You know how I’m always so surprised by the things I find? Like “Oh my gosh, I never expected to see something like this!” or “what a startling discovery!” That didn’t happen today. What I found today I’ve always known had to exist somewhere, so I’ve been waiting patiently for nearly thirty years for it to turn up. And then there it was, tucked in William Houston’s Personal Papers. I recognized it instantly and perversely I felt almost disappointed. I’m going to miss looking for it.
This is a letter from President Houston to President Pitzer, a careful recounting of a 1962 meeting between Houston, Rice’s first dean of engineering LeVan Griffis, and two senior officials of the Ford Foundation, one of the most important funders of advanced education in the South. It captures in a nutshell the tangle of problems that faced Rice in its efforts to move into the top rank of American universities and makes quite clear the motivations for the changes that followed. I’ve sometimes heard people speculate that the beginning of tuition that coincided with desegregation was a cynical maneuver to keep black students out even after admission was technically open to them. I’m capable of just as much cynicism about university administrators as anyone–possibly more given my job–but I’ve never seen any evidence that that’s true. What I have seen plenty of evidence for is that they did both things for the same reason–they needed money to pay for the dramatic leap in quality that they were planning and they had to do both to get it.
The only thing that surprised me in this letter was the suspicion of the Ford Foundation guys about the high quality of our football program.
Bonus: We all survived my daughter’s wedding and I’ve never seen Cohen House look prettier. We had Rice Campus Photographer Jeff Fitlow taking pictures and he did a phenomenal job. This is out in the garden.