Rice University: One Hundred Years in Pictures

Rice University: One Hundred Years in Pictures

by Karen Hess Rogers, Lee Pecht, Alan Harris Bath

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“From its founding, Rice University has been an institution devoted to making a strong impact on the world,” according to current president David Leebron. Nestled near Houston’s cultural heart, Rice University is characterized by seriousness of purpose as well as by such quirky traditions as the MOB (Marching Owl Band). In Rice University&

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“From its founding, Rice University has been an institution devoted to making a strong impact on the world,” according to current president David Leebron. Nestled near Houston’s cultural heart, Rice University is characterized by seriousness of purpose as well as by such quirky traditions as the MOB (Marching Owl Band). In Rice University: One Hundred Years in Pictures, more than 300 photographs tell the story of a century of student life, a world-famous faculty, and news-making events.

Distinguished by its dignified architecture and stately grounds, respected for its intellectual depth and international reputation, and loved by its alumni for the community fostered by residential colleges, moderate size, and diverse campus organizations, Rice University celebrates its centennial in 2012. This collection of unique images, artfully supplemented by brief narrative, explanatory captions, and carefully chosen text sidebars, presents vignettes of significant episodes, characters, and events. A splendid commemoration of one hundred years of distinguished academics, groundbreaking research, and the spirited students and faculty who have made this institution unique among American universities, Rice University: One Hundred Years in Pictures pays fitting tribute to an eminent citadel of learning and the people who have made it great.

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Editorial Reviews

The Journal of South Texas - Laurence J. Yadon

"The cover portrait of Rice University landmark Lovett Hall beneath a rising full moon beckons the reader inside. And the abundant high quality photographs and illustrations within do not disappoint. The authors have captured all dimensions of Rice architecture, sports, academics and college life from the founding of the institution in 1912 until the present time...The balance between serious academic accomplishment and whimsical campus life is also well balanced...The production value of this work is of the first order...Texas A&M University Press spared no expensive in the quality of the photographs, paper and binding of this oversized edition...Rice University: One Hundred Years in Pictures is recommended to anyone with a general interest in higher education, Texas or the history of Houston."--Laurence J. Yadon, The Journal of South Texas
Southwestern Historical Quarterly - Ronald C. Brown

"An excellent pictorial account... beautifully illustrated... The final product is organized by a color combination of Crayola yellow inserts used for photo illustrations and brief vignettes, and more traditional black and white text for the narrative. Though never clearly articulated, this ingenious feature guides the reader to differentiate between photo illustrations, documents and delimited narrative in yellow pages, and the broader contextual narrative and photographs that connect the "chapters" of the text...
This is a book that is meant to be seen and experienced. At a time when the public often prefers visual images to a narrative, this work illustrates modern notions of historical presentation. The reader will find material that is both interesting and internally sufficient. While typical modern historical accounts of institutions of higher education often struggle to illustrate a brief narrative, this unabashed pictorial account combines superb illustrations with a sparse, self-sufficient discussion of topics that will interest even those unfamiliar with Rice and its distinctive story.
Time spent with Rice is comparable to a museum or archives visit. In this "coffee table book" the casual observer can learn something interesting about Rice. The work will provoke and unexpected smile or maybe even a chuckle, but it will only whet a broader curiosity about the institution that has become one of Texas's academic treasures. This book is meant to be enjoyed. It is neither pretentious nor prejudiced... This book is a must-buy for Rice alumni and friends and an appropriate addition to Texas libraries." --Ronald C. Brown, Texas State University-San Marcos

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Texas A&M University Press
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Rice University

One Hundred Years in Pictures

By Karen Hess Rogers, Lee Pecht, Alan Harris Bath

Texas A&M University Press

Copyright © 2012 Rice Historical Society
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60344-754-6


Rice University One Hundred Years in Pictures

As Rice prepares for its next century, the catch phrase "unconventional wisdom" is seen everywhere—banners, print materials, web sites—everywhere—indicating the unique character of the institution. Can two words say it all about Rice University? Of course not, but it does introduce the idea that Rice has not always done things the way other schools have. Was it conventional wisdom to establish an ambitious university in Houston, Texas, in 1912? To accept women (before they were allowed to vote) and expect them to take the same courses as men? To charge no tuition? To establish a residential college system in which students are randomly assigned with the idea that they and their peers might not have common interests? How many universities opened after their founder was murdered by his valet? Rice is a singular place now and it was a singular place in 1912 when founding President Edgar Odell Lovett addressed hundreds of distinguished scholars about his vision for the new institution at the formal opening. He asserted that "The strength of [the university] lies in its freedom: the freedom to think independently of tradition; the freedom to deal directly with its problems without red tape; the freedom to plan and execute vouchsafed by the will of the founder and the charter of its foundation; the freedom of its seven trustees who approach its problems ... without educational prejudices to stultify, without partisan bias to hinder, without sectarian authority to satisfy, with open minds." Over the last hundred years, Rice has employed both wisdom and unconventional thinking to its advantage.


