Still thinking about President Houston I remembered this picture from his formal inauguration as Rice’s second president in April, 1947. He’d already been on duty for a year and the changes he brought to campus were proving popular and effective. The Rice trustees had gone to considerable trouble to get him here, by the way. When they began talking to him about the job he’d been at Cal Tech since 1927 and was happy there, surrounded by eminent colleagues, as chairman of the department of Physics, Mathematics, and Electrical Engineering. He turned down the job multiple times (my memory says three but I have no way to check until the Woodson reopens) before finally accepting in 1946. I don’t know how they talked him into it. The general plan was for him to work closely on a fairly aggressive expansion with trustee Harry Wiess, seen here walking with Dr. Lovett. Wiess had spent part of the war years developing a long range plan for the university in 1945 but sadly he would die just over a year later at the age of 61.
Houston looks pretty happy here despite being inaugurated as a university president, a thing he had been quite reasonably wary of. That may well be the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face and it makes me wonder what kind of mischief was going on between him and the day’s speaker, Karl Taylor Compton. Compton was president of MIT, also a physicist, and a long time friend of Houston’s. They both seem to have the giggles:
Here’s the program. Note that it was held in front of the Chemistry Building at 11:00, a bit of a gamble even in April:
Bonus: April 8, 2020. This was the only full parking lot on campus.
Evidence that Rice has been in the Big Leagues for a very long time, despite its humble beginnings.
Compton said “Well, Bill, you’ve really stepped in it this time!”