Air Conditioning the Economic Summit

The G7 Economic Summit that was held at Rice in 1990 has become the stuff of campus legend. Most of these legends have to do with either security preparations or borderline insane efforts at sprucing things up for the dignitaries. The Woodson has quite a fine collection from this event but not long ago I was thrilled to have a look at something that isn’t in our holdings.

FE&P employee Richard Stearman has been around a long time—he came to Rice in 1987 as a mechanic and is now a construction services manager—so when he told me he had a scrapbook I could scan images from, I jumped at the chance to get ahold of it.

Stearman Economic Summit 4

The scrapbook chronicles Richard’s own experience of the Summit and I saw several  things I’ve never seen before, including pictures from the post-summit picnic at the University of Houston. I was utterly enchanted, though, by his photos of the construction of the special air-conditioned platform that was built in the quad for the politicians. (It was July!)

Stearman Economic Summit 5

For those of you unfamiliar with this episode, here’s a Chronicle article about the last minute effort to keep the big wheels cool:

Stearman Economic Summit 3

My favorite picture is this one. The graciously offered thanks were well deserved.

Stearman Economic Summit 7

Bonus: Here’s the crew, with Richard at the far left. Some of these guys are still around, although perhaps with a few more pounds and maybe a bit less hair.

Stearman Economic Summit 1

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21 Responses to Air Conditioning the Economic Summit

  1. Let’s see. I see Franco, Sylvestre Cantu, Russell Price, Ronnie Featherston, Richard Stearman, Larry Felan, Doyle Price, Paul Bruno, Donald Armstrong, and a few guys since retired like Joe Broussard, Joe Lopez, and Jim Kerneckel. Several more I recognize but can’t name.

  2. Nancy Burch says:

    My favorite part of the story was they had to sew weights into Margaret Thatcher’s skirt so the AC blowing from beneath the platform wouldn’t cause a wardrobe malfunction.

  3. effegee says:

    Some one should write a book: the welding of all the manhole covers, the hiding of built-in bookshelves in what was then the CRPC in Fondren to avoid offense to a certain official, the Secret Service admonitions (“if you are escorted into the red zone, you may rest assured that someone will be evaluating you through a telescopic sight”), the ceremonial howitzers by Cohen House, the pair of helicopters lifting off from the stadium parking lot into the setting sun at the end … one with POTUS, the other with a big armament pod tucked alongside. Most people have no idea what goes into something like this.

    • Keith Cooper says:

      the small remote with camera used to check out the area above theo CRPC ceiling; trying to explain to a Secret Service crew that Local area network routers were not a danger to foreign dignitaries; …

  4. mjthannisch says:

    effegee, maybe you are the one to write that book. We are waiting with bated breath.

  5. James says:

    I can not imagine the cost but all of the security for something of this magnitude being done. Who paid for all of the cost and yes, Mr. Efegee, it sounds like you have a lot of knowledge about this and it would be great for you to write a book on such a historical event. It’s not everyday something like this happens in Houston and at Rice.

  6. effegee says:

    Shoot. Melissa says the book has already been written.

  7. James Medford says:

    The entire inner loop road was resurfaced prior to the summit, as I recall. It had been ridden with potholes. Rollerblading was a big craze at the time, and many people would come from off-campus to blade on the campus roads. When word got out that the inner loop road had been resurfaced and was incredibly smooth, bladers showed up in droves for a long time after the summit concluded.

  8. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    I can tell you some stories about what happened at Stanford University when Chelsea Clinton attended in the 1990’s. I was once lucky enough to see Air Force One taking off from Moffet Field after father Bill had been here for a visit.

  9. Carol Stearman says:

    Well done, Melissa. Richard has been waiting for this a long time & I think he just grew an inch taller with pride. He loves Rice as if he started it himself. The guy in the bottom corner squatting by Richard is Louis Torres who died several years ago but was a good friend to so many. He was the Supervisor of the A/C shop at the time. We have a lovely photo here at home of President Bush & Richard shaking hands. Gives me chills every time I look at it…and Richard was soooo young. Well anyway, just wanted to congratulate you on a job-well-done!

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Thank you very much! One of the best things about my job has been getting the chance to know guys like Richard and his colleagues–they make everyone else’s work possible and I’m very grateful to them.

  10. Jo Hodgin says:

    When Richard came to Washington for a visit soon after the summit, we offered to get White House tour tickets. “No problem,” he said, “I already have a private tour lined up.” I can certainly see why! It was great to read the story and all your comments.

  11. Richard Stearman says:

    Items of some interest: The missing Old Wiess Loading Dock that wasn’t, the grass under every Oak tree on campus (grass does not grow under oak trees, ya know), thermostats covered by fake walls, welded manhole covers, secret service and a Houston cop every 100 ft around the inner loop (with a black bag on the ground next to them), dogs sniffing tunnels and buildings securing the inner loop, dogs, secret service, FBI, cops out the wazoo and the government officials who all had their eyes on us at every turn during the night prior to the event while we were installing more air conditioning and a canopy, and something comical: an unknown female government official at 3:30am that morning said to me “Put it Back like it was before you started”, ha ha, I told her we had already jumped off the cliff and either we continued or it would not get done in time. Not sure who she was, but, glad she didn’t continue to insist we try to fly back up the huge ledge we jumped off of.

    Check out Dr. Bole’s book on the Economic Summit, it’s Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. wb3k76 says:

    My father is James Kerneckel. I see him in a few of your pictures.

    • Richard Stearman says:

      Yes, Jim was certainly a vital part during the days of the summit. How’s he doing these days??
      Thanks for your comment.

      • wb3k76 says:

        My father passed away in in Nov. 2012. I remember meeting a lot of you when I was a little boy. He used to bring me up to Rice U. alot. I espically remember the summit and meeting all the secret service guys. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

        Bill K.

        • Richard Stearman says:

          It’s with great sadness that I hear he has passed. Being in a better place now should be comforting, but he will be missed. Rich

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