I’ve been totally slammed the last two weeks but I did find a really interesting photograph and just haven’t had time to think carefully about it. So rather then posting something half baked I’m going to make you wait. Which is a long Rice tradition, dating back to the twelve years between William Marsh Rice’s death and the opening of the Institute. From the outside it looked like nothing was happening and people started getting chippy about it, as seen in this cartoon, which I actually find quite amusing:
This editorial from almost a year later gives a pretty good sense of the impatience around town. (Note especially the reference to getting Charles Weber to sell his property!)
I won’t make you wait more than a few days.
Bonus: A loyal reader sends these images, noting that the academic quad is beginning to take on a certain Seussian aspect. I confess that I find this quite amusing also.
We really could harbor no reasonable expectation of beating Houston in 1979 but I admire the spirit. It was the last game of the season and we had only won once. The Cougars, on the other hand, were having one of their best years ever. They went 11-1, won the Southwest Conference and the Cotton Bowl against Nebraska and ended the season at number 5 in the final AP poll.
They thrashed us, 63-0.
We’ll surely lick ’em this time.
Bonus: And we’ll do it on our nice new turf. Here are a couple articles about the initial installation of astroturf in 1970 that I ran across last week in an old scrapbook. (There are some better images of this in a post I wrote way back in 2011.)
This looks to be part of the 1970s era recycling effort on campus. Believe it or not the first thing I noticed was the car in a spot where I wasn’t expecting to see a car. Next I saw the aggressive implements being used to load the cans into some sort of truck. And finally I gave in and spent quite a bit of time staring at the cans themselves. You could probably date this pretty close just by the cans. So much Tab!
Bonus: It’s the northeast corner of the Physics Amphitheater.
After last week’s post I got several comments from people reminiscing about their time as freshman servers. In one of those routine coincidences that I’ve come to expect, I’d scanned this document on that exact topic just a few days before. It isn’t dated and I couldn’t even make a guess from context but . . . that font. Does it suggest maybe 1970s?
Student wait staff in the dining halls was a tradition at Rice for a very long time, going all the way back to the beginning. You can see them standing at attention in this shot, taken in the commons in 1912:
Rice Institute Commons, dining area
And here, a jovial bunch gives us a good look at their uniforms, circa early 1930s:
I take it this is no longer a thing but I’m not clear on when it went away. As always, clarification is most welcome.
Well, even though we’ve gone back to on-line classes it seems there was no stopping O Week this year. They are back and bubbling over with enthusiasm, sending me into hiding until it’s over. I recently came across this short report produced by a student-faculty committee that studied how best to manage freshman orientation. It was written just at the moment the college system was about to come into existence. It’s dated February, 1957 and the move into the colleges happened that March. The genesis of the college system was not welcomed by everyone, and in fact there was pretty stout opposition from some students. It took several years for loyalty to one’s class year to be replaced by loyalty to the colleges and this report reads more or less as though the dominant social groups would continue to be the classes. (And note that it’s signed by Burt McMurtry, who served on the committee that recommended the switch to the college system and provided the original design.) Which shows us nothing, I suppose, except that it’s very hard to anticipate precisely how change will play out.
The other thing that jumps out of this document is the repeated insistence that there be no hazing and that participation be absolutely voluntary. Hazing of freshmen by sophomores had been a feature of student life at the Institute from the beginning but the 1956 deaths of two students who got trapped in the Campanile brought great resolve to the effort to do away with it. It’s my sense that it did largely disappear, but only gradually.
While I was on vacation the Woodson got an email from a woman who has something odd. It’s collectible coin of some sort, with lots of complicated images on one side. These aren’t the sharpest photographs but you can make out the heads of three presidents, the statue of liberty, two eagles, a couple Native Americans, an airplane, a submarine, a light bulb, and two astronauts (among some other small things):
That’s weird, but not really something I have any expertise on. However, if you turn it over you will find what is unmistakably the academic seal of the Rice Institute
Here’s another image for scale:
I’m guessing this is something like this spoon but would appreciate any thoughts. It’s just such a peculiar combination (but then so was the spoon, I guess.)
Bonus: One of the interesting things about the way Italian cypresses die is that sometimes after they turn brown they’ll turn orange. You can see it starting here right at the very top. Once in a while a whole tree will turn orange, sticking out of the ground like a tongue of fire. It’s quite striking.
Extra Bonus: The lawn, though, is really thriving, looking lush after a wet summer.
Part of my regular routine involves checking ebay for Rice related materials. Most of the time I see either stuff we already have or stuff that’s dramatically overpriced. From time to time, though, something that’s both interesting and affordable pops up. This is one of those.
The Woodson has a nice collection of Rice football programs but this one is something different–it’s not one of ours but rather a program from the University of Southern California, issued when the Owls went out west to play there in 1947.
It reads like a dispatch from another world, a world where Rice football was a national powerhouse. It’s almost unfathomable how far we’ve fallen:
One of the best things in the program are the pictures of the Rice players. While USC had only lame headshots of their players, we used these cool action pictures. (Note there are two guys on this page I’ve written about before, Froggy Williams and George Miner. By the way, if you click on the post about Froggy be sure to watch the video. Maybe it’s just me, but it makes me cry every time.)
If you’ve been paying any attention over the years you should not be surprised that the thing that really drew my attention here was not football at all but this grainy aerial shot of the west side of campus that appeared at the top of the first page about Rice. It’s pretty bad, probably blurry when it was taken, then printed on cheap paper, and now scanned with my iphone. But you know what you can see clearly? The barns where we kept our mules. (See here, here, here and finally, unexpectedly, here. Alert: the last one also makes me cry. I must be getting old.)
We recently got back to Houston after our annual July trip to Washington state. While I was up there I played a lot of golf but I also had a lot of time to think and specifically to think about Rice. The transition of presidential administrations always prompts re-evaluations of the institution’s future, especially of our mission and how to best pursue it. You always think of Dr. Lovett and his expansive vision in these circumstances but this time I found myself focused on the expansion that took place in the 1960s under the leadership of President Pitzer and Board chairman George R. Brown. I know I’ve mentioned the Ten Year Plan here before but the documents they worked from are too long and detailed for a blog post. So I dug up this 1964 press release that describes the plan, which was in my opinion a model of both clear thinking about goals and clear communication. It’s aggressive for sure, entailing major expansion of the student body, the graduate program, and the research enterprise, all revolving around the recruitment of “a faculty that will be without parallel.”
How it all played out is a long story, but it’s safe to say that this plan, with both its successes and failures, was the genesis of the modern Rice University:
Nobody asked me but I’d sure like to see something analogous happen soon.
Bonus: I was walking on campus a couple days ago and came upon a guy patching up an outside wall of Cohen House. Of course I went over to see what it was all about–turned out to be water damage.
We were standing quite close to the building and in the course of our conversation I happened to look straight up at its top. I saw something there I’d never noticed because you have to be in this somewhat odd position to get a look at it.
Zoom in and you can see this beautiful intricate carving in a place where people rarely look. This was so surprising and so moving that I teared up a little.
This is the last part of Corinne Tsanoff’s letter to her sister about the Rice semi-centennial celebration in 1962. It’s the longest piece and also my favorite, because of the discussion of the wardrobe complications endured by the faculty wives, who had work out what to wear to three separate formal dinners in the days before people just went out and bought new clothes because they felt like it. Honestly, sitting together, sewing and talking, sounds like much more fun than a trip to the Galleria:
If you’d like to see the film on Rice’s history, The Golden Years, that was shown on the Saturday afternoon of the celebration, you can find it here on the wonderful Texas Archive of the Moving Image website. It’s about a half an hour long and if you’ve been paying attention here at all you’ll recognize all sorts of people and places that I’ve talked about over the years. You get to hear Dr. Lovett talk and see a lost world. It’s well worth your time.
I have to confess that I can’t be sure whether this review of the film in the Thresher is correct, although I suspect it is. I stopped listening very quickly, focused intently on the images rather than the public relations happy talk. Here’s the whole page, since I know you guys like it that way:
Bonus: The ex-Media Center. (Thanks again to a loyal reader.)