Friday Follies: Side Show

I’ve had a long, hard week. How about a picture of some hairy guys wearing feed sacks to cheer us all up?!

SLLS sideshow nd   048

It’s not dated but it must be from a time when feed sacks were still readily obtainable in Houston.

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My Lunch with Bonnie Hellums

I had a great time at lunch today with Bonnie Hellums, who from 1969 until 1984 served Rice as Director of Student Activities, Head of Counseling, and Foreign Student Advisor–an awfully interesting portfolio:

Bonnie Hellums Wiess nd

I learned at least four highly relevant things over the course of a single lunch and I still have a lot of questions for her. I look forward to asking them, but she was able to answer my first one immediately. I’d been puzzling over whatever that is she’s got in her hand in this picture. Is it some kind of Aladdin lamp? A toy dragon? It turns out to be a coffee cup in the shape of a kangaroo. I don’t know how I could have missed it.

I also learned that she recently had a pocket park in Spring Branch named in her honor. Here’s the story, complete with a photo of her and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, ’83:

Hellums Park


Bonus: The sky opened up after lunch and I found shelter in the dark and quiet chapel, with this lovely view of the rain in the courtyard:


So do you think I stayed in that peaceful place and waited it out? Ha. No, I did not. Too antsy to sit still, I wound up out in the stadium lot with a half inch of water in my shoes and my handbag in a puddle, where I dropped it while fishing for my keys. The only thing lacking was an audience, as everyone else was inside. I’m still smiling.


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Katherine Tsanoff Brown, 1919-2016

I was very saddened to learn of the death last week of Katherine Tsanoff Brown. The daughter of Rice’s first philosophy professor, Radoslav Tsanoff, and his formidable wife Corrinne, Katherine was raised at the young Institute with the other faculty children almost as family. These were in many cases bonds that would last a lifetime. Here she is at Christmas time in 1930, posing with her sister and the daughters of Rice Dean Robert Caldwell at Grenoble:

Katherine Tsanoff 1930 Grenoble 001

She entered Rice as a student in the fall of 1934, only fifteen years old. She had a stellar career academically–she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the fall of 1937–as well as socially as a member of the Elizabeth Baldwin Literary Society.

Katherine Brown Campanile photo 1938 006

She went on to earn an MFA from Cornell and returned to teach in the architecture school at Rice in 1963, later becoming the first art historian appointed to the new department of Art and Art History. Like her father she was an excellent teacher, honored with awards and with the gratitude of generations of students. Most touching to me are the records of her decade as Dean of Undergraduates, meticulously organized and deeply revealing about the state of student life in the difficult years of the 1970s. Brown was temperamentally almost perfectly suited for this role, calm and gentle but with exacting standards and respect for both the intellect and the emotions of the students. I’m not sure but this may have been her finest role here.

Katherine Brown was quiet and strong and almost impossibly elegant. She was a mediator. She was a scholar who remained committed to the primacy of undergraduate education. We were lucky to have her.

Bonus: She was a talented artist too. Here’s a little place card she made for her friend Ray Watkin, the daughter of architecture professor William Ward Watkin, for a luncheon on the occasion of Ray’s graduation from Rice in 1938. She’s gently teasing Ray here for her early ambition to join the diplomatic service.

Katherine Tsanoff place card for Ray graduation 1938 003

Extra Bonus: Here are Katherine and Ray at the President’s House for a dinner in November, 1999.

Katherine Brown Ray Strange February 200 dinner at Pres House for Dean of architecture Endowment 005

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Student Handbook, Fall 1958

This could hardly be more interesting:

Student Handbook fall 1958 1 049

Here’s what the campus looked like when the students arrived that fall:

Student Handbook fall 1958 45 053

Quite different from today, obviously, but what really struck me was something else. Here are the rules of student conduct:

Student Handbook fall 1958 4 052

And here’s the description of the Administration:

Student Handbook fall 1958 3051

In many ways this was an institution closer to the Rice of 1918 than that of today.




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It Can’t Happen Here, Part II

A couple of weeks ago retired Physics Professor Steve Baker sent over a package of materials. It took a while for me to get to it but when I did I was just delighted with its contents. Most of it was new to me and I’m going to have to take him to lunch to get a few questions answered.  My favorite thing, though, was instantly recognizable:

Masterson protest placard from Steve Baker 052

Note the holes where it was pinned on!

We’d seen them before, of course, in pictures from the Masterson demonstration in February, 1969 but didn’t have one in the collection:



Most of the people in these images are unidentified, by the way, so if you know someone please chime in.

And here’s one I just came across recently, Ira Gruber no doubt making a compelling point to a group of students:

Ira Gruber Masterson protest slide collection

I’m pretty sure he still has that jacket.

Bonus: This little placard completes our collection of Masterson pins, begun a couple of years ago with the glorious find of Alan Grob’s lapel button, as described here.

Extra Bonus: As some undergraduate astutely noted on a wall in the basement of the Physics Building, Dr. Baker rocks.

Dr Baker rocks


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Friday Follies: Talking

This looks intense but fun. It’s unlabeled and undated, naturally. If you can identify any of these kids (or if you were one yourself) let me know.

Mattresses nd 066

Bonus: Roofing materials for Rayzor Hall.


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Some Unexpected African American Students at Rice, 1964

Yesterday afternoon I left campus right after lunch to start packing for our move to a new house. The movers will do a lot of it for you but I can’t find a way to trust anyone else with my books and papers. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention this but things did not go as  I expected. There are several shelves in my home office stuffed with various Rice publications, from Campaniles to General Announcements to what you would have to call “miscellaneous.” As I was putting them into boxes this caught my attention:


I knew immediately where it had come from– Professor Jim Castañeda’s office, which I packed up after he passed away a few years ago. It then went to the Woodson where we determined that we already had a copy and didn’t need another, which is how it wound up on my shelf at home.

Well, you’re probably wondering, so what? Here’s what: quite some time ago I got an email from a woman at UT about a family story that had her cousin, an African American, attending a summer Spanish class at Rice in the summer of 1964, a year and a half before we desegregated.  I looked every place I could think of but wasn’t able to confirm the story for her. As I flipped through this very long document, though, I discovered a page of photographs of all the participants and sure enough, there was a black woman. I stood straight up, grabbed my purse, headed for the car, and went back to Rice as fast as I could.

And there, in the back room of the Woodson, was the 1964 report for the same course, also with a page of photos. I don’t generally like to assign racial categories based on blurry images, but there are at least a couple of black women in this and one of them is Alma Henry, the cousin of my correspondent:

Summer Spanish Institute 1964 3 053

Here’s everyone on the steps of Chem Lecture:

Summer Spanish Institute 1964 2 052

The course provided intensive training for teachers of Spanish and as a federal program was certainly bound by a non-discrimination clause. My best guess here is that President Pitzer was well aware of this and in the tense atmosphere that surrounded the charter change litigation simply decided 1.) to go ahead and accept participants without regard to race and 2.) not say a single word about it to anyone.

Bonus: These students all lived for six weeks at Rice, on the third floor of Jones. Mrs. Henry, who taught Spanish at B.C. Elmore Junior High, stayed in Room 334. It looks like they all had a great time:

Summer Spanish Institute 1964 4 054


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