Franz Brotzen came to Rice in 1954 as the Institute’s only materials scientist. He taught through the spring semester of 2009, and died this last May at 94, leaving an office full of active research materials. He was a great man, curious, passionate, and decent. He was thoroughly devoted to the university and he had many good and great days at Rice. This picture of him was taken on one of the most pivotal days in the university’s history.
On Februrary 21, 1969, the Rice faculty met in the Chemistry lecture hall, then the largest venue on campus, and heard Vice-Chairman of the Board Herbert Allen announce that William Masterson, a former member of the Rice history department, had been selected as the university’s president. This announcement was met with dismay. Claude deBremaecker of the geology faculty asked Brotzen, who had chaired a faculty committee to advise the Board on its selection, to report on that committee’s activities. When Brotzen publicly made it clear that the Board had never met or even communicated with the faculty group, open conflict became inevitable. In the face of vocal and widespread faculty and student opposition, Masterson resigned the presidency five tumultuous days later.
I have no idea who took this picture. (If anyone can tell me, I would be grateful.) It’s one of about a dozen of this meeting, all taken with some small personal camera. The title of this post is written on the back of it. The pictures show a packed room, and the tension is palpable. The fellow seated in front of Brotzen with the pipe is Holmes Richter, a professor of chemistry who had been the Dean of the University since 1950. He was not happy.