“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.


I will not forget Willoughby Williams.

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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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Friday Follies: “Math 90,000”

This was so captioned by Mary Jane Hale sometime in the 1930s. She wasn’t a big fan of mathematics but it doesn’t look that bad to me:

Bonus: It’s a little known fact that opossums make excellent construction supervisors. They work cheap too. (Thanks to a loyal reader for the shot!)

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“toughness tempered by a warm heart and pervasive good will”

I’m not going to have time to write anything today but I do have a photograph to post. I found this image of future Rice coach Johnnie Frankie in Mary Jane Hale Rommel’s scrapbook. My best guess is that it was taken in 1936 when Frankie was the captain of the football team. I see a lot of people in the course of my work and every once in a while someone gets under my skin. He’s one of those.

You can click here for an earlier post about Frankie, who went on to become a legendary coach in Texas and at Rice, which includes the resolution of the Texas House in his honor after his death in 1963. I believe every word of it.

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The Jack C. Pollard Courtyard

It was’t until I walked through this gathering last spring that I realized the courtyard in front of Duncan Hall has a name. Click to zoom in and you can see it’s the Pollard Courtyard, named for Jack Pollard ’25 and his wife:

Jack Pollard graduated with a degree in electrical engineering back before engineering became a five-year degree. He originally thought he would go to work for GE but instead wound up working in geophysics at Humble Oil and became a member of  the first refraction seismograph team in the United States.

He went on to a distinguished career in the field, first working for several major companies and then forming a successful and long-running partnership with his lifelong friend and Rice classmate (and fellow member of that first Humble seismographic team), Robert Ray ’25. Like Ray, Pollard served many years on the Rice Board of Governors and Board of Trustees. I love this picture of him holding what looks like the microphone of a tape recorder in his hand:

Robert Ray, of course, also has a courtyard at Rice named in his honor, the one behind the RMC. (Here’s what I wrote about him and the courtyard a few years ago.)

After I noticed the name of the Pollard courtyard I promptly forgot about it. What brought it suddenly back to mind was a photograph I came across the other day of all the Rice engineering students in 1924. If you look closely you can see Robert Ray just to the left of the middle, easy to spot because of his letter sweater. Pollard isn’t right next to him but he’s not far off, second to the right of Ray.

All is right with the world.


Bonus: I’m out of town for some meetings and when I stopped in at the local Half-Price Bookstore I was rather surprised to find this. I walked away but I’m thinking I’ll go back for it tomorrow.

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George R. Brown Wants You to Clean Your Room, 1957

I did not expect this.

It seems to have had the intended effect:

But George Brown was a man who paid intense attention to detail. He had some questions about the process:

Bonus: Here’s the best part. I laughed aloud.



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