Seriously, a real king.
Not long ago I got a very big surprise via campus mail. Marilyn Hellums, the wife of Rice Chemical Engineering professor David Hellums, sent over some photos of Belgian King Baudouin touring Rice. (Here is an obituary from 1993 that includes a nice biographical sketch.) Although she seemed confident in her note that I must already have these pictures, she could not have been more wrong. I was completely flabbergasted. We keep lists of important visitors in the archives, but there is no record of this visit anywhere and I couldn’t find any mention of it in any Rice publication either. Although it’s hard to imagine, King Baudouin seems to have slipped in under the radar. That’s him in the light colored suit and sunglasses above, looking over at a pre-mustache David Hellums, who was shepherding him around campus. I don’t recognize anyone else here.
The king seems to have been interested especially in the artificial heart project that was ongoing at the time–these look like parts from one of the experiments. Based on the window hardware, they’re either in Lovett or the Mech Lab.
The pictures are undated, but I guessed that it must be 1969 or 1970 based on this photo of the King, Hellums, Carey Croneis and Frank Vandiver having coffee–this must have been taken during the period between the Masterson Crisis and the beginning of Norman Hackerman’s tenure.
State Department records confirm that King Baudoin was in the U.S. from May 17th through the 23rd in 1969, a visit that included a trip to Cape Kennedy to view the launch of Apollo 10. I find this entire episode–both the fact that it happened and the fact that there’s no record of it–powerfully interesting. If anyone knows anything else about it, please do get in touch.
Bonus: Lovett Hall window.