Not Your Usual Founding The Birth of the Institute

In Houston, Texas, on May 13, 1891, the William Marsh Rice Institute was born when the founder and six trustees signed a deed of indenture for a public library and an institute for the advancement of literature, science, and art.

The founder, William Marsh Rice, born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 14, 1816, had come to Houston in 1839, three years after the Texas town's founding. There he would amass a fortune as a commission merchant and investor. By 1860 he was one of the richest men in the state. When the Civil War began, business life in Texas changed radically. The building of railroads halted, as did the flow of merchandise through coastal cities. After his first wife died, Mr. Rice moved his operations to Matamoros, Mexico, to avoid the Union blockade in the Gulf of Mexico. After the war, business conditions in Texas were disorganized and more and more of the country's wealth was controlled from New York. Keeping strong business ties to Texas and regularly returning to Houston, Mr. Rice moved first to a farm in New Jersey and later to an apartment in New York City.

Although married and widowed twice, he had no children; in the early 1880s he began to consider how to dispose of his wealth. In 1882, he drew up a will establishing an orphans' home on his farm in New Jersey. However, a few years later, he was approached in Houston by Cesar Lombardi, a former president of the Houston School Board, with a request to endow a public high school after the city council had refused. In the spring of 1891, Rice summoned his attorney, Captain James A. Baker, to his hotel room to tell him that he had decided to endow an educational institution, but not a high school; he wanted nothing done until after his death. He had undoubtedly looked at a variety of institutions prior to making a decision to found a school, including the Cooper Union in New York City, which was coeducational and free, but his intentions were fairly broad and indeterminate.

Mr. Rice chose as the original trustees of the Rice Institute prominent business men who were widely respected and quite cosmopolitan. Two of them were from Europe (Lombardi was Swiss and Raphael was English), and Raphael was a leading Jewish layperson at a time when most American universities discriminated against Jews.

In 1892, Mr. Rice drew up four deeds of gift with his second wife as co-signer and gave the recently incorporated institute some sizable parcels of land. After his wife died in 1896, he made a new will leaving the bulk of his estate to the school. From that time until 1904, the proposed endowment for the institute was at risk because, shortly before her death, Mrs. Rice—acting as though she resided in Texas—made a will disposing of half of the assets acquired during their marriage and repudiating the deeds for the institute. But as residents of New York State, the Rices' estates were not subject to Texas' community property laws, so the matter was finally resolved in favor of the institute.

* * *


The charter created the William Marsh Rice Institute for the advancement of literature, science, and art as well as philosophy and letters. It established a public library and a polytechnic school for procuring and maintaining scientific collections of chemicals, philosophic apparatus, mechanical and artistic models, drawings, pictures, and statues and for cultivating other means of instruction for the white inhabitants of the city of Houston and the state of Texas. The school was prohibited from incurring debt and was to be nonpartisan, nonsectarian, and tuition-free for both men and women. The words "college" and "university" were not mentioned.

* * *

However, the case was still pending when, on September 23, 1900, Mr. Rice himself died under mysterious circumstances in New York City. A lawyer, Albert T. Patrick, produced a will claiming that he was the principal heir of Mr. Rice's estate. Captain Baker, alerted to these questionable developments, rushed to New York, where an investigation had already begun. Rice's valet Charlie Jones confessed that he had, under orders from Patrick, chloroformed Mr. Rice to death and Patrick had forged the will in question.

The matter of Mrs. Rice's last testament was settled out of court in 1904, and the Rice Institute was poised to begin in earnest.

