“a broadened view and wider representation,” 1949

The first peaceful transition of power on the Board of Trustees took place in the spring of 1946. I’m kidding, sort of, but until then the only way to get off the Rice board was to die. That changed with the March, 1946 resignation of the elderly men who had governed during Dr. Lovett’s presidency and the coming of a new generation of leaders, foremost among them George Brown, Harry Wiess, and Gus Wortham. (I wrote about this here, when I found a photograph of this pivotal moment in the university’s history.)

Three years later came another change on the Institute’s governing structure. In 1949 the board added an eight-man board of governors who sat alongside the trustees as an advisory group without voting rights. I can no longer recall where I found this clipping of the announcement but I’d guess it was in an info file:


I have a couple of observations about all this. First, I’m grateful that Newton Rayzor was appointed to the board seat left vacant by the untimely death of Harry Wiess. Rayzor would prove to be an absolutely outstanding trustee. Second, note that all the new governors were Houstonians. This is interesting because there’s a requirement in the Rice charter that all trustees live in Houston. The addition of a non-trustee group would have thus been an opportunity to expand geographical representation. I don’t really have a confident guess why they didn’t avail themselves. Maybe it just didn’t seem relevant, maybe there were enough people in Houston who needed to be added for one reason or another. (Also interesting is that the Houston residency requirement for board membership was routinely ignored during the Institute’s early years, one of several charter provisions that were violated at will. That’s a discussion for another day, though.) Third, this oddball structure proved to be problematic over the years. It’s not hard to see how sitting through meetings and doing committee work but not having your vote counted might aggravate folks. And finally, I find that the talk about 12-point programs, management and planning issues, and expertise makes me a bit uneasy. This wasn’t just a change of personnel; it was a major shift in attitude.

Bonus: There wasn’t. Deep down I knew there couldn’t possibly be but I was a little disappointed anyhow.

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6 Responses to “a broadened view and wider representation,” 1949

  1. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    The oil industry was certainly well represented.

  2. Jeff Ross says:

    Could it be that the expanded governors were a way to groom future trustees? Did anyone move from one status to the other. The expanded group also provided a larger base to build financial support.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, that’s surely part of it although remember that we didn’t have a capital campaign until the 1960s (then we didn’t have another one until the Gillis administration). These guys did contribute financially but I do think it was for their industry expertise, which allowed them to help manage the endowment investments wisely, that was the major reason for their presence.

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