Friday Follies: Tilt, c1970

I didn’t understand what this was when I looked at the first picture:

But it became clear when I saw the second:

Bonus: We are the masters.


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“to discover onward things,” 1947

I stumbled across this list of “objects representative of the time” that were placed inside the cornerstone of Fondren Library in 1947. I was immediately struck by how bland these objects were. See for yourself:

I’m sorry but that’s just dull. I feel like if I could do it today I’d make more interesting choices. But there’s no denying that the choices fit well with the dignified tone of the short speech that President Houston, who’d only been at Rice a bit over a year, gave at this occasion. It’s clear from his words how much this new library meant to the campus and he advances a vision of the role of the library in the intellectual project of the university that I find still compelling:

One last thing: I’ve been getting some backtalk recently from a couple of readers who want to know why it seems like I never find the things I’m looking for in the place I expect to find them. Well, my answer to this sassiness is up in the top left corner of the first page of this speech. That’s Miss Alice Dean‘s handwriting, instructing that the documents should be filed under “Cornerstone.” Wh–?? Why? How would anyone ever know what’s in there? This is what makes it all so exciting, of course. I’m surprised very nearly every day.

Bonus: This view of Reckling (and beyond) came today from loyal reader John Wolda, who took it from the window of his doctor’s office.



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There’s A Hole in Brown College

Right at the end of last spring semester I got an intriguing email from one of FE&P’s project managers:

We have just begun another summer renovation, this time in the Brown College Tower. Last summer, we noticed what looks like a concrete patch in the ceiling in room 711. Well, it turns out that this patch is in the floor and ceiling of every one of the x11 rooms from what we can tell. The patch appears to be for what was once a 4’ x 4’ hole from the roof to the first floor.

This I had to see. I went over and sure enough, this is what it looks like all the way from the bottom to the top:

A search of the drawings for the building showed no such shaft and there isn’t a file with construction photos so we were stumped.

Then today she came over to look for images of Brown that might be used to decorate the refreshed space and lo and behold, look what turned up:

It certainly looks like that crane is inside the building, doesn’t it, and at the right spot too.

This gave me an idea and I went digging and found another shot from a different angle:

So now my question is: why?

Bonus: It’s definitely full blown summer around here but there’s been so much rain (another downpour this afternoon) that the grounds look remarkably lush. Usually by mid-July it’s pretty crispy, but look at this beautiful grass.

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Thomas Langdon Haskell, 1939-2017

Rice’s History Department lost Tom Haskell last week to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, a terribly sad loss. His Chronicle obituary is here and the accompanying photograph is wonderful, by the way.

It’s hard to know where to start about Tom Haskell but I’ll begin with this: he could be absolutely maddening. To the best of my recollection the only time I’ve ever lost my temper in 26 years at Rice it was with him. But at the same time I cherish the memory of his kind and generous help in untangling some knotted up problems in my own research.

He was an excellent teacher and held students to the highest standards. I once heard him read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to a roomful of undergraduates (in his black academic robe, no less). Edwards’ words, combined with Haskell’s passionate delivery and formidable bearing, left the room in stunned silence. You couldn’t even hear anyone breathe. I still think about this from time to time, always with a small catch of fear as I dangle over the fiery pit.

Tom was a committed believer in the intellectual values of the academy and in the faculty’s responsibility to protect those values. I could write about this at length, but rather than recount old battles I will only say that he fully did his part to preserve what is worthy in our institution, especially in regard to faculty governance and accountability.

Perhaps above all he was a brilliant historian, clear, subtle and fearless, whose work in American intellectual and cultural history will remain to be reckoned with for many years to come.

When convinced he had gotten hold of the truth Tom would not let go of it for anyone or anything. This was not free. This cost him, and it cost him things of real consequence.

There are few pictures of him in the Woodson. One contact sheet shows a young man in a bad sweater who very clearly did not like having his picture taken. The only other set of images is more fitting. Here is Tom in 1999, speaking on academic freedom as part of that year’s Scientia program on “Rethinking the University”:

Thomas Haskell, rest in peace.

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“Change in Traffic Flow,” August 1990

I got a lot of commentary on last Friday’s picture, most of it about the two-way traffic on the loop rather than the eye catching fashion:

By happenstance I just ran across the memo that authorized the shift to one-way on this road. Note that Rupp says it’s a one year trial. (I understand all the annotations, by the way. Such are the fruits of my misspent youth.) But also note that pesky little “again” in the first sentence, which suggests that this is a reversion to a prior state of affairs. I guess this case is not yet closed.

This image from 1941 makes it look like the traffic sometimes went more ways than two:

Bonus: There’s a lot of construction on campus this summer, but this is my favorite project, a badly needed renovation of Anderson Bio. The photo was sent in by loyal reader Jenn Drummond ’98, who explains:

This renovation project is pretty amazing — the whole ground floor of that side of the building gutted, with interior walls removed, all the way from Dr. Caprette’s teaching lab on the GRB end to the rooms near the breezeway that used to be the EEB department office.

I’ve been assured by the highest authority that the marble panels will be reused.


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Friday Follies: Fashion forward, circa 1970

This image is from a contact sheet so I can’t get it big enough and clear enough to tell what they’re doing.

But you’d have to be blind to miss those pants:


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The Yell Leader

I realize that 1926 can seem like a million years ago and it isn’t always easy to see how anything that old could mean much to us today. But stuff has a way of hanging around, though sometimes it fades and we can’t see clearly what’s right in front of us.

One of the things I found in Jack Glenn’s papers up in Wyoming was a little note written in 1957 by his busy former classmate, Bill McVey ’27. I’ve started before to write about McVey, another legendary member of the student body and one who left his work all over campus from Cohen House to Abercrombie, from the library to the colleges. I haven’t really managed much, though, largely because I haven’t been able to figure out where to start. This note and the picture that was tucked inside it give me a way to begin and at the same time provide a bit of an explanation of why I would bother to go all the way to Laramie to look for a guy who was famous for being “Mr. Pep” at Rice a full ninety years ago.

Here’s the hurried note from McVey:

And here’s the picture that was inside, one of a group of sculptures by McVey depicting student life as it was lived here in the 1920s that were added in 1957 to maintain a connection in some spiritual fashion between the new colleges and the old dorms:

It really is Glenn, and a good likeness too, complete with his wavy hair. It’s also an accurate picture of what yell leading looked like in those days as you can see from these great pictures that I also found in Glenn’s papers:

What’s remarkable is that he’s still there, leading cheers from a spot not far from where those pictures were taken:

Bonus: Jack Glenn leading yells in Ray Courtyard at homecoming in 1976 at the 50th reunion of the class of 1926. I wish I could have heard it.

Extra Bonus: A couple of conscientious readers let me know that while I could safely grind things wearing one of the helmets from yesterdays’s bonus, I shouldn’t use them to weld. I guess that’s why they have signs like this one in the room:




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