For reasons too strange to go into here my attention was recently drawn to the history of fencing at Rice. Over time its popularity here has waxed and waned but it seems that once it arrived in 1924 there was a nearly constant presence either as a team or a club sport. Here’s the November 1924 article that heralded the organization of the first club:
With a quick peek into the photo files I discovered that almost all the images were from the 1950s, apparently a heyday of fencing here:
Look at this beauty, which looks to have been taken during a gym class in 1958:
Here’s the 1956 team with Coach Harold Van Buskirk:
I was quite taken with Van Buskirk, who has a distinct look about him, and suspected he was behind the Rice team’s successes during this era. Indeed, it turns out that he was a fine coach and before that a fine competitor himself. A 1915 architecture graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Van Buskirk was a member of the United States fencing team at the 1924, 1928, and 1932 Olympics as well as the US National Champion with épée in 1927. (He was also, rather unexpectedly, head of the US Navy camouflage section during World War I.) He coached at Rice for over twenty years.
If you’d like to see a clip of him fencing at the height of his powers (and really, why wouldn’t you?), here you go: