Rice Athletic Association Mystery: Solved

Kind of.

Until yesterday I had been completely unable to understand what the Rice Athletic Association was or what it did. How in the world was this different from the Athletic Department? The name was ubiquitous in the files, on stationary, printed on articles of clothing, programs, tickets, all over the place. Here are a couple of pictures from a post I wrote about this mystery and here’s the link to the post itself:

Even the track team’s socks say “Property of Rice Athletic Association!”

So yesterday I was working with the papers of the Committee on Outdoor Sports, the powerful group that had general responsibility for running athletics at Rice for many years and I found these minutes from January, 1964. It’s the first paragraph that I’m interested in:

I find this just hilarious: “No one could quite tell where the title ‘Rice Athletic Association’ came from, nor why it was used.” That is, in fact, just how the world works.

I’m also close to convinced that this is the best answer I’ll ever find. Note that Alan Chapman ’45 wrote these minutes. Alan was at various times Rice’s representative to the Southwest Conference and the NCAA (including a stint as NCAA president in 1973), and he served on the Committee on Outdoor Sports for decades, replacing his father-in-law Hubert Bray ’19, who himself served on that committee for decades. What I’m saying here is that if Alan Chapman didn’t know where the name came from I’m probably not ever going to figure it out either.

Bonus: Campus Photographer Tommy Lavergne, baffled by a fresh paint dilemma.


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O. Jack Mitchell: “a persistent and uncompromising optimist”

The collection of images related to traffic and parking on campus in the very early 1990s is remarkably thorough. It even includes a series of photographs that document where the F&E carts parked:

By the time I got to those I was seriously impressed. Someone was doing meticulous work here. Upon opening the last envelope it all became clear. These images had been collected as part of the campus parking and traffic study led by then Dean of Architecture Jack Mitchell:

(For those keeping score at home, the backs of those heads belong to John Boles ’65 and Mary McIntire ’75.)

I haven’t had time to hunt down the study itself but I was able to quickly locate the Rice News unveiling, which I remember as being of intense interest in faculty and staff circles at the time:

Sadly, Mitchell died only a few weeks after this was written. He was 60 years old.

The memorial that I liked best was this insightful piece by my friend Drexel Turner ’69:

We have Mitchell’s personal and academic papers in the Woodson along with the records from the Dean’s office for the time period he served. I still benefit from them regularly.

Bonus: Time does pass.


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Staff Orange Decals and Visitors, 1991

As I worked my way through the stack of pictures that I talked about yesterday, I realized with some excitement that they were more or less all concerned with traffic patterns and parking on campus. Some showed entrances:

Quite a few showed parking lots, with their identifying letters no less. I’m not certain where this first one is:

Here’s a real beauty–this is what we call the North Lot these days so that has to be the Flammable Chemical Storage Building at the end:

There’s even a picture of a parking sticker on the back of someone’s BMW. Talk about minutia!

Hang on for one last post about these tomorrow. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Bonus: Public Affairs folks goofing around in the RMC.


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Campus, c1991

I found a batch of photos today that must have been taken right around the time I arrived at Rice in late 1991. It was only as I worked my way through the stack that I understood what they were actually about and I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. For today, though, the lesson is that even if you’re trying hard to pay attention, when you’re on campus every day it’s hard to take in how dramatic some of the changes are. This image was the one that first caught my eye:

Even the stadium parking lot was different. There was absolutely nothing out there. No chains, no barriers, no gates–nothing but empty space:

Another vanished sight:


And this last one left me disoriented for several minutes:

It looks like this now:

I’m grateful for the shade.

Bonus: At left in the picture above you can see the new sidewalk along the intramural fields. They washed it and filled in dirt along the edges and opened it up today. As I’ve walked to and from the stadium lot watching them build it I began mulling the obvious question: why now? The natural time to have done it was when they built the Gibbs Recreation Center, but they didn’t. Nothing here happens for no reason and I’ll bet you a chicken dinner that they’re fixing to close the sidewalk on the other side of the road to keep pedestrians clear of the construction site.

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Friday Follies: Ozymandias

The late, lamented Jim Kinsey ’56, ’59, former dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, was one of the people at Rice who could made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe. Even now, every time I look at the manner in which he defaced this picture I nearly collapse in a fit of giggles. This is classic Kinsey, funny on multiple levels and both self-deprecating and subtly deprecating of some other deserving characters too. Oh, how I miss him!


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“the sap of youth still flows,” 1967

We have a nice collection of commencement materials for each graduating class–programs, invitations, awards, and so forth. For the earliest classes, though, these folders also became sort of a catch-all that hold other, sometimes quite odder things. One of the most unexpected finds I’ve ever run across turned up in the 1917 commencement file.

It’s this, a signed photograph of movie star Theda Bara, otherwise known as The Vamp:

The person who sent this in was Frank Jungman ’20. (I very much enjoy, by the way, imagining Miss Dean opening the envelope and being just as surprised as I was.) As long as there were enough of them alive, the members of the first five classes held their reunions together, calling themselves the Frontier Five. Jungman, who stayed actively involved with Rice his entire life, was in charge of the proceedings in 1967, the 50th anniversary for the class of 1917, which I’m guessing is how these things wound up in the 1917 file.

Fun fact: Jungman, a peppy, gregarious guy, was referred to by his classmates as “Uncle Frank,” a certain sign of a rascal.

“These reunions,” he claimed in this flyer, “are always a happy occasion!” I’m dubious about that but this one does seem to have been well attended:

If you’ve been paying attention at all you’ll see quite a few familiar names on the committee list:

And last but certainly not least, here’s a photo of the reunion from the newspaper. It’s blurry but we get the idea–Rice ’17 still swings:

Bonus: It’s hard to believe but this was only the second most interesting thing I saw on campus yesterday.

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“Poor drainage, bag worms, and wind damage”

This picture is undated but it captures a very specific moment in Academic Quad history:

What you instantly see is the short (maybe recently replanted?) hedges but also note two other things: the hedges still close off part of the east and west sides and the trees aren’t Italian cypresses but instead yews of some kind.

It’s the yews that give me the latest possible date for the shot. Here’s a Thresher article from December 1983 about their removal and relocation:

It’s hard not to feel some small stirrings of pity for the Building and Grounds Committee.


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