“A Dream Coming True”: Fondren at 75

I can’t let 2022 slip away without acknowledging something that an alert reader pointed out to me a while ago. This year is the 75th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of Fondren library, just before Christmas in 1947. The construction of this building was part of the post-WWII explosion of growth on campus and a critical event in Rice’s maturation. Until Fondren was built books were scattered all over campus, on every floor of the Administration Building, in the Mech Lab, Chemistry, and Physics. I can’t even imagine how they managed it.

The cover of this fund raising brochure for the building, dated 1946, gives some sense of how important the project was to the university. Mrs. Ella Fondren, of course, generously donated most of the money needed to complete the work,

It took some time to get the thing up, of course. Here’s what it looked like at then end of the 1947-48 school year:

And the back side about the same time:


They didn’t start moving books until the summer of 1949 for the formal opening that fall. Here we are getting them out of the top floors of the Admin Building:


Bonus: What’s inside the cornerstone, you ask? (Note also the incredibly high powered Library Committee!)

Extra Bonus: The library never skimps on holiday decorations. Here’s this year’s Fondren Christmas tree.

One more bonus–it’s the holidays!


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Rally Club Thanksgiving Dance, 1925

For many years Thanksgiving Day was also Rice’s Homecoming and from the beginning in 1919 these events were absolutely jam packed with functions, making for a very long day.  Our traditional football opponent for all those years was Baylor. In 1925 the game ended in a tie, a fitting conclusion for a season that ended with a 4-4-1 record and dashed hopes that John Heisman would be our football savior:

Then the Rally Club sponsored a student dance that evening, which didn’t start until 9:00, past my bedtime:

I’ve talked about several of these players in the past, including Heavy Underwood, whose scrapbook caused me some serious confusion, and Bill McVey ’27, who would go on to become a sculptor. McVey’s work has adorned campus in several places including Cohen House, various spots in the south colleges, and at the entrance to Abercrombie, the figure McVey always referred to as Uncle Jupe:

Happily, Uncle Jupe has been carefully taken apart and will be put back together on the new Ralph O’Connor Hall:

Bonus: The Rally Club dance was held at the Turnverein, which I’m sure you all recall as the site of one of McVey’s legendary exploits in the Slime-Soph War of 1924 when he was president of the freshman class.


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Inauguration, 2022: Part II, Ruth Simmons’s Speech

I’d first like to account for my extended absence, for which apologies are hereby issued: I was chairing a presidential search at another university and that task took pretty much all of my attention for the last month or so. It concluded happily a couple of days ago, I’m glad to say. At the same time, life has been going on as usual at Rice and in my spare moments I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit, mulling over both some current and past events.

Now that I’m back, I’d like to start up here with something important from President DesRoches’s inauguration. I’m sure many of you know that the keynote speaker was Houston native Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University and former Rice trustee, now president of Prairie View A&M. As I listened to her address I understood that it was a tour de force, both powerful and nuanced, which is not an easy thing to pull off. Afterwards I asked for her permission to reproduce it here, which she graciously gave. This address was truly a gift to our new president and to our entire community. If you weren’t there, you should read it. And if you were there, you should read it. And we should all take it to heart.



Bonus: I swore that I wasn’t going to be messing around taking iphone pictures during the ceremony but I couldn’t resist this one.

It was the video camera that caught my eye. It reminded me of this, from Rice’s Formal Opening in 1912:.

See the movie camera near the top left? We have no idea what happened to that film. I hope we do a better job of hanging on the the footage from this time around.

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“Football Headquarters,” 1935

Football is having a pretty good year and tomorrow’s Homecoming game with Charlotte should be fun, but equally interesting is the nightly dancing in the terrace ballroom. I wish I could have seen that:

The Woodson is chock full of Rice Hotel related materials, by the way. I’ve mentioned the salary records for the staff before, but there’s also a Rice Hotel memorabilia collection that’s a view into another world, and a staggeringly dull collection of tax and land records with lots of information about the hotel that I’m sure would be interesting to someone who is not me.

Bonus: Beautiful day yesterday, rainy today, looks like another nice day for Homecoming tomorrow.

