Commencement in Founders Court

For many years, commencement was held on the opposite side of Lovett Hall from where it is today. It was also held in the evening. (You can see here the shadow of the building as it lengthens across the crowd in this picture from 1982.) This was, I’m fairly sure, an attempt to deal with the constant problem of the Houston heat in May.

Typically, it was getting pretty dark by the time things were well underway, as you can see here:



But in 1986,  commencement moved to the main quad and the time was changed to the early morning.


Why? Well, as with most things, there isn’t a memo anywhere that says “We moved commencement because . . . .”  Personally, I would have moved it for aesthetic reasons alone–there’s a street stuck right in the middle of the thing that’s not really very attractive. There is a good bit of evidence, though, that the real concerns were about decorum (or the lack thereof). I’m not sure if that’s all there was to it, but I can certainly testify that the switch did lead to different beverage choices.

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16 Responses to Commencement in Founders Court

  1. Dagobert Brito Wiess 63 says:

    I was back at Rice in 1986 as a faculty member. The reason I remember for the change was the fact that many of the graduating seniors had indulged all day prior to graduation.

    The tradition that undergraduates did not walk through the Sallyport until graduation started about this time.

  2. Grungy says:

    From ’81 to ’84 I was providing the graduates with liquid refreshments prior to commencement. ’81 was in the gym because of rain and I only brought one ice chest for my friends (both beer and soft drinks) and, because there was no air conditioning in the gym back then, I had people that I’d never met before begging for ice chips.
    So, from ’82 to ’84 I brought a LOT of drinks – with eight ice chests full in ’84.
    I won’t take all of the blame for the condition of the graduates, but I can’t dodge it all either.

  3. James Medford says:

    The 1985 commencement, when I graduated, was also Norman Hackerman’s last commencement as president. He got frustrated with the students at one point during his speech, saying something to the effect of, “If you’ll just be quiet and let me finish …”

  4. Bryan L. Baker says:

    I distinctly remember the 1970 graduation being held indoors, with the graduates at ground level and spectators in raised seating. Because the ceremony took place just a few weeks after the killings at Kent State and Jackson State, a few graduates refused to wear caps and gowns and almost everyone wore a black arm band. The commencement address was given by Jeff Cox, who had been to Vietnam as a missionary and gave a well-reasoned and heart-felt indictment of U.S. policy in that country. A large number of the parents and other guests loudly booed Jeff’s speech. Quite possibly the most tense and polarized commencement in Rice’s history.

  5. Paul McCullough says:

    In addition to being held on the east side of Lovett Hall, the 1974 graduation was notable for the lack of a commencement speaker. After the awarding the degrees and giving a few pithy remarks, President Norman Hackerman simply said that there was no speaker this year and that everyone could go home. As I recall, my parents afterwards took me to Brennan’s and feted me to the restaurant’s steak au poivre and bananas Foster.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      That’s hilarious. I think you got a pretty good deal.

      • Paul McCullough says:

        Thanks. Speaking of memorabilia, I’ll have send you my pic with Ben and Grace Woodson (Ben’s the rare book room guy), personal friends of my parents way back when. Mr. Woodson was an interesting man…..he had a huge library in his house on Del Monte Drive where he also had a fireplace. He would frequently have a fire in the fireplace with the house’s central air conditioning on, Houston’s ambient temperature being what it was (and still is). He called my younger sister (Smith College ’79) his “favorite brat.” Nice guy though…his company (American General Insurance) used to have an annual barbecue on a ranch east of Houston where one of the things they did was “Dunk The Boss” — insurance execs would sit on this seat over a large tube of water (ca. five feet deep), people would throw baseballs at the seat’s apparatus and the occupant would drop in the water. Mr. Woodson used to show up in a full suit and tie (he boasted that his suit was “drip dry”) and would take his turn, several times. He even kept his glasses on. Only in Houston, folks………

    • Mike Mason says:

      Given Rice’s embarrassing reputation for 2nd rate commencement speakers, you got off easy. My older kids graduated from Wake Forest a few years ago and had Secretary of State Colin Powell speak. My youngest graduated from A&M and had President Bush speak. My niece just graduated from Stanford and had Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, president of Mexico, speak. When I graduated from Rice, we had some former trustee.

  6. Melissa Kean says:

    You should come in and visit the Woodson Research Center. We have a bust of him on permanent display! And we’d love to at least get a scan of your picture.

  7. sensenonsense says:

    I’m sure there’s a bottle of champagne somewhere to go with that orange juice. It became the thing to drink mimosas to celebrate our friends’ graduation.

  8. John Deuel says:

    I’m in the blue shirt in the picture at the bottom of the article. The bottle of sparkling wine (I’m sure we didn’t actually use champagne) is basically black so it’s hard to see in the picture. It was probably Freixenet brut. The bottle is just to the right of the plastic cups in the picture as pictured (it’s been reversed, obviously).

    • John Deuel says:

      And actually, looking more carefully, I’m probably refilling my cup even as the picture is taken. Evan’s already finished most of his, and I was probably drinking faster than he was, even back then. 😉 Evan, they’ve tagged this as 1992; does that seem right?

      • Evan Wetstone says:

        I believe it’s 1991. The only reason I’d be wearing a tie at commencement would be because KaLyn was graduating.

        Also, that’s Chris Ryan at the far left. I don’t recognize the other person next to him though.

  9. Melissa Kean says:

    I really appreciate your comments, but you’ve confirmed a nagging fear. When we got all these commencement pictures from the photographers, I sort of felt that maybe they hadn’t been totally scrupulous about filing them. This isn’t a surprise–they are paid to take photos, not to be archivists. But I don’t know how I’m going to sort all this out!

  10. Annette M. says:

    I graduated in ’85 and I have plenty of photos of my fellow grads holding beer during the ceremony. My dad thought it was the best graduation he have ever attended.

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