This is one of those that’s so hard I put off writing it as long as I could. I was deeply saddened to learn a couple weeks ago of the death of Neil “Sandy” Havens ’56. In an unsettling coincidence it happened that the day he passed away I was working on a post about this photo of Sandy and his beloved wife, Helen ’57:
I was so taken with the joy on their faces that I did some digging and discovered that it was from a story about Sandy becoming Master of Jones College in 1970. I laughed too, thinking it funny that they looked so happy about getting such a hard job, and thought that he’d be delighted to see this. So he won’t see it after all, but there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that he got to live it, one of so many joyful moments in his long tenure at Rice.
This 1989 Houston Post article does a wonderful job of capturing who he was and his unique service to the Rice community:
As head of the Players, Sandy directed multiple shows year in and year out, beginning in 1964 with A Man For All Seasons. His choices for productions were often challenging, sometimes even risky, with the Rice Players frequently presenting plays that had never before been done in Houston. He also inspired college productions and taught virtually all the drama classes at Rice for decades. Through it all he was kind and generous, committed to his students and his craft, with the humanity of one who spent his life surrounded by great and sometimes provocative literature. He was also flat out fun to be around, engaging, funny, always happy to hear about the new things that were going on at Rice. He took the time to help me whenever I asked and I will always remember with gratitude his willingness to tell me about the Rice he knew. Among many other things, everything I know about the basement of Fondren in the 1950s I learned from him!
Here’s Sandy, an undergraduate in the spring of 1955, on the steps of ChemLec as Henry V on the eve of battle:
Sandy Havens, rest in peace.
Bonus: Smiling again, surrounded by smiling students. I don’t have a date for this but I’m pretty sure that’s Rice’s Dean of Social Sciences Rachel Tolbert Kimbro at left so maybe she can tell us:
Sandy loved to tell the story about performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet and letting his West Texas accent slip out: “But soft, what light from yonder winder breaks?”
Oh my goodness! Love it, and thanks for writing about our dear Sandy. Let’s see – it must have been 1999 or 2000 as that’s Gwen Tevis ‘00 to Sandy’s right, and then Alejandra Posada ‘01, and Chris Huff ‘01 and Liz (Durham) Flannery ‘01 on the scaffold.
Thanks for posting this. As an EE student I was only involved in the Players building sets and running lighting. I have loved live theatre ever since.
Thanks, Melissa. He was unique.
I was a freshman in “old South Hall” when Sandy and Mike Horowitz had the room near the stairs. They painted the wall of their small room in a diagonal checkerboard of black and white. Also one night, they returned to find int filled with crumpled newspaper. What fun we had then. Sorry to hear of Sandy’s passing.
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I will never forget the line to Don “You can’t stand there with your back to the audience. It looks like you’re pissing in the book case.”
I got into Canterbury Tales by singing “happy birthday to you Sandy”.
Sandy knew what poetical is.