Friday Follies: Dubious


Do you think she knew it was there?


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Homecoming 1946: “a devoted friend and generous benefactress”

For many years the Association of Rice Alumni gave out their awards at Homecoming rather than at commencement time as we do today. It seems to me that this makes a great deal of sense and I don’t have a good understanding of why it evolved the way it has.

This morning a patron was using some materials from the Fondren Family collection, so I had no choice but to look at them also. There was some pretty great stuff in there, most of which had nothing to do with Rice. I can’t stop myself from showing you these shots, taken one day (I’d guess in the 1920s) down at the Crystal Palace in Galveston. Watch out for the plane!



Also buried down in one of the oversized boxes was this lovely certificate presented to Mrs. W.W. (Ella) Fondren at the 1946 Homecoming by the ARA in gratitude for the gift that made the construction of the Fondren Library possible:


Mrs. Fondren truly was a generous benefactress, not only to Rice but to many educational and health care institutions throughout Texas and beyond. Take a look at her biography here in The Handbook of Texas Online. It’s quite a story. I’d only note that when Rice needed to expand the library in the 1960s, the Fondren Foundation stepped with another significant gift.

Mrs. Ella Fondren

Mrs. Ella Fondren

Bonus: It felt a little strange on campus today. Maybe it was the first alumni trickling in for Homecoming or maybe the first cold front has stirred things up.


What’s that parked in front of Willy? A pedi-sukkah, obviously:


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A Surprising Picture of the RMC, early ’60s

I can’t remember what I was looking for when I found these postcards in the RMC photo file. (I would note is that they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place and we moved them to their proper home in the postcard collection after I finished scanning them.) The pictures aren’t dated but they seem to have been taken relatively soon after the building was completed near the end of 1958 . This interior shot is a real doozy, very mod:


It was the exterior shot, though, that made my day. Look here, folks:


The Ray Courtyard had not yet been built! I can’t recall ever seeing an image like this one before. If anyone has a guess about the date I’d love to hear it.

Bonus: Holiday confusion in the RMC.


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Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1953

Today I had reason to be looking at some stuff about the Bonner Lab, trying to sort out when it was completed (1953, as it turns out) and when it was expanded (1959). Here’s the document that told me when it first opened, a permission slip of sorts from the head of the library, Hardin Craig, Jr. to the library staff:


Well, this made me laugh right out loud. Uncle Tom, of course, was Tom Bonner ’32, ’34, then Chairman of the Physics department and this was quite a nice little joke. Bonner was a graduate student of H.A. Wilson at Rice when the neutron was first discovered and he quickly decided to switch his research to that area. Returning to Rice as a faculty member in 1936 he carried out an active research program using small accelerators. The decision of the U.S. Atomic Energy commission to locate this larger Van de Graaff accelerator at Rice was largely due to his work and reputation. Here’s what he had to say about it at the time of the dedication:


As I continued to flip through this material I found myself caught completely off guard by the last thing in the file. I try not to cry too much about what I see at work but I could not hold it back this time. Tom Bonner died of a heart attack suddenly and completely unexpectedly on December 6, 1961. He was 51 years old and the upgraded lab that he had just finished building would be named in his honor. What brought my tears was the eulogy given by Philosophy Professor Street Fulton in the Rice chapel, one of the most touching I’ve ever read:




I am so grateful to be able to see this.



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The Houstonian Constitution, 1946

Not at all surprisingly, after William V. Houston became Rice’s second president the way the Institute conducted its business underwent fairly dramatic change. Until that point it had been run by Dr. Lovett with a kind of authority that no successor could possibly have (or would probably even want). While looking for something in some old Faculty Council papers this morning I came across this document, promulgated by Dr. Houston in April, 1946. Short and sweet, it would be the basis for the university’s governance for the next thirteen years:


There are two things here that are especially interesting. First, the faculty is given far more authority–and responsibility–for the nuts and bolts decision making required to run a university. What you don’t see here is that President Houston immediately created a new Executive Committee, comprised of himself and four other faculty members: Alan McKillop from English, Holmes Richter from Chemistry, Mr. Ryon from Civil Engineering and Harry Weiser, the Dean of the Institute as well as head of the Chemistry Department. The membership of this committee changed somewhat over time (although I think Richter was always on it) but for all practical purposes it ran Rice until just before the end of Houston’s presidency. It was disbanded and replaced by the Faculty Council in 1959.

Second, and possibly of interest only to someone who has read the minutes of every single Rice faculty meeting, this document is the genesis of the “Second Reading Rule” which provided much exasperation and hilarity over the years.

Bonus: I went for my flu shot today and I got a lollipop for being brave.


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Friday Follies: Flu Shots!

Next week we follow in the footsteps of the great Eddie Wojecki–flu shots!


In spite of my fear of needles it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Standing in line outside Farnsworth Pavilion I always run into someone wonderful who I haven’t seen in ages.

Bonus: We have a plaque that used to be on a wall somewhere in the stadium. I’m going to go ahead and say that it is my strong opinion that they should put it back up.


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Elizabeth Kalb’s Speech, 1915

Well, I got four requests to see the text of Miss Kalb’s prize-winning speech. Around here that constitutes a stampede so I felt I had no choice but to produce it. It’s quite a piece,certainly a lot to memorize. It’s also the product of a short and specific moment in time, when the First World War had begun but the United States was not yet in it.






Bonus: I’m sure you all noticed “Condit and Buxton, 1005 Scanlan Building” at the bottom of three of these pages. Condit and Buxton was a Houston real estate firm, known mostly for the development of Bellaire (or Westmoreland Farms as it was then called). This had once been the William Marsh Rice ranch and was actually considered as a possible site for the Rice Institute, rejected as being too far from Houston. What connection could there be to Elizabeth Kalb? All I can attest to is that her entire address on her enrollment forms is “Westmoreland Farms, Texas.”

Extra Bonus:



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