The Jack C. Pollard Courtyard

It was’t until I walked through this gathering last spring that I realized the courtyard in front of Duncan Hall has a name. Click to zoom in and you can see it’s the Pollard Courtyard, named for Jack Pollard ’25 and his wife:

Jack Pollard graduated with a degree in electrical engineering back before engineering became a five-year degree. He originally thought he would go to work for GE but instead wound up working in geophysics at Humble Oil and became a member of  the first refraction seismograph team in the United States.

He went on to a distinguished career in the field, first working for several major companies and then forming a successful and long-running partnership with his lifelong friend and Rice classmate (and fellow member of that first Humble seismographic team), Robert Ray ’25. Like Ray, Pollard served many years on the Rice Board of Governors and Board of Trustees. I love this picture of him holding what looks like the microphone of a tape recorder in his hand:

Robert Ray, of course, also has a courtyard at Rice named in his honor, the one behind the RMC. (Here’s what I wrote about him and the courtyard a few years ago.)

After I noticed the name of the Pollard courtyard I promptly forgot about it. What brought it suddenly back to mind was a photograph I came across the other day of all the Rice engineering students in 1924. If you look closely you can see Robert Ray just to the left of the middle, easy to spot because of his letter sweater. Pollard isn’t right next to him but he’s not far off, second to the right of Ray.

All is right with the world.


Bonus: I’m out of town for some meetings and when I stopped in at the local Half-Price Bookstore I was rather surprised to find this. I walked away but I’m thinking I’ll go back for it tomorrow.

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7 Responses to The Jack C. Pollard Courtyard

  1. Linda Wild says:

    When did engineering become a five-year degree? I graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1982 and it was a four-year degree then.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I can’t recall the dates off the top of my head but it began as a four-year curriculum, then went to five, then back to four again after we began charging tuition in 1965.

    • Richard Miller (BA '75 MEE '76) says:

      Are we talking about the BA/BS or the professional masters? When I was there you could get either a BA or BS in engineering. (My roommate decided to get his BS in mechanical engineering rather than a BA triple major in mechanical engineering, materials science and physics, He did not want to take organic chemistry or he could have a fourth major in chemical physics).

      You then could stay for an additional year and get a professional masters (MEE in my case). This was an interesting degree since people in that program were still considered undergraduates. We used the undergrad registrar, could live in the colleges and had none of the privileges of a grad student (such as ability to eat at the Faculty Club). The accepted wisdom was that this was an artifact of the draft. At that time student deferments were only available for undergraduates. Graduate students in general could not get a student deferment so treating the professional masters students as undergrads allowed them to qualify for an additional year of II-S.

      • almadenmike says:

        The Professional Masters predated the 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery/issue … and may have been more of a re-branding of Rice’s existing 5-year engineering bachelors degree program.

        The Dec. 8, 1966, Thresher published remarks from President Pitzer made at a Dec. 1 meeting with the faculty that included: “Several institutions of very high standing are awarding Master of Engineering degrees for programs similar to ours [five-year curriculum for a bachelor degree in engineering], and a national commission on engineering education has recommended this pattern, including the Master’s degree, for general adoption. Thus we are in the position of a leader in starting our five-year programs, but find a different label becoming customary.

        “… Indeed, we might adopt a general category of professional masters degrees which would be quite distinct from the existing academic degrees of Master of Arts and Master of Science.”

        I haven’t had time yet to track down the date when the Professional Masters curriculum was put in place, but I think it was sooner rather than later after Pitzer’s remarks.

        • Richard Miller (BA '75 MEE '76) says:

          That actually sounds more likely. The professional masters were distinct from the MA/MS in that they were one year terminal degrees and did not require a thesis. The undergraduate status also sounds like an artifact of the 5-year engineering bachelors degree

  2. Pingback: “Radio Fans Will Hear Big Program By Rice Students,” 1923 | Rice History Corner

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