Commencement When It Rains

I’ve been rushing all day and I’m still in a hurry so this will be quick! Also, in an unprecedented move I am giving the Bonus first, just in case I don’t have time to finish.

OK, here we go.

Bonus: Just another day at the Institute. (Yes, it’s a gorilla on top of the gym.)


Now back to business. There’s been a lot of talk in the comment box and in my email about rain commencements. It turns out there haven’t been very many. The first one I can find happened in 1934. It was actually quite a nice affair, held across Main Street at St. Paul’s church, which was a lovely venue for a class of that size.

I don’t find another until 1973, although as I mentioned yesterday there are many years without photos so I can’t be sure without looking them all up in the Thresher. I just didn’t have time for that today. There are only two pictures in the 1973 file. The first looks to be  a pretty standard shot of the crowd, which would obviously never fit in St. Paul’s:

I’m a bit more puzzled by the second. What is the meaning of this?

The next one was 1981. There are many more pictures of this one, but they’re awfully fuzzy. Also, there is some mystery in this folder. Either the ceremony began outside and then moved into the gym or I have pictures from two different commencements mixed together. In any event, I’m grateful to whoever took them, as many of them are clever and interesting images that let us see how the thing was actually done.

There’s more, but I have to be somewhere in 45 minutes and my hair is still wet.


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20 Responses to Commencement When It Rains

  1. C Kelly says:

    Actually, they had an extra diploma in the box after they handed them all out. The fellow is asking very discretely if anyone wants another. In fact, the gorilla took it. They had no idea he was in the graduating class of 1973.

    • Bob Spiro says:

      The fellow holding up the sign is Paul Cloutier, longtime faculty member in Space Physics & Astronomy and later Physics & Astronomy. I suspect he was serving as a marshall at graduation.

  2. Gloria Tarpley '81 says:

    1981 was my graduation year, and the entire Commencement was held in the gym — very humid and crowded, and disappointing but still exciting to us all. You must have two boxes of photos combined, because we learned very early that morning of the change in venue — it poured! Fingers crossed for better luck this year, as my son is graduating!

  3. Gloria Tarpley '81 says:

    Wasn’t quite clear enough — the ceremony occurred indoors from beginning to end — we did not shift partway through. The outdoors pictures must be from a different commencement.

  4. Don Johnson says:

    I attended the 1981 Commencement, so I have some insights. As for marching to the gym or starting outside, NOT A CHANCE! It poured all morning (and I mean a typical Houston rain of biblical proportions). Faculty gathered somewhere (don’t recall where; probably near the home dressing room?) and the graduates somewhere else INSIDE the gym. The picture you have is of students arriving for the event.

    Recall that the gym was not air conditioned at this time, making it hot and humid inside. The polite word is “stuffy.” The windows were opened behind the top tier of seats. I cleverly sat next to a BIG box fan. In short, it was an awful experience.

    I also recall attending a commencement held outdoors during the Rupp era at the end of which the clouds opened. Because sheepskin essentially melts when wet, the ceremonies were promptly ended and the recessional started. This experience was FAR better than the 1981 one.

  5. Richard Schafer says:

    Those pictures from 73 don’t begin to show just how hot and uncomfortable the place was. I’m not sure the building was air-conditioned at the time; not every building on campus was by then. As I remember, there were some big fans set up behind the curtain, but they didn’t help much. I don’t remember for sure, but I suspect the “2 degrees” thing was to remind someone getting a second degree to go to the right place for when their second degree was called.

  6. Grungy says:

    It was pretty grim in the gym in ’81 – hot and humid.
    Didn’t help that someone vomited in the building, and the smell lingered throughout the ceremony.
    I’d brought an Igloo 48-quart ice chest full of soft drinks and beer for my friends, and there were people literally begging for just a piece of ice when the drinks ran out.
    The next year I had eight ice chests…

  7. James Medford says:

    In the first picture of the ’81 commencement showing people outside the gym with umbrellas, you can see three very small pine trees to the left. Those trees are still there and much taller now.

  8. Helen Toombs says:

    The most recent commencement in the gym was 2010.

  9. almadenmike says:

    Miight the “2 Degrees?” person be directing those who will receive another diploma to a special close-in seating area from which they can return to the podium to get their additional sheepskin(s) relativley quickly?

  10. effegee says:

    For ’73 commencement, I recall parking in the “Baker/Wiess lot” (that’s where the west end of Herring Hall is today). I stepped out of my car into about 4-5 inches of water in the middle of the parking lot. Even with an umbrella, I was drenched by the time I got to the gym. Wet shoes, pants legs, and robe; no air conditioning… well, at least no one threw up like Grungy reports in ’81! I sat in the sun through most of the 2007 commencement. That was a LOT more pleasurable than the ’73 commencement!

    The “2nd degree” sign was for redirecting those receiving more than one degree.

