As is the way of things, Hank Hudspeth’s 1937 arrival at Rice was a little noted event, marked only by this small card that all new students filled out at registration:
Note that he wasn’t a freshman–he’d done a year at North Texas Agricultural College (today’s UT-Arlington) where his father worked in the business office. He came to Rice in the footsteps of his older brother, Emmet, who was an outstanding student here.
Hank arrived in possession of what was then an unusual skill set for a young man. He could type–fast–and take shorthand, also fast. He parlayed this into a paid position as the secretary for the Biology Department, a job that provided money to live on and a bit of change in his pocket while he went to school. He worked on the Campanile while he was here and I was frankly a little surprised to discover that he was a member of the Rally Club. During his second year in campus a sweet (and good looking) new freshman showed up and Hank was hooked. He would be married to Demaris Delange ’42 for 70 years before her death in 2015.
Hank graduated from Rice in 1940 then headed to law school, one year at SMU and the rest at Texas (he finished first in his class), with an intermission for naval service in World War II. After that his life was his wife, his children, his law practice, and Rice. His devotion to Rice was legendary and his impact on the institution proved to be wide and deep. He was indefatigable and somehow always cheerful in our service. He never said no and he seemed to be everywhere–active in the Alumni Association, the Shepherd Society, the Friends of Fondren, and more. He was an associate of Wiess College and served on the Rice Board. Besides being a generous donor himself, Hank raised money for many cultural and academic projects at Rice. (If you hold one of the Autrey Chairs, you can thank Hank Hudspeth.) He was one of the prime movers behind the Woodson’s acquisition of the magnificent Julian Huxley Collection. And above all Hank taught. He taught political science at Rice for nearly 50 years, rivaling Joseph Davies of Biology for most students taught in a career, and influencing generations of them with his gentle but serious approach.
Hank gave his heart to Rice in a way I’ve seldom seen. He could never forget what the Institute had given him and he never stopped trying to bring those same gifts to others. Truly, his generosity, kindness, and good will were unforgettable. He expected the best of everyone, wanted us all to be successful, and saw every challenge at Rice as an opportunity for the university to improve, to move as he liked to say “from strength to strength.”
God bless Hank Hudspeth and may he rest in peace.