In preparation for Rice’s formal opening in 1912, invitations were delivered to institutions of higher learning all over the world. Some of these schools sent representatives, others regretted their inability to attend but offered their best wishes and congratulations with elaborate certificates. There’s a big box of these in the Woodson and after watching it sit quietly on the shelf for the last thirty years I finally decided to open it up and see what’s in there.
There are a lot of them, from places far and near:
They aren’t really all that interesting, as there isn’t any variety in the messages. The best thing about them is how they look, which is varied and sometimes pretty cool. Here’s one from the Royal Academy of Sciences in Bologna–I was taken by the seal at the top, which you need to zoom in on to get a good look at. When I first saw it I thought it was a doorknob, but it’s not. “Mens agitat, ” I believe, means the mind moves:
Closer to home, the University of Texas sent their greetings on a simple and beautiful hand lettered piece of vellum:
The thing that caught my eye, though, came from an institution I’d never heard of, the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning:
Dropsie College was itself a new institution, chartered in 1907 , and opening, like Rice, in 1912. Dedicated to graduate study and research in Jewish studies and related areas, it was not a theological school. It attracted quite a distinguished faculty and after a series of administrative changes it survives today as the Katz Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bonus: Leave it to the French to send their congratulations in a silk lined leather case.