  11. Pat Martin says:

    The faculty member behind Paul Cloutier is Stewart Baker of the English Department. He was also a frequent marshall at commencements.

  12. Ron Ladd says:

    I was one of those getting the 2nd degree in the hot gym in 1973. Back then several people were in the same situation I was. In ROTC, after 4 years and a Bachelor’s degree, you were commissioned and went on active duty. However, the ROTC units (Navy for sure and I think the Army also) had worked out a deal with their services which allowed the Engineering students to stay an extra year and get their Master’s Degree in their engineering field (non thesis degree). To work this out within the rules at the time, the students dropped out of ROTC classes for a year and refused their Bachelor’s degree at the end of their senior year. Without the Bachelor’s degree and not having completed all the required Military or Naval Science courses, these students could not be commissioned as officers and this delayed their active duty time. They stayed the extra year, finishing the required course, and paying for it themselves if they were on ROTC scholarship. So they were getting 2 degrees at graduation.
    Back them the Bachelor’s diplomas were handed out first and then the Master’s. The sign directed those in my situation to seats with the Master’s candidates for their second diploma.
    As Pat says above, Dr. Baker is behind Paul Cloutier. At the time he was one of the resident associates at Wiess College.
    The gym was indeed not air conditioned in those days. But except for this graduation I can not ever remember a crowd there except for athletic events in the winter months, when air conditioning was not needed. Graduations were in the evenings back then, so there was a greater chance of a thunderstorm by the end of the day. (I did get to see an out door graduation when my daughter graduated from Rice in 2009.)
    Ron Ladd, Wiess, BA ’72, MEE ’73 (I self associate with my undergraduate classmates of 1972 so I get the alumnae communications with my undergraduate classmates, even though my Bachelor’s diploma has 1973 on it.)

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

      I also was a non-thesis engineering (MEE). I had never heard that arrangement for the ROTC people but it does make sense. My understanding was that the 5th year program was a vestige of the draft era. After all of the uproar of deferments during the Vietnam war until the lottery, a man could not get a deferment for a graduate degree. The 5th year program was considered to be undergraduate so men could continue to be eligible for student deferments. You could still be a part of your college and (depending upon space) could even live on campus (I did). You were handled by the undergraduate side of the administration. For all intents you were treated as a senior. I actually got my BA in 1975 and went through commencement again in 1976 for my MEE. This caught up with me one time; during the summer when I worked with ICSA we would go to Cohen house for lunch several days. Staff and graduate students were allowed to be member of the faculty club (they could sign lunch tickets and be billed was the limit of what I used it for). During the fall semester they informed me that undergrads could not be members (so I then ended up being the guest of an ICSA staff member)

  13. Ron Ladd says:

    PS I think you met my daughter Patricia Ladd, who worked in the Archives at Fondren part time when she was an undergraduate there.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Oh my, yes! We love Patricia! So talented and funny too. “William Marsh Rice, World’s Most Powerful Cyborg” will live forever in our memories. I still read her blog, too.

  14. David says:

    Perhaps the balloons are to help keep Tudor from sinking into Harris Gully.

  15. I was a graduate of the Class of 1981. I remember being dropped off in a small car at the front of the gym in my robes by a girl I was seeing at the time, Annette Crabb(e). It was raining heavily just before the event, a typical hot, humid, Houston May day (and smelly, as Grungy says. Someone, indeed, had overimbibed.) It seemed interminable, especially since many (most?) of us Seniors were nursing huge hangovers from the night before, had not drunk any water (hence Grungy’s rare-as-diamonds ice), and would have gladly stayed in bed except that we had to keep our parents happy.

  16. Pingback: Inclement Weather Plan | Rice History Corner

  17. Galloway Hudson '60 says:

    I see that nobody has mentioned that the 1960 graduation ceremony was held in the gym because of rain. I remember the heat and humidity, but I can’t say for sure when the move was announced. I think it was a general enough rain that we were told to assemble there, rather than move from in front of Lovett Hall. As an engineer, I received a B. A. in 1960 (from The Institute) and a B. S. in 1961 (from The University). The ceremony in 1961 was outdoors in good weather. Back then, AROTC students could be awarded their B. A. after four years, but the NROTC students could not, if they wished to return for the fifth year to finish the B. S., in a situation similar to that described by Ron Ladd above. One classmate took his B. A. in Arch. and received his commission. He served on active duty in the Navy and then returned to Rice for his B. S. year. (He is now a Fellow in AIA.)The five years requited for B. S. in Arch. and Engineering lasted from about 1950 to 1965, I believe. I think it was not a coincidence that Rice went back to four year B. S. programs when it started charging tuition. Our five year plans were quite rigid, especially if one was in either AROTC or NROTC. It was not possible to accelerate graduation by taking extra hours or attending summer school somewhere. The latter option was used to make up flunked courses, of which there were quite a few back then.

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