Commencement 1920, complete with a big surprise

Just a quick one this afternoon–we’re headed to the Rockets game tonight, where I anticipate booing Kobe with great enthusiasm.

I had occasion today to discuss how the early commencement ceremonies were arranged. I’m pretty sure that the faculty robed in the Mech Lab and the students either in the dorms or at home. The procession clearly began at the Mech Lab and came down the road towards the center of the academic quad, then turned towards the administration building along the front of Physics:

It’s a bit blurry, but if you zoom in you’ll see Dr. Lovett at the right front and H.A. Wilson at the left front. The fellow in the middle is the speaker, whose name has somehow slipped my mind. Right behind them is Captain Baker and Father James Kirwin, the Catholic priest who gave the invocation. (Father Kirwin was quite a significant figure in both Houston and Galveston.) The third row is full of trustees, and they’re followed by the faculty. One of the things that’s a little puzzling here is the pretty substantial group of civilians in between the robed faculty and the robed students. I don’t know what that’s all about.

And here’s a photo of the ceremony itself, including the entire audience:

Note the Rice flag on the building.

I bet I’ve looked at this picture four or five dozen times over the course of twenty years, but every single time before today I missed seeing the Community House across the street. This is one more example of the beauty of working in the same archive for so long. Until now I just hadn’t ever had the Community House in my mind when I looked at it. Makes me wonder what else I’m missing.

Bonus: Lee Pecht and Mary Bixby were caught on film today attempting to carry out some kind of secret project.

It turned out to be a new display in the trophy case in the RMC. It’s another nice one, too. This 1947 Rondelet dress is just one piece of it.

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12 Responses to Commencement 1920, complete with a big surprise

  1. effegee says:

    I’d love to see the corresponding picture of the _1919_ procession if one exists.

  2. effegee says:

    What was on the second floor of the Administration building north of the sallyport in 1920? There are two men standing on a balcony watching the proceedings. For at least Hackerman’s term through Gillis’ term, that area was the President’s office. But I’ve been told that Lovett’s office used the room atop the sallyport.

  3. Keith Cooper says:

    For you Italian Cypress watchers, notice that the trees in the photo of the academic procession need to be trimmed. Apparently, they had better luck growing them in the 1910s and 1920s than we have had since the mid 1980s.

    Also, in that same photo, notice the excellent planter to the left of the lead marchers.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

      I noticed both of those. I think the planter looks almost like a piece of discarded architectural trim with weeds growing out of it. Melissa, were there planters in the quad?

      • effegee says:

        I could be convinced that it was originally a damaged architectural piece. The right-hand column supporting the arch facing directly toward the camera does not appear to have the same detail found on the left-hand column and the columns supporting the leftmost arch. Perhaps that area was damaged in shipment? Or it could just be shadow.

        The vegetation looks rather like flowers rather than weeds. I expect that the grooming of the campus for commencement was likely as intense in 1920 as it is in the 21st century. Seems like weeds accidentally growing in discarded masonry would have been long gone.

  4. Kathy says:

    I wonder if the civilians in the procession are members of the board. (Interesting that they’re behind the faculty, however). They may be most of the civilians on the podium in the ceremony pic.

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      My thought is that they may have been the staff. They look a bit too old to be ungowned students and there is at least one of them who is gowned (and it appears that it is a master’s gown)

  5. marmer01 says:

    I am perfectly willing to believe that a planter was made of a cast-off architectural piece. The plants look like rose moss, which is a quick and cheap way to add a lot of color. I also agree that the civilians are almost certainly trustees or board members. It would not surprise me a bit that in those early days the trustees were more involved in major ceremonies.

  6. Marge Winsock says:

    Gimme that dress!

  7. Bill Allison says:

    The speaker was Judge Hutcheson. Is it possible some of the civilians were students whose cap and gowns did not arrive. See this article

    “There was considerable consternation among the senior class when it was found that the freight embargo made it impossible for the caps and gowns ordered … from an Eastern supply house to arrive in time … Officers of the class, however, got busy and borrowed enough outfits for all but five members of the large class…”

  8. Kathy says:

    Hope you had fun at the game. Booing Kobe should be an olympic sport!

  9. Grungy says:

    That’s motion blurring, in daylight.
    It would appear to be EV15 light.
    Is this shot at f-32 for depth of field, with a shutter speed of 1/8th, on ISO 25 film?
    Digital has spoiled me even more, but my choice has almost always been to stop the motion and fix the exposure in processing (unless a blur is desired).

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