Two Sets of Three, Part II

One more commencement photo for now. It was taken in 1982, when alumnus Bill Broyles, ’66, soon to be named editor of Newsweek, was the speaker. I think it must have been snapped before the ceremony at the robing, but I may be wrong about that and I can’t quite make out where they are.

Broyles is on the left, his classmate and Rice faculty member Ken Kennedy is in the middle and English professor Alan Grob is at right. I saw this and instantly thought of Milton’s “Lycidas.”

To understand why, you’ll have to go read a couple of short pieces. The first was written by my friend Patrick Kurp on his stunning blog, Anecdotal Evidence, just months before Ken Kennedy’s death in 2007. The second is a talk that Broyles gave at Rice in 2003. It’s a little longer (though still well worth reading), so I’ll go right to its powerful ending:

We saw on-screen today President Kennedy’s speech at Rice announcing we were going to the Moon. I was there, in the audience. Wearing my beanie. A slime. And I was at Rice a year later when President Kennedy was murdered. We were stunned, heartbroken, grief-stricken. All our professors canceled their classes for the next day. All except Alan Grob, my English professor. We were surprised. Dr. Grob was an admirer of the president and a Democrat himself. We went to his class sullen and sad and resentful. Who was he to drag us into an English lesson on a day when real life was so overpowering? But then Dr. Grob entered, he opened a book, and he read “Lycidas,” by John Milton. The assigned text for the day, and a poem about grieving for a man of great promise dying too young.It was a transcendent example of how literature can give structure to unruly human emotions, how art can channel grief. How it can comfort and connect us.It struck me like a bolt of lightning. I knew, then, that somehow, in my own way, I would try to do that. Dr. Grob changed my life that day.


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8 Responses to Two Sets of Three, Part II

  1. Gale Stokes says:

    A great post. A notable moment in Rice history.

  2. mjthannisch says:


  3. Lynn says:

    I really love the way that history is revealed here – and not just institutional history – but personal moments that add new layers of meaning to what happened here.

  4. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    1982 was my commencement. 30 years and a week ago. I thought I remembered Bill Broyles as the speaker, and I am glad to know I got that right. 69th commencement, held outside the quad and in the evening. I remember the weather was quite moderate.

  5. Barney L. McCoy says:

    Everyone remembers where you were when you learned that John Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. I had just returned from class and entered the Hanszen quadrangle when I received the tragic news. Raised in Texas, it was the first time I cried since I was a small boy. There was an eery silence in the College for days. That photo brought back fond memories until I read Bill’s words. Broyles was a sophmore rooming with Greg Curtis in Section 2 directly below me my freshman year. Ken was my classmate and friend. Dr.Grob was a Hanszen Associate with whom I frequently ate lunch and talked politecs and sports more often than literature. But strangely, while Bill’s words recall my feelings of horror and dispair, they also make me realize that I was fortunate to have known those three.
    Barney L. McCoy, Hanszen 67

  6. Pingback: “Grobliness is next to Godliness” | Rice History Corner

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