Always Look On The Back

Things have calmed down substantially this afternoon and I am relishing the opportunity to write with a bit more calm. In fact, I’d like to just meander around a little this time. Let’s start with this very old photograph of Edgar Odell Lovett that I found in the Lovett Family Papers. I don’t know what process produced images like this but there are several in our collections, all very moody:

EOL at his desk Scanlan Building Byron

Happily, this picture is labeled on the back: “EOL in his office at the Scanlan Building, 1909.” The Scanlan Building was Rice’s headquarters until the campus was built, the site of all the meeting and planning for what was to come. It remained the home of the Institute’s business office for quite some time even after Dr. Lovett moved into the Administration Building–there was precious little space for non-academic offices on the campus for many years.

One day at lunch in the Woodson I mentioned that I was longing to have an image of the Scanlan Building and my colleague Rebecca almost immediately produced one. It’s a postcard and it’s dated 1909, the same year as the photo:

Scanlan Building 1909 Autrey Collection postcard

If you turn it over, on the back you’ll find a charming note to a little girl named Allie May Autry from her friend Max, who sounds bored and lonely with all his pals gone for the summer. Allie May would have been in Corsicana visiting her mother’s family:

Scanlan Building postcard verso

Allie May eventually enrolled at Rice, graduating in 1925 after having been very active in student government and social life–she was Queen of the May Fete her senior year, which was a very big deal indeed. Here’s her Campanile picture:

Allie May Autry 25 Campanile

But here’s a picture of her I like a lot better:

Allie May Autrey class of 24 c 1922 Mrs Edward Kelley

Allie May Autry Kelley remained a loyal supporter of her alma mater her entire life. Her gift made possible the construction of the Gymnasium in 1950 and she named Autry Court in honor of her mother, a passionately devoted fan of Rice athletics. We have her college scrapbook in the Woodson and I use it often. We also have a magnificent collection of Autry Family papers, which I believe is the source of the Scanlan Building postcard.



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13 Responses to Always Look On The Back

  1. effegee says:

    So this must be the mother of Edward W. “Mike” Kelley Jr. (former Fed Governor and member of the Rice Board)? As a Board member, Mike provided oversight during the early phase of development of the Mudd Laboratory program.

  2. Melissa Kean says:

    You’re exactly right.
    Do you mean he helped with the building project or with what was supposed to happen inside the building?

    • effegee says:

      Mike’s involvement had to do with scoping the project rather than with design. He accompanied the architect and ICSA senior management (director, asst. directors) on site visits before any design was started, such as to the then relatively recently completed Forsythe Hall, home of Stanford’s central computing facility. Later oversight appeared to move to the B&G committee during design and construction.

  3. Karl Benson '62 says:

    There are plenty of images of the Scanlan building on the Web, including at which also has a photo of William Ward Watkin in his Scanlan office. Or you could just ride the Metro downtown and have lunch at the Subway on the ground floor.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, but if I had gone that route I wouldn’t have Allie May Autry’s postcard!

      • Karl Benson '62 says:

        Worth the wait! Did you happen to notice the upside-down postage stamp on the postcard? Once upon a time that was code for “I love you.” Any idea who Max and Bertha were?

  4. mjthannisch says:

    I might just do that.

  5. John Wolda says:

    In 1925, my mother-in-law was Princess Jessie of the House of Stevens,one of two runners up to Miss Autry. Unfortunately she passed away before I got to meet her. She was married to a Rice professor, Dr H O Nicholas and the mother of my wife,Harriet.

  6. Beverly Schorre says:

    Beautiful words to accompany beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing!

  7. George Webb '88, '91 says:

    The young woman who graduated in 1925 seems rather young to have been getting love notes in 1909.

  8. marmer01 says:

    Yeah, she would have been about six. Assuming he was about the same age, presumably Max’s mom wrote the note. That’s not childish handwriting. Or perhaps Max was much older (like a cousin or something) and Allie May was a family friend and Max just wrote to her as a kind gesture so she would get a card from home.

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