Lovett Hall, South Wing, 1960

The most precious commodity on any campus is space. Because it’s so valuable and because needs and activities are constantly changing, offices and even whole departments move around with some regularity. For many decades the campus directory was produced and sold by the young women of the Owen Wister Literary Society, who didn’t usually include the location of faculty or staff offices. (Weirdly, they generally listed the office telephone numbers and home addresses of the faculty and just left staff out altogether.) We didn’t have standardized directories produced by Rice until the 1970s. This makes figuring out exactly where things happened one of the trickiest things I do. Sometimes in fact it’s impossible.

One day last week I pulled down off the shelf a box labeled “Campus Construction” and that’s sort of what it was, although really it was more like “Campus Renovation Projects.” Most of the materials seem to have come from the files of Jim Sims ’41, who served Rice for many years as a teacher and administrator, including a stretch as campus business manager. There were a lot of very detailed drawings and so forth but this is my favorite–a list of what was where inside the south wing of Lovett in 1960:

There are a couple of surprises in there but the most surprising thing is that the list of what was in the north wing of Lovett Hall in 1960 has vanished. You can see the staple at the top left hand corner but what it attached has disappeared. I find this oddly satisfying.

Bonus: Mr. Rice History Corner and I took trip to Texas A&M last weekend. I was, in all honesty, impressed.


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Friday Follies: I Think It’s an Ashtray?

Here’s Harold Rhodes, Director of Campus Police from 1966 to 1989, with what looks like his prized ashtray:

The shirt and tie combination is also eye-catching. Lots to look at here but no date. Any thoughts?

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“only elderly men can be obtained for these positions,” 1950

The most entertaining thing I saw today (by far) was this report from June of 1950 about how the telephone system in the dorms worked. Prepared at the request of Building and Grounds chairman George Brown, it describes what today sounds like a labor intensive Rube Goldberg machine. It’s only four pages long so I reproduce the whole thing here in hopes that you enjoy it as much as I did:

They seem to have followed these recommendations, by the way.


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Congratulations, I guess. 1946

I was using a box of William Houston’s papers this afternoon and there happened to be a folder in it that held congratulatory letters from friends and colleagues who had learned of his appointment as Rice’s president. They were pretty well what you’d expect, except for one:

That’s just funny  all by itself. It’s even funnier, though, if you know that Frederick Hovde was president of Purdue for a full 25 years after he wrote this and that he became one of the great American university presidents of that era. If you know me at all, you know I don’t say that lightly.  Hovde simply transformed Purdue, systematically building it into a major research university during his long tenure. He was also a remarkable person, a Chemical Engineer from the University of Minnesota and a Rhodes Scholar who was also a star athlete. Here’s a link to his New York Times obituary. It’s well worth a look.

Bonus: I had a nice visit today from Sigsby Rusk ’53, ’55, ’60. He was interested in R1 and R2 stuff but an offhand remark he made about his living arrangements while he was a student is what sent me into President Houston’s papers in the first place. Things took a really interesting turn and I have something pretty important to puzzle out. He left this while I was in the back room but I’m the one who needs to say thank you to him:


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“The summer has flown by much too rapidly!” 1977

The summer is the least of it. Where the hell have the last forty years gone?!

Bonus: I’m not going to say I like it better this way, but it does have a certain panache.

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“the construction of a high speed digital computer,” January 1957

We have a decent collection of materials on the R1 computer but of course I’m always on the lookout for more information about that important project. In all these years it had never occurred to me that the original contract might be in the files somewhere so I was bowled over when I came across a whole thick folder in President Houston’s papers that contain not only that but much more about the genesis of the enterprise. This is legit exciting!



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Friday Follies: Extremely Flexible, 1982

This is from the 50th reunion dinner of the class of 1932. I think it speaks for itself.

Bonus: We’ve seen the guy with the big grin before, also at a reunion party. I believe I would make him social director.

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