This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate
In the fall of 1912, scholars from across the globe gathered just outside of Houston where a palatial building had risen on the prairie.
The opening of the Rice Institute was “celebrated in the same spirit as might have been the dedication of a new Cathedral in the Middle Ages,” wrote Julian Huxley , Rice’s first biology professor, who traveled from Oxford for the event and took a job there a year later. Scholars traveled from as far as Japan for the ceremony, several Nobel prize winners among them. The New York Times called it “an array of learning such as has seldom been assembled in the United States,” according to “University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute,” a book by Rice historian John Boles .
In 1912, Houston had just about 85,000 residents. Were it not for Rice, most of these foreign visitors would likely have never heard of the city. But the opening celebration offered an early glimpse at what Houston would become: An international city with the power to lure people from across the world.
Rice was built on a dream of an ambitious young university president on a world tour. One-third of its founding board were European. Its first faculty featured professors from across the globe.
Rice Institute, the beginning
$4.6 million: Amount William Marsh Rice left to start his institute after his valet killed him.
Nine months: Time Rice President Edgar Odell Lovett spent traveling the globe, looking for ideas and faculty.
1912: The Rice Institute opens its doors.
59: Students first enrolled at Rice in the fall of 1912.
85,000: Residents in Houston when Rice first opened.
William Marsh Rice planned to be a centenarian, but he failed to reckon with the avarice of Charles Jones or Albert Patrick.
“I think that framing of the ambitions of Rice – that global context for our ambition as a university – that was something that over the following century we didn’t always live up to, but was always there in Rice’s conscience,” Rice President David Leebron said.
But that was far from what the man for whom the school is named originally envisioned. William Marsh Rice , an import-export merchant from Massachusetts who made a fortune in Texas and gave the money to found the school, did not include the word “university” in the school’s charter. The school would be for “the white inhabitants of the City of Houston, and State of Texas.”
Rice, who lived in New York City late in life, but traveled back to Houston for business matters, had been persuaded by colleagues here that he should use some of his money to start a college. He was fascinated with the Cooper Union , a trade school for working men and women in New York, and set out to start something like it in Houston. In 1891, Rice signed a deed with six trustees who agreed to hold a $200,000 note, the income from which would be used to make Rice’s vision a reality – but only after his death.
Nine years later, Rice was found dead in his Madison Avenue apartment. The millionaire had been chloroformed to death by his valet in a plot hatched by a New York lawyer to steal Rice’s money. The valet confessed and the attorney spent a decade in prison.
Rice’s death left the six trustees in Houston with about $4.6 million – what amounted to the seventh-largest college endowment in the nation at the time. None of them was college educated, so they began writing and visiting colleges across the country. The narrow focus of the charter began to widen some. One of the trustees was from Switzerland, another was from England.
“As a group they were decidedly un-provincial in their thinking about what should be done,” Boles wrote in his book “A University So Conceived .”
Their search for a leader for the new school came at a time when American higher education was on the upswing. Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago and Stanford were all founded in the decade before. Harvard was totally updating its curriculum. And in 1902 Woodrow Wilson was named president at Princeton, which he quickly worked to reinvigorate.
The trustees wrote to Wilson, who suggested they hire Edgar Odell Lovett, a young, ambitious mathematician teaching astronomy there. Lovett had two doctorates – one from the University of Virginia and another from the University of Leipzig in Germany. He knew higher education in America and abroad. The trustees offered him the top job and he accepted in January 1908.
At the time, higher education had yet to really take root in Texas. The total income for all 15 colleges in the state was 40 percent less than that of Princeton’s alone, according to Boles’ book. Lovett had big ideas. He wanted a school that would hold up “to university standing of the highest grade,” Boles wrote.
The trustees sent Lovett on a world tour. He traveled for nine months, literally across the globe, gathering ideas for the new institute – while also taking an early stab at recruiting faculty and launching a public relations campaign that would culminate in the huge 1912 opening ceremony. With a plan in hand, much further reaching than Rice’s original charter, Lovett and the trustees set out to build the university. Lovett wanted the campus to inspire those who saw it.
“He was almost hallucinating. This is not even in Houston, this piece of property. There are no paved roads,” said Melissa Kean , Rice’s centennial historian.
Lovett visited many architects, but chose Ralph Adams Cram , who was a bit turned off by the bare prairie upon which he would build the school. With the Mediterranean in mind, Cram sought to bring “all the color we could command” to the barren land plot.
And now Lovett had to show it off.
“He (Lovett) realizes … that he has to capture people’s imagination,” Kean said.
“He sets about capturing people’s imagination – all over the world.”
Lovett sent 2-foot-long calf-skin invitations to scholars across the globe, many of whom he’d met in his travels. More than 1,000 scholars – “a galaxy of outstanding savants,” according to Huxley – descended upon Rice in October 1912 for a multiday opening ceremony of celebratory dinners, presentations and panel discussions. There Lovett laid out his vision for this small school – at the time just a handful of buildings, including a dormitory and a commons, a building for classrooms and administrative offices. The Rice Institute would emphasize research as much as teaching, he said.
“Lovett was announcing to the world, here was a new university that just had incredible ambition,” Boles said. “People were just kind of boggled. When they went home, you could tell from their letters they had never seen such a thing.”
Several of the scholars, including Huxley, were so impressed that they came back to take teaching jobs at the new Rice Institute, renamed Rice University in 1960. An “uninstructed Englishman, or even an arrogant New Yorker” might have expected the Houston school to be small, locally minded and “ultrapractical,” Huxley wrote, according to Boles’ book. But Rice was “a real university … the reverse of parochial in all its ideas,” Huxley concluded.
- Self-Driving Cars Feel Like Death Traps–
- Patti Smith Sings “The Tyger” and Reflects on William Blake’s Transcendent Legacy as a Guiding Sun in the Cosmos of Creativity
- Interview with Fashion Designer Therez Fleetwood and Artist V. Kottavei Williams, Creators of Nnedi Okorafor’s Emmys Dress
- Why the utopian vision of William Morris is now within reach – Vasilis Kostakis & Wolfgang Drechsler
- Is life worth living? The pragmatic ‘maybe’ of William James – John Kaag
- Reporters Uncover ‘Real Story’ Behind Chicago’s Gun-Death Stats, Black Flight From the City
- Poor Training, Dysfunctional Police Dept. Highlighted in 2nd Officer’s Trial in Freddie Gray’s Death
- Meet the Prosecutor Who Charged 6 Officers in Freddie Gray’s Death: ‘This Was a Homicide’
- We Need a New Vision for the Brown Decision
- Bah Herbug! A history of female Scrooges
- The Root Cities: Chicago's Political Power Brokers
- Freddie Gray Case: Prosecutors Question Officer’s Failure to Put a Seat Belt on Gray
- Ben Jealous Talks to Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- Don't White People Kill Each Other, Too?
- Black Network Adds Value to Cable Terrain
- Cosmic Consciousness: Maurice Bucke’s Pioneering 19th-Century Theory of Transcendence and the Six Steps of Illumination
- Has George Zimmerman Won the Media War?
- Dark, Twisted Fantasies and Slaying Dragons
- I Am Not I: Philosopher Jacob Needleman on How We Become Who We Are and the Path to Self-Liberation
- 50 Years After His Assassination, Malcolm X’s Message Still Calls Us to Seek Justice
The vision of William Marsh Rice becomes a university after his untimely death in 1900 have 1433 words, post on www.chron.com at June 6, 2016. This is cached page on Health Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.