It was this post, about Hubert Bray ’18, the first man to get a doctorate at Rice. This mistake led me down quite an interesting path. Even as I wrote it I was bothered in the back of my mind by the fact that his dissertation didn’t have his advisor listed on the front page. When I wrote it I just assumed that it had to be Griffith Evans, who produced a lot of Ph.D.s, but still bothered a week later I gave in and ran it down. That’s how I discovered my mistake. Bray’s advisor turns out to be a gentleman named Francis D. Murnaghan, who was recruited by Dr. Lovett after receiving his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. He stayed only a couple of years, returning to Hopkins where he spent the rest of his long career. I know very little about him. His only mention in the Thresher is a notice of his arrival in the fall of 1916. There are few photographs of faculty in the early Campaniles and his picture is not among them.
What I do have, though, is a short memoir written by Bray (that handwriting!) about Griffith Evans and the beginnings of Rice’s math department which mentions Murnaghan. Read to the end and you’ll be rewarded with some comedy about collegiate athletics:
I also discovered that the Woodson does indeed have a photo of him, but in a place I didn’t expect. Here is the cast of a play performed in 1918 by Rice faculty (and spouses?), a comedy called Green Stockings. I believe that’s Mr. Murnaghan standing fourth from the right:
I can’t stop myself from pointing out James Chillman, who taught fine arts in the architecture department, kneeling at left and John Clark Tidden kneeling at the right. Besides Murnaghan in the back are Physics professor Claude Heaps and biologist Herman Muller.
Bonus: Part of what makes me smile about the commentary about athletics in Bray’s little piece about Evans is that Bray himself was a huge supporter of Rice athletics, serving for decades on the Committee on Outdoor Sports.