“we used to laugh because that’s the only place he was happy”

I’ve been poking around recently in the papers gathered by Fredericka Meiners ’63, ’72 during the writing of her book on the early history of Rice. (This is an exceptionally accurate work, by the way, and I refer to it frequently.) Here’s the description of the collection, which brought a smile to my face:

The collection is made up primarily of materials created by Fredericka Meiners in writing her 1982 book A History of Rice University: The Institute Years, 1907-1963. It includes multiple draft copies with corrections and revisions. There are audio tapes of three interviews with transcriptions. There are also pre-publication responses to the text from readers including Ray Hoagland, who recommended particular changes in style and content.

If you ever knew Ray Hoagland ’36, I bet that made you smile too. Her recommendations tended to be rather . . . emphatic. I’m not really even sure that “recommendation” is the right word.

In any event, what I’m interested in right now are the interviews, some of which are currently out for transcription. One of the ones that had already been done is of an interview Meiners did with William Masterson ’35. There’s a lot going on in this interview, some of it quite important, but one small detail caught my eye. Here’s a short excerpt from the middle of it, with the arcane topic under discussion being the arrangement of the offices of senior administrators in Lovett Hall:

It’s the bit written out by hand about Houston only being happy in the lab. After  nearly thirty years in these archives I can testify that that was absolutely correct. In the end, you can’t hide from a patient researcher. William Houston was a physicist. That’s what he was. That’s what he loved.

Many years ago I found this drawing in Bud Morehead’s papers. It shows the alterations made to Lovett Hall’s north wing when Houston assumed Rice’s presidency in 1946. Zoom in and look over on the left side. It warms my heart to know that he could keep a lab just a few steps away from the president’s office. It must have been a refuge.

Bonus: They were very serious about this.


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3 Responses to “we used to laugh because that’s the only place he was happy”

  1. Melinda Clark says:

    Melissa–you might want to contact Neal Lane for more information on this lab of President Houston’s. My husband’s grad school advisor was Bud Rorschach, and Bud arrived at Rice after Dr. Houston had recruited him. Neal should be able to fill in any blanks in the story of the Physics Department.

  2. loki_the_bubba says:

    The president had a dressing room?

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