The six trustees, who now included Captain Baker, Cesar Lombardi, Emanuel Raphael, J. E. McAshan, Benjamin Botts Rice, and William Marsh Rice Jr., the founder's nephew, were suddenly faced with figuring out what sort of institution Rice would be. They were all men of business with little experience in the field of education, but they had one great advantage: an endowment of several million dollars. Believing that the first step in establishing this new institution would be finding a leader, in 1907 they began to draw up a list of potential candidates for president. They wrote to twenty-five individuals and institutions, saying, "We need for the head of the institution the very best man to be had. We need a young man, a broad man, and we need him at once." They finally settled on the person recommended by Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University. He was Edgar Odell Lovett, a personable young mathematician who was teaching astronomy at Princeton. Understandably, he was hesitant to take the leadership of a new university in Houston, Texas, but he formally accepted the offer on January 18, 1908.

Since they lacked educational expertise, the trustees decided to let Dr. Lovett largely determine the form the new school would take. He had already begun making plans by the time he first arrived in Houston in 1908. He wanted to celebrate the opening with an academic festival with distinguished international scholars. The trustees decided to send him and his wife on a nine-month fact-and faculty-finding mission around the world in 1908 and 1909, emphasizing their resolve to found a university of far more than regional significance. While abroad, Dr. Lovett carefully examined the leading institutions of learning and made contacts with administrators and faculty. He visited many of the major and minor universities, technical schools, and laboratories. His interests included architecture, building plans, lab arrangements, faculty organization, administration, museums, and regulations.

The school's first yearbook, the 1916 Campanile, reported that the Lovetts departed from Montreal on July 24, 1908 and traveled throughout Europe and the Far East, visiting world-famous universities to observe and be influenced by the best they had to offer.

When Dr. Lovett returned to Houston in 1909, he and the trustees made several formal decisions: to build and maintain the institution solely with interest from the endowment, to aspire to a university of the highest degree, and to begin the program on the science end. They also agreed to house the school in "noble architecture worthy of the founder's high aim." Because of this determination, great care was taken in selecting an architect. In 1909, Ralph Adams Cram of the Boston firm Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson was chosen. He settled on a unique style of architecture for the Rice campus "that has been called a mix of several Mediterranean elements that Cram acknowledged he reassembled from the south of France and Italy, Dalmatia, the Peloponessus, Byzantium, Anatolia, Syria, Sicily, and Spain, saying 'We wanted something that was beautiful ... Southern in its spirits, and with some quality of continuity with the historic and cultural past.'"

* * *


Albert Patrick was a rather unsavory lawyer hired to depose withesses concerning the second Mrs. Rice's will. He discovered the document in which Mr. Rice had committed the bulk of his estate to the Rice Institute and devised a scheme to forge a new will with himself as the principal beneficiary. He first had the valet Charlie Jones administer mercury pills to Mr. Rice in an attempt to speed his demise, but this failed to have the desired effect. Then a massive hurricane struck Galveston on September 8, 1900, and Mr. Rice began sending large sums of money to Texas to repair his damaged buildings. Patrick saw the value of the estate shrinking and decided to act. He had Charlie Jones place a sponge saturated with chloroform, wrapped in a towel, over Mr. Rice's face while he slept. Jones left for an hour, and when he returned, Mr. Rice was dead. The next day, Patrick attempted to have Mr. Rice's remains cremated, but the funeral director insisted that it took twenty-four hours to heat the crematory.

Captain Baker was immediately suspicious and worked closely with the district attorney and a team of top lawyers in New York City to uncover the truth. An autopsy was ordered, and Jones and Patrick were detained and then arrested. In January 1901, Patrick was bound over to the grand jury; in April the grand jury returned a true bill of murder in the first degree against him. Jones was not charged. A sensational criminal trial followed, the longest in the history of New York at the time. The case ran for ten weeks before being turned over to the jury. The case rested on three principal propositions that had to be established to warrant a verdict of guilty: Did Charlie Jones, with intent to kill, place a chloroform-wrapped towel over Mr. Rice's face; did he die from that and no other cause; and did Patrick, with intent to procure death, aid, abet, counsel, advise, or induce Jones to kill him? After four hours and two ballots, the jury found Patrick guilty. He was sentenced to die in Sing Sing's electric chair.

After many appeals, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1906; and, after a massive public opinion campaign, Patrick was pardoned in 1912. Two months after the opening of the new Rice Institute, he wrote to his attorney stating that he hoped to commence legal proceedings to vindicate his relations with William Marsh Rice but apparently soon thought better of it.

