“Brotzen rises to report”

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. Jean 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.) [Update: It was deBremaecker.] 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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to “Brotzen rises to report”

  1. Julie Brotzen says:

    Thanks so much for creating the archive of information. It has been a wonderful, albeit emotional journey looking back at Rice’s history and my farher’s participation in it.

    Julie R.Brotzen

    BTW, was Pitzer the replacement?

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I think of your father every single day. I have tremendous respect and affection for him and I miss his counsel terribly. He had a very big hand in the creation of the modern Rice.

      Pitzer was the one who was being replaced here.

  2. Pingback: Two Sets of Three, Part I | Rice History Corner

  3. Pingback: Move In | Rice History Corner

  4. Pingback: “a new feeling of freedom,” 1969 | Rice History Corner

  5. Pingback: Newcomer’s Club, February 1955 | Rice History Corner

  6. Pingback: Norman Hackerman Comes to Rice, 1970 | Rice History Corner

  7. The word “then” — (where it says, in part, “On Februrary 21, 1969, the Rice faculty met in the Chemistry lecture hall, then the largest venue on campus, […]”) — does not agree with my records.

    There probably WAS a time when the Chem. lecture hall had been ‘the largest venue on campus’ … but iirc it must have been before 1965.

    Even though I did not matriculate as a Rice freshman (in Will Rice) until 1968, I already knew my way around some parts of the Rice campus, from having attended the [non-credit] ‘Rice summer school for high school students’ in the summer of 1965. One of the first venues I “met” that summer, was Hamman Hall.

    Is Hamman Hall smaller than the Chem. lecture hall? (if so, that would be news to me). In any case, Hamman Hall existed by 1965, and [as far as I know] it has not changed [much, if any[ in size since then. And … it was my impression (having taken a History course in 68-69 where Frank Vandiver lectured in Hamman Hall, and having taken a Chemistry course the next year, that met in the Chem. lecture hall) that … Hamman Hall seemed — to me — to be a bigger venue than the Chem. lecture hall.

    Thanks for your patience … especially if (um … “since”) this <> turned out to be kinda long-winded.

    — Mike Schwartz

Leave a Reply