Will Rice: “Known for his general good humor”

My eye was caught a little while ago by this interesting and startlingly modern depiction of William Marsh Rice, Jr. in the 1927 Campanile:

1927 campanile WMR Jr drawing 1 053

Just as interesting was the dedication of the Campanile to him that year:

1927 campanile WMR Jr trophy case 054

Two things jump out here. First, an error. Will Rice wasn’t William Marsh Rice’s grandnephew but rather his nephew, the son of WMR’s brother Frederick. I assume that his general good humor meant that he laughed this off.

Second, I’m struck by the singling out of his donation of the trophy case. As I think about it, that must have been a very important moment in the life of the new university. Now, on the centennial of that donation, the Woodson uses the case for exhibits:


It’s a beautiful thing but it’s getting increasingly fragile and could really use some loving attention.

Bonus: A friend sends this photo of what are likely some of yesterday’s chairs in more recent use.


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15 Responses to Will Rice: “Known for his general good humor”

  1. C Kelly says:

    Those chairs are from my era. I’m an antique.

  2. Tom & Jeanette Hix says:

    I happened to be walking through the RMC the other day and saw this exhibit honoring the black undergraduates. The male student whose portrait is on the bottom row is Ted Henderson. He was in the second freshman class with black students, starting at Rice in the fall of 1966, when I was a sophomore. We were in Will Rice College, and Ted hung around our room quite a bit (along with quite a few others – we had rearranged our furniture and made a “living room” out of one room and it became kind of a social center). Ted was a good kid, quiet, gentle, very diligent and hard working.

    Tom Hix

  3. Sandy Havens says:

    Melissa, it is my understanding that, although he was the founder’s nephew, Rice did not admit him as an under graduate, thus establishing the standard that no one would be admitted to Rice
    unless they met the academic requirements. It is also the case that Rice has never conferred an honorary degree. The only way to acquire a Rice degree is to earn it. Am I right?

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I hadn’t heard that about WMR Jr but it could be right. It certainly is still the case that the only way to get a degree from Rice is to earn it. I think that’s a thoroughly sound policy.

    • marmer01 says:

      William Marsh Rice, Jr. got his degree from Princeton in 1879 (paid for by his uncle William) and testified in court during the investigation of WMR’s murder. He was one of the original trustees and already a successful businessman by the time of the Institute’s opening. Perhaps that was true of HIS nephew, WMR, III, who went to the University of St. Thomas.

  4. Richard Schafer says:

    The trophy case has been in the RMC since I first arrived in 1969. But there was no RMC in 1927. So where was the case for the 31 years before the RMC was built? Are there any pictures of its original setting?

  5. effegee says:

    Historical tidbits: WMR Jr may not be a grandnephew of the Founder, but he does have an notable grand aunt: Charlotte M. Baldwin Allen, wife of A. C. Allen, co-founder of Houston. It has been suggested that the Allen brothers spent her fortune to finance the creation of Houston. Both Jr’s brother, H. Baldwin Rice, and grandfather, Horace Baldwin, were mayors of Houston.

  6. Randy Wile says:

    For me, the error which jumped out is the grammatical error which is as egregious as the geneological error.

    “It’s” is a contraction for “it is”. It’s not used to indicate a possessive.

    The possessive form is “its”, as in one of “…its life trustees…” and “…the donor of its trophy case…”

    Sorry to quibble.

  7. Jerry Outlaw says:

    The chairs look like the ones that were in the Physics lecture hall in the 60s, and probably much earlier. I cannot think of any other classroom that had them in those days.

  8. Gwen Kunz says:

    An alum of Rice tells me that Rice, at one time, had a spelling exam which all graduates had to pass before getting a degree.

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