The next order of business was securing the caliber of faculty needed to ensure Rice's place in the upper echelon of universities. While one purpose of Dr. Lovett's trip around the world was to seek recommendations for faculty, he was not able to hire anyone until an opening date for the institute had been set. Once the trustees had settled on September 23, 1912 (the twelfth anniversary of the founder's death), he was able to return to Europe in the early months of 1912 to seek faculty. He managed to engage, both from Europe and America, a group of professors of considerable promise: Harold A. Wilson (physics), Thomas Lindsey Blayney (German), Griffith Evans (mathematics), Philip H. Arbuckle (to develop an athletic program and teach English), Francis E. Johnson (electrical engineering), John T. McCants (Lovett's private secretary since 1910, who would teach English), and William Ward Watkin (architecture). Listed as faculty but not present the first year were Percy J. Daniell and Julian Huxley. Mrs. Harold Wilson remembered that Dr. Lovett had "an almost inspired enthusiasm for the university of his dreams ... which must have been highly contagious, for he proved able to persuade so many brilliant teachers to give up their established positions and come to this new and unproven project."

* * *


Edgar Odell Lovett was born on April 14, 1871, in Shreve, Ohio, and attended Bethany College in West Virginia. From there he went to the University of Virginia, earning a master's degree and doctorate, and then studied at Leipzig, where he earned another PhD. After teaching concurrently at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia, he accepted a position as instructor at Princeton University. There he rose quickly to become a full professor in three years. At the time the Rice trustees extended their offer, he was planning to open an observatory in the southern hemisphere and had raised about two-thirds of the funds needed. He admired Woodrow Wilson and his aspirations for Princeton, especially his unrealized plans to establish a residential college system.

* * *


In 1910, Pierre de Chaignon la Rose, the leading expert in the field of heraldry, began work designing the Rice seal after first designing the Rice shield. In studying the heraldry of various Rice families, he found that several shields contained a chevron accompanied by three smaller "charges." For the Rice shield, he chose for the charges' image the Athenian owl, which came from a fifth-century silver coin. He completed the academic seal with the shield in the middle, a decorative ribbon outside of the shield with the words "Letters, Science, Art," and a circular band outside this bearing the inscription "The Academic Seal of the Rice Institute."

* * *


While many of the new faculty may have felt that they were heading to the frontier, Houston was really a city, although only seventy-six years old in 1912 and not terribly big. It consisted of sixteen square miles with many suburban districts. The combined population of this metropolitan area was between 115,000 and 125,000, with more than 78,000 in the city itself. There was a great deal of industry, including lumber, railroads, rice, and oil. With twenty-three oil companies, Houston was the largest petroleum-producing district in Texas. It was the financial center of the Southwest and was considered the "workshop of Texas," with the most factories and wage earners and the largest payroll in the Southwest. It had four hundred incorporated businesses. It was the greatest railroad center in the South with seventeen rail lines, and a deep-water port was just two years away when the Houston Ship Channel would bring commerce from around the globe.


School Opens with No Upper Limit

Fifty-nine students came to matriculate at the Rice Institute on September 23, 1912. This group would eventually number seventy-seven, and approximately one-third of them were women. Most were from Houston, a few were from the Texas towns of Weatherford, San Angelo, Cisco, and Crockett, and one was from Lake Charles, Louisiana. Ike Sanders, from Tyler, was in the first class. He remembered coming onto campus that first day and said, "When I got there, I was totally surprised. I saw people working on the yard, every building, and I thought, 'My goodness, why had they called this "ready?" They're going to have school here someday, but surely not today!'" Classes began on September 27, four days later.

The Administration Building would have multiple uses in the early years; it would house the administrative offices, professors' offices, classrooms, the library, a lounge and study room for women, and a study for men. The Faculty Chamber took the place of an auditorium until the Physics Building was constructed in 1914.

The Mechanical Engineering Laboratory would house the mechanical laboratory, the machine shop, and the powerhouse. The smokestack of the powerhouse was disguised as a campanile. The apron at the top was removed after being struck by lightning in the thirties. Heat, electricity, and water were delivered through an extensive tunnel network.


Excerpted from Rice University by Karen Hess Rogers, Lee Pecht, Alan Harris Bath. Copyright © 2012 Rice Historical Society. Excerpted by permission of Texas A&M University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

KAREN HESS ROGERS (Rice ‘68) founded the Rice Historical Society in 1995 and has directed and spearheaded the Society’s book publishing program as well as that of its quarterly newsletter, The Cornerstone. LEE PECHT is Rice University archivist and director of the Woodson Research Center for special collections at Fondren Library. ALAN HARRIS BATH holds a PhD in history from Rice University. He is the author of Tracking the Axis Enemy (1998) and is a former book review editor for Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly.

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