bill Pizza, a relative of Rice.

Rice was the primary contributor for the U’s stadium when it was expanded in 1972 and was involved in its subsequent remodel in 1998. Beyond athletics, Rice also supported a number of programs across campus, from the health sciences to the arts and public television.

“We have all benefited from his foresight and generosity, especially our students,” U President Michael Young said in a statement. “We will all think of him with gratitude every time we pass by Rice-Eccles Stadium. He will be greatly missed.”

In addition to his financial support, Rice was also involved in the U community as a volunteer. At the time of his death he was serving as chair of the Health Sciences Counsel Executive Committee.

“He always was someone who was very generous with his time and resources,” said Chris Hill, U athletics director.

Rice was raised on a farm near Farmington, Utah, where his family had meager assets. He later found financial success when he started his own chain of health clubs, according to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which honored Rice in 1975. He was also known as a bodybuilder and was once dubbed “Mr. Utah.”

“Everything he accomplished, he did on his own,” said Darrell Nilson, a friend of Rice. “He always had his priorities straight.”

Though Rice was not physically tall, Nilson said, he reminded him of a “kind, gentle giant.”

Friends also remember Rice for his commitment to his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for which he served as a bishop and stake president.

Despite his success, friends said Rice was a humble person.

“He was a man without guile,” said Jim McFarland, a former member of the U Board of Trustees.

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