As I’ve been stumbling through the last few busy days, I find that I’m still thinking about the early years of the Biology Department. I’m not quite ready to leave them yet. One of the most interesting things in George Wheeler’s collection (aside from the scrapbook) is a short autobiographical piece. Although most of it is focused on his graduate career as a student of entomology at Harvard’s Bussey Institution, Wheeler spends a little time talking about his days at Rice. The most intriguing commentary, to me at least, is about Herman Muller. I’m still doing some digging about him and I’ll say more later. But there was one tiny anecdote that made me smile.
Wheeler says “Every Rice student was assigned a faculty advisor. Mine was Huxley. It was customary for advisors to have their advisees as dinner guests once a year. Huxley and three other professors had a home built in Houston and hired a housekeeper. I was such a guest on the spring.” (That would have been 1916.) By a strange coincidence, I have a picture of that house under construction in 1915 residing inside my laptop. I scanned it for no particular reason, other than that I thought it a bit odd. The house was designed by William Ward Watkin and was built by three bachelor professors: Huxley, Griffith Evans of Mathematics (who would soon enough find himself married to a new Rice graduate), and the physicist Arthur Llewelyn Hughes.
The address was 1318 Oakdale. I think it’s townhouses now.
Bonus: In the letter he wrote to the Woodson when he sent the collection, Wheeler says of Professor Joseph Davies that ” He was one of the kindest men I have ever known.” Several people have mentioned in the comments and in emails his profound dedication to his students and the joy he took in teaching. He died on campus, days before he was to have retired, just after he turned in his grades.