How Tall is Willy?

I never have even the slightest idea what to expect when I come to work. I laughed when I arrived the other day and found out that someone needed to know Willy’s height — it seemed preposterous. My amusement, though, lasted only a moment. Then I was suddenly desperate to know too.

A search of the correspondence between Dr. Lovett and the sculptor, John Angel, turned up some interesting things that were new to me but yielded nothing about height. All I could think of was going out and measuring it but I couldn’t figure out how to do that and keep any dignity. So I went over to FE&P, where I quickly assembled a crack team of experts:


It took a little doing but we eventually arrived at the conclusion that from the sidewalk to the top of his head the whole thing is roughly fifteen and a half feet tall.

Afterwards I had a dim recollection of once coming across a drawing of the base, which was designed by Cram and Ferguson. This could only have been in one place–the room full of drawings tucked away in Fondren:


I don’t have the strength to talk about this room right now but suffice it to say that there’s a lot of stuff in those drawers. Nonetheless I found what I was looking for and I even stood up on a shaky chair to take a picture of it for you:


Not only is it beautiful, the measurements also match ours. We can all rest easy now.

Many thanks to Ron Smith and Hannes Hofer, as always.

Bonus: Thanks also to loyal reader owlcop, who sent this beautiful image from this morning.



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Monday Mystery

Does anyone know who this woman is? Browsing through some Athletics files I found a whole contact sheet full of images of her posing in a variety of goofy ways. She’s both lovely and game. This photo struck me as the most dignified of the lot:

woman with helmet nd 005

There’s no date, of course, but the ball on the shelf says “Good Luck in the Southwest Conference.”

Bonus Mystery: Here’s one that emerged from a box of R Association pictures. I don’t recognize anything or anyone except Tommy Lasorda and his large zucchini.

R Association mystery 2 046


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Friday Follies: The Thinking Man’s Orchestra (Updated)

From the 1960 OWLS campus directory:

OWLS directory fall 1960 1 054

Even aside from the startling fact that the Faculty Club had a house orchestra, I don’t know what being the thinking man’s orchestra would entail.

Update from Grungy:

“He’s 84 now, if he’s still around…”

Here’s the story. Go read it!

And another update from TikiOwl.

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Hally Beth Walker Poindexter, 1927-2016

Halley Beth smiling 1983 047

I was deeply saddened to learn last night of the passing of Hally Beth Poindexter. This is truly news that I hate to hear.

Hally Beth arrived at Rice in the fall of 1944 and she immediately became a busy young woman. She was on the Campanile staff, in the Canterbury Club, and served as Business Manager of first the Owl Magazine and then the RI Magazine. She was also a member of the Owen Wister Literary Society, an association that she treasured all her life.

Here she is with her OWLS pledge class in 1945. Can you see her? I spotted her right away—she’s fourth from the right, standing just at the spot where the dark and light meet—because that smile was always just the same:

Halley Beth OWLS pledges 1945 048

I spent part of this afternoon quite confused because I couldn’t understand how she was in this pledge class in 1945 but graduated in 1947. A quick trip to the Registrar cleared it up: by attending classes year round with the Navy V-12 guys she managed to graduate in the spring of 1947, 19 years old and already married.

After several years of further education, interrupted by a temporary return to campus in the 1950s, Hally Beth came back to Rice for good in 1965:

Hally Beth 2

There is no way to say how much she meant to this university. If you tried to make me say what was the most important thing she did for us I couldn’t. She had a legendary career in her field, chaired Kinesiology for two decades, ran intramurals, and was instrumental in the establishment of intercollegiate women’s athletics at Rice. She served with integrity and tenacity on a series of commissions in the ’80s and ’90s on the climate for women on campus and gave her time on countless other boards and committees. Always, she spoke her mind plainly, she handled disagreements without rancor, and she worked to make her beloved Rice better. In so doing she earned the respect and trust of everyone who encountered her. I will miss her and especially miss her counsel.

Hally Beth Walker Poindexter, rest in peace.

Women's athletics Hallie Beth 1951

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“Recycle this reel”

I had a really busy day today and can’t work up the energy for any coherent commentary. I will offer one small tidbit, though. For the last several weeks I’ve been watching this out of the corner of my eye every time I drive home from campus. It was always too hot to stop and get a picture but I’ve recently been out at the stadium digging around in the the football videos so I finally managed to drag myself over:


It’s fiber optic cable, of course, but every time I see it all I can think of is this:

Water hose c1912



Extra Bonus: Wayne Graham likes puppies! (Thanks to loyal reader John Wolda, who says “cute little guy!”)

JPEG image-F9F9DB4E7A65-1


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Women, Rocks, and Professors, Part II

John Rogers photo nd PA collection 046

I had to wait two days for the UPS guy to bring me John Rogers’ memoir from an Amazon warehouse somewhere, so take a moment and picture me drumming my fingers and peering out the front window. When he finally got here I was just delighted with what I found.

Women, Rocks, and Professors turned out to be lucid, well organized and straight forward. Although it is mercifully without any sort of literary pretension, Rogers also had an ear for a good story. While I certainly knew of him as an early geologist at Rice, I had failed to grasp just how early and what an important role he played in the history of the department. Hired by the first chairman (and provost) Carey Croneis, Rogers was one of only three faculty his first year at Rice. His memoir lays out in detail how the department grew, how their thinking on curriculum evolved, and how they worked with students. It’s an invaluable guide of real historical importance and I suspect that his discussions of various field trips will help me identify some of the images in a big, fat folder of unlabeled Geology Department photographs.

Rogers also spends a fair amount of time talking about his time as master of Brown College, an experience he credits with sparking a lifelong interest in and commitment to the education of women. This is from the first Brown College Handbook, which I went and dug up in the Woodson. Interestingly, while not the first master (Frank Vandiver  held the post during the 1965-66 school year) Rogers wound up having to put this together himself and struggled to do so the entire summer:

John JW Rogers Brown handbook 1966 047

Bonus: So when he got to Rice he discovered that the entire department–offices, secretary’s space, lab, and classroom–was crammed into what had until recently been the Chemistry Department’s library (discussed at some length here). One of the interesting things about this space is that it opens onto a second story porch, which is difficult to see from the ground. Here’s what he has to say about it:

John JW Rogers 4023



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Women, Rocks, and Professors, Part I

A week or so ago someone needed a photograph of John J.W. Rogers, a geologist who taught at Rice from 1954 until 1974 then went on to spend another twenty years at the University of North Carolina. This was easy enough–there were several nice ones in the old Public Affairs collection–but while I was looking my eye was caught by a negative in a glassine envelope. I took it out and squinted at it and quite unexpectedly it kind of looked like a man driving a team of oxen. Nothing to do but go scan it and get a better look. Sure enough, there’s John Rogers with the reins in his hand:

John Rogers negative PA collection 045 (1)

Well, now. I sat for a minute thinking. This is the point where you have two choices. You can either slip the picture back into its envelope, rebox it and go about your business or you can go totally off the deep end and attempt to figure out exactly what was going on here. As usual I went with the second, less rational, option. Just because.

With almost nothing to go on, I quickly found myself way down in the weeds of Roger’s professional career and it became clear that he had spent a significant amount of time in India, East Africa, and the Middle East. Lots of this kind of thing:

John Rogers clipping PA collection 047

There wasn’t really any way to ascertain when and exactly where the image was made.

There was, however, something even better: a memoir, available for purchase on Amazon. This is heaven, sheer heaven. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what’s in it.

John JW Rogers 1 020





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