Gobsmacked, really. By this photograph of Rice Provost Carey Croneis with the 1960 Rice commencement speaker, Chancellor Harvie Branscomb of Vanderbilt University:
Some of you may recall that I’ve written a book about the desegregation of the major private universities in the South, including Vanderbilt. So when I looked at the date–June 3, 1960–I understood immediately what was going on in Harvie Branscomb’s world at that particular moment. By any measure it was pretty bad. That spring the Vanderbilt board had insisted that a black graduate student in the Divinity School, James Lawson, be expelled for his role in the Nashville sit-in movement. Lawson was a serious pacifist who had been sentenced to a prison term for refusing induction into the army. That spring he was also serving as the regional director of the Fellowship for Reconciliation. He worked closely with the students who had begun sitting in at lunch counters, advising them on non-violent techniques and generally encouraging their work. His expulsion set off an explosive controversy at Vanderbilt, all of it covered by the national press, which escalated rapidly over the month of May. Only three days before Branscomb spoke at Rice nearly the entire faculty of the Divinity School resigned, and Branscomb was in the midst of intense negotiations with multiple enraged parties while he was in Houston. If you want to know what happened (in excruciating detail) get a copy of my book.
Under the circumstances I’m less surprised that his speech was boring than that he managed to give it at all:
Extra Bonus: Fresh grass, sprinklers functional. We’ll see.