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A Brief Rice History

William Marsh RiceOn May 18, 1891, Massachusetts-born businessman William Marsh Rice chