“Comparable to the Great Seal of England,” 1934

You never know what you might find if you’re stuck at home with your laptop long enough. This is what I turned up today.

Back in 2013 we received a collection of materials from the family of Fred Alter ’34. I never really had a chance to study them closely because they were efficiently processed (as usual) and sent to the Library Service Center while I was occupied with something else. They were arresting enough, though, that I did take a bunch of pictures while they were still on a table in the back room of the Woodson.

Alter was quite an interesting guy, a tennis player and an early winner of the Bob Quin award. Here’s the biographical note from the collection:

Fred Cunningham Alter graduated from Rice University in 1934 and was the fourth recipient of the Robert P. Quin Award for excellence in leadership, scholarship, and athletics. Born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 8, 1913, he excelled from a young age in tennis and academics, winning the San Antonio Junior Tennis Tournament singles competition and acting as president of his senior high school class.

After graduating from Rice University, Alter earned his L.L.B. from the South Texas School of Law in 1941. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army from 1943-1946, supervising Japanese P.O.W. camps in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Manila. Discharged at the rank of captain, he returned to Texas to work at Matteson-Southwest Advertising Company until 1949 when he assumed a management position at Wetmore & Company. In 1960, he became president of the Trans-State Outdoor Advertising Company until his retirement in 1985. He was a trustee for South Texas Junior College and was an active member of the Vestry of Christ Church Cathedral since 1949. He presented the Robert P. Quin award on numerous occasions before his death on March 20, 2002.


What the bio doesn’t say but is clear from even a cursory examination of the material is that Mr. Alter was a bit of a card. I don’t know if he entertained others but he certainly entertained himself (and me–I find this goofy brand of humor irresistible). Here are a couple of pages from his miraculously intact Philosophy 300 notebook that I enjoyed. Note especially number 8 on his “schedule,” which made me laugh:



And here he is himself, allegedly studying in his normal fashion. This makes me smile every time I look at it:

With tennis co-captain Wilbur Hess, out at the men’s courts on the west side of campus:

Bonus: Here he is a bit later with a bunch of rascals at Homecoming in 1984. I’d love to know what he’s got there.

Extra Bonus: I had a dim memory that there had been some kind of helmet in the collection so I went back and looked at all the pictures I took in 2013. I found it, along with   a couple hundred pictures of my granddaughter and every place I left my car in the IAH parking garage.

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1 Response to “Comparable to the Great Seal of England,” 1934

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I never met Mr Alter but have heard wonderful things about him from his family and neighbors. My wife Janice and I are lucky to have bought the house he and his wife built In 1952. They lived there for 50 years and we now have had 16 years wonderful years there ourselves.

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