Friday Follies: Faculty Club File

This letter accompanied the donation of Faculty Club records to the Woodson in 1998. I’ve talked about the donor, Edward Hake Phillips, before, here. The second paragraph is mind boggling:

Bonus: Light up the world with kindness.

Extra Bonus: Meanwhile in the RMC, the Christmas tree is coming down.

It was quite nice in there, very cozy, students all gone and Nat King Cole singing about chestnuts and open fires.

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Spud Hall, circa 1914

I found this grainy, faded image of the original Commons in a scrapbook I hadn’t opened in several years. Somehow I had overlooked this rare image–note that the wooden paneling hadn’t yet been installed:

The original surface seems to have been plaster. You can see it here in this picture from a post I wrote when they were renovating a few years ago:

Bonus: Better be good! Willy and Santa both keep lists.

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“it is rather we who should thank you,” 1957

I’ve spent over two decades thinking about the history of race relations at Rice, first for my dissertation, then for the book that followed, and even now out of simple curiosity. One of the oddities in this story is that until this afternoon I’d never found a single trace of contact between Rice professors and the faculty of nearby black universities before the official desegregation in 1965. I always knew that couldn’t possibly be right, that there had to have been relationships and instances of cooperation, but they were kept so quiet that I long ago gave up hope of finding anything.

Then today I found this letter while digging around looking for a drawing of the original library basement, of all things. It was written by Hardin Craig, Jr., who was a history professor at Rice from 1946 until 1970 and head of Fondren from 1954 to 1968:

Craig’s correspondent, Earl McKinley Lewis, seems to have been a very great man. After he left Prairie View A&M he became the first African American faculty member at Trinity University and an important civic leader in the city of San Antonio. Follow this link for a lovely memorial piece about him. I lifted this picture of him from it.

Bonus: Santa seems to have made an early delivery to Fondren.


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Fondren Library Handbook, 1952

I’ve gotten quite interested in what the original layout of the basement of Fondren would have been, interested enough in fact to do some research. For a moment this afternoon I thought I had it when I found this:

A quick flip to the back revealed drawings of every floor except the basement.

I was rewarded for my efforts, though, with this jaw-dropping introduction by Librarian William Dix (about whom more can and will be said soon). It reads like the library was being run by a bunch of permissive Dr. Spock followers. I don’t even smoke but it made me want a cigarette:

“Omnipresent administrative edicts” . . .  oh, how we hate them!



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Edgar Altenburg, 1888-1967

Sometimes I’m astounded by the way generations work on campuses. There have been a lot of faculty members at Rice who led long lives and remained active scholars to the end.  And Rice really isn’t a very old institution. This has created some pretty surprising overlaps. I didn’t get here until 1991, for example, but I’ve still known plenty of people who knew Edgar Odell Lovett.

Not long ago I was looking at some files that held material about Rice’s early relationship with NASA and I was startled to see a story about biologist Edgar Altenburg, a man who I had mentally placed in the very earliest days of the Institute:

Altenburg was a Columbia grad (1910, 1912, 1916), who worked on the genetics of the evening primrose using specimens obtained from the famous Dutch biologist Hugo de Vries. (de Vries spoke, by the way, at the Formal Opening of the Rice Institute in 1912.) While at Columbia Altenburg also worked in Thomas Hunt Morgan’s famous “Fly Room,” the cradle of drosophila work in genetics, alongside his lifelong friend Hermann Muller. After Muller took a job at the new Rice Institute, he recruited Altenburg to come and take the slot about to be vacated by Julian Huxley. Here he is (at left) about to embark on a specimen collecting excursion to the west end of campus in 1916:

And here are a couple of images that were taken at the time of the 1966 NASA biosatellite experiment:

The first biosatellite was not recovered and the second, which also carried his fruit fly experiment, launched just days after his death.


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Friday Follies: It’s All Fun and Games Until You Have To Scrape the Windshield

Snow woman with Tab, 1973:

Do they still make Tab?



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Professor Andre Bourgeois

My email has been filling up with notes from people burdened with overwhelming curiosity about who wrote the note that I posted on Monday:

It was Andre Bourgeois, who taught French language and literature at Rice for 44 years beginning in 1928. Here’s a couple of nice images of him teaching during the mid-1950s:

Dr. Andre M.G. Bourgeois, French, Rice Institute

(I’d love to know what room this is, by the way. My instinct says it’s in the old Physics Building but I’m not confident of that at all.)

Bourgeois had a wonderful career here, one interrupted by military service during World War II for which he was decorated by four countries. After his retirement the 1973 summer edition of Rice University Studies was dedicated in his honor:

Coincidentally I also have this picture from a Chronicle magazine story about academic regalia from commencement in 1947. It’s unavoidably fuzzy but you can see that Bourgeois (second from left) is wearing those medals:

 Bourgeois died in 1994 at the age of 92.  Gifts in his memory were used to create the annual Pi Delta Phi (French Honor Society) award which is named in his honor.

Bonus: This picture is a particular favorite of mine. (You know how I love candids!) It was taken at the October 1962 Semi-Centennial celebration, just after the ceremony concluded by the look of it. They seem happy to be done. Bourgeois is at left with only a couple of those medals on, in the middle is our friend, the oft-discussed Floyd Lear of History (follow those links if you’ve never read about Lear and Queenie before), and on the right is James Chillman, who taught Art for decades. Behind them is the parking lot where Duncan Hall is today.

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