“an equipment manager’s nightmare,” 2017

I try to keep up with what the Athletics Department puts online just so I have some general sense of what’s going on over there. Last weekend I watched a video posted by Rice Football that I’m still thinking about on Tuesday. It’s about Assistant AD/Equipment Manager T-Joe Breaux and what he had to do to get ready for the team’s trip to Australia to play Stanford. (I still don’t understand why you’d do this, but what the heck.) It’s kind of long and it moves at a pretty stately pace but I urge you to watch it if you haven’t already. The intricacies of planning for and executing such a trip are mind boggling. But the real reason to watch is Mr. Breaux himself, whose quiet competence and obvious devotion to his craft, to the players, and to Rice I found deeply moving. I don’t know him but I intend to seek him out.


Bonus: I first watched this on Facebook and several folks commented there about an earlier equipment manager, John Fritz. Mr. Fritz, as you can tell from these pictures, was a different breed of cat. He cut a striking figure didn’t he?


This next one is my favorite. Great shoes!

I can’t identify any of the other guys. If you can, please let me know.

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Anderson Bio Gets a Makeover, 2017

There have been more construction projects on campus this summer than I can ever remember before, with yet more to begin soon. One of these might seem mundane or even homely but fills me with joy: the renovation of Anderson Biology. Until now the undergraduate teaching labs were down in the basement. They had serious accessibility issues and then once you got there conditions were  . . .  less than optimal. Similarly, the labs across the front of the building had seen some seriously hard use in the almost sixty years since the building was completed. (I’m not even going to show you the “before” pictures.) So they fixed it! Those old labs have been redone as the new UG teaching labs, finished just in time for the beginning of classes this week, and they are just beautiful. Here’s a peek of move-in overlapping with punch list:

And here’s roughly the same space at move-in day in 1958. Apparently if you hang around long enough you will see everything twice.

Bonus: I have it on good authority that the marble panels that didn’t get used here are being saved for future projects.

Extra Bonus: Eclipse mania. I was more interested in the people watching it than in the thing itself. Some of the photography rigs were amazing.


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Friday Follies: Rice Freshman, 1948

I love this picture. It’s our friend Cal Hill, looking poised and confident, totally comfortable in his own skin despite the beanie. Not everyone managed this.

Bonus: Words of wisdom left on a white board in the old football offices. I especially endorse the sentiments at the very top.


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“We will make them realize they are freshmen,” 1933

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed this nugget buried in yesterday’s new clipping:

It was, alas, a classic fake out. They got the girls the next day:

Unbelievably, they had earlier made them wash Hans and Nellie, the elephants across the street at the zoo:


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“We will not forget Willoughby Williams”, 1977

Willoughby Williams ’39 was for decades a stalwart Rice man, one of those alums who show up for everything and contribute more than their fair share. He worked diligently, even passionately, to make the university better. He served as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni in the semi-centennial year of 1962 and was an active and long-serving member of the Rice Fund Council. You can see his class ring in this portrait:

Mr. Williams’s most important contribution to Rice, though, may well have been his work as one of the major forces behind the creation of the ARA Historical Commission in the mid-1970s. This volunteer group managed to accumulate an impressive collection of memorabilia and reminiscences from the early classes, a collection that I am just now discovering. Williams sadly did not live to see the fruit of this effort, but after his sudden death in 1977 it continued in his name. This touching tribute to him appeared in the second newsletter produced by the Commission:

Oddly enough, this has something to do with the arrival of the new freshmen this week, as the start of Willoughby Williams’s long relationship with Rice is recorded in a clipping I found in Mary Jane Hale Rommel’s scrapbook. It’s not an especially auspicious beginning:


Next to the clippings is this photograph of a poor slime:

I looked at this picture for quite a while. Then I spent some time looking at the portrait above. Then I looked back at the kid in the dress and I thought, you know, that could be him. Except for the glasses. Then I went and looked up his picture in the Campanile:

I think that’s him.

We will not forget Willoughby Williams.

Bonus: Remember this picture from a post I wrote earlier this summer? That’s him holding the calculator.



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Advice to Freshmen, 1925

These words of wisdom come from the 1925 Rice YMCA Handbook. Even though today’s freshmen don’t have to worry about sophomores forcing them to make their beds, most of this still seems like sound advice. In fact, I repeated some of it to a young man just this afternoon:

I particularly enjoy the part about creating “a reverence and respect for superiors and institutions.” That would be nice.

Bonus: The folks who ran Autry House, the home of the Rice Y, had their hands full.

Extra Bonus: Some of the O Week activities mystify me.


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O Week, 1922

Just kidding. There was, of course, no such thing as O Week in 1922. Freshman weren’t oriented back then; they were hazed. This little guy was right to be apprehensive:

This is a Jack Glenn cartoon, by the way, one of the things I found in the archives at the University of Wyoming this summer. I’d especially like you to note the outfit worn by the big guy in the dark suit and hat. It was absolutely au courant in 1922 at Rice. Here’s future congressman Albert Thomas in the same getup:

Bonus: It’s really hot but fall is definitely coming. Leaves have begun to fall into the fountain behind the library.

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