There are a lot of people who have no idea that for many years commencement was held in front of the Chemistry Building. I’ve never seen any discussion of this change on paper but I’m pretty sure I know why they did it. Here’s a photo of the commencement ceremony in 1931:
See the problem? It’s starting to get really crowded–the audience stretches along the entire back side of the Administration Building. But because the hedges are totally closed there isn’t anywhere else to put more people. I don’t know if it never occurred to them to open the hedges or if they were just totally committed to that particular arrangement. In any case, something needed to be done. The front side of the building was an unsuitable parking lot, but the front of Chemistry was wide open. Here’s a picture (taken by our old friend Maxwell O. Reade) of the setup for the 1938 commencement that shows what I mean:
There were no hedges and, unlike the same spot today, no trees in the way. And look at the size of the canopy compared to the one in the first shot. It’s enormous! And shade was really important when they regularly held commencement in early to mid-June. The first time they did it was in 1935 and here’s what it looked like underneath:
Just for fun, here’s the stand, complete with a gigantic Texas flag and a smaller Rice flag on the podium:
And speaking of processions, the first time I ever opened this file the first thing I saw was this, which really threw me for a loop:
That’s just crazy.
Bonus: Here’s Reade’s picture of the hedges, taken, I think at the same time. I wish I could see how they got in there to cut the grass.