Extra Bonus: Happy Halloween from Fondren.

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Inauguration, 2022

It’s been really fun this last couple of weeks watching the campus prepare for this weekend’s inauguration of Reggie DesRoches as Rice’s eighth president. After several years of either no commencement or commencement in the football stadium things are all shined up and put in perfect order for the events. It looks beautiful, even if a bit disorienting without the Italian cypresses.

Event Magician Hannes Hofer at work:

Event Magician Kelly Quinn was also hard at it, apparently with Divine approval:

I’ll admit that I’m excited about this. Every change in presidential administration is a big deal but I believe that the next few years will be a particularly interesting time for us. I had the chance to interview President DesRoches for the most recent issue of Rice Magazine and his frank answers to some serious questions reveal an ambitious agenda as well as a real appreciation and respect for the unique nature of our close-knit campus culture.

You can read that interview here–and note the last paragraph! I hope he has a chance to sleep in when it’s all over.

Bonus: New banners have been hung around campus for the big event. If you’re here any time soon take a minute and give them a good look.  I think they’re wonderful and actually show us in our best light.

The symbolism of this one is striking. It’s the image of our newest president, displayed on one of the German High Hat lamp posts that are visible in photographs of Rice’s formal opening in 1912:

Extra Bonus:

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Kitchen Staff, 1965

Baker College, from the materials Gerald Moorhead gave to the archives last Spring. I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves:

The staff at Rice provides an astonishing amount of aid and comfort to both students and faculty, often with little recognition in return, then disappear from the memory of the institution as soon as they retire. There are no names on the back of the photos so I can’t say who were these people who brought us dinner.

Bonus: Thanks to an alert reader for this image of inauguration prep. Big tent going up in Founder’s Court.


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Faifax 1664, 1929

Something interesting happened soon after the offices of the Rice Institute moved to the Esperson Building (seen recently here). We got our first dial telephone!

I love the huffy tone of this letter but I do wonder why we needed an unlisted phone number.

Bonus: Inauguration prep! Since Covid we’ve gone several years without commencement prep so the cleanup is really needed.

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Rice University Volleyball, 1974

I attended my first college volleyball match last Sunday afternoon and was deeply impressed by the speed, power, and general athleticism of these young women. It was a great match, back and forth, between two very high level teams and really exciting to watch.

By coincidence just a couple of weeks ago I was asked to figure out the exact date of the genesis of Rice’s intercollegiate volleyball program. I found the answer in this three-fold brochure, preserved by sheer chance in a folder that’s part of the massive Athletics Collection. (Really, I can’t stress enough how unlikely it is that this still exists. There is nothing else at all about volleyball in the records from this time period.)

Inside is an interesting snapshot of a moment of cultural change at Rice. And to my specific task, the Capsule Outlook suggests that the beginning of intercollegiate volleyball competition at Rice dates to 1973, making next year the 50th anniversary:


Bonus: PE instructor Hally Beth Poindexter with the 1950 intramural volleyball champions.

Women’s intramural volleyball champions, Rice University



Extra Bonus: I can never be sad about a Rice win, but I also can’t help loving my Creighton Bluejays.  There was amazing Creighton fan support too, a bit surprising so far from home, but explained partly by the fact that one of our players has roots in Texas City.

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Cannady Hall Groundbreaking, 2022

Yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony was a lot of fun. It was a nice afternoon, warm but not scorching. The speakers, including Will Cannady himself, were gracious and brief and the crowd was happy. I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

They also handed out a brochure about the new building that I thought was pretty interesting. The images give a decent idea of how the building will sit and I think it looks pretty nice. The only thing I’m not sure about is whether it will totally block out the light into the library:



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First Black Student Athletes at Rice

Next week Rice will be celebrating the contributions of the pioneering African American athletes who courageously entered the newly desegregated campus and the playing fields of the Southwest Conference. Information on the dinner and event is here: https://riceowls.com/news/2022/9/7/general-rice-to-celebratre-six-trailblazing-student-athletes.aspx

Come if you can.

Bonus: We had no photos of Leroy Marion until I found this image on eBay. It was taken in December, 1971 during a game against the Citadel.

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