The picture in the header above is one of my favorites. The man facing the camera on the right is Edgar Odell Lovett, the first president of Rice, and the man on the left is Herbert Hoover. They’re standing on the back steps of the Physics Building in late May, 1925, just as the school year was ending. I first saw this picture years ago and just loved it for its look–the straw boater hats, the view of the crowd from behind, the way Lovett and Hoover are standing.
Several years later, I was going through the 1924-25 volume of the Rice newspaper, the Thresher, looking for something completely unrelated when I found a story about Hoover’s remarks that day. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to be funny, but to anyone who studies the history of American higher education what he said is both subtle and, frankly, quite amusing. It makes the photo that much more delicious.
Eighty-five years later, Rice is still not an old university but neither is it so young as to be free of “set rules and traditions.” Enough time has passed for traditions to spring up and die, for some to evolve beyond recognition, for others to become so ingrained that we barely notice them.
And it’s all there in the archives–newspaper articles, scrapbooks, photographs, letters from homesick freshmen, diaries, memos from presidents and provosts, minutes of department meetings, bits and scraps found in every corner of the campus and beyond. At least once a week, something amazing bubbles up in the Woodson Research Center. I’ll use this forum to share them.
One more thing: if you happen to have something amazing that I don’t know about, please let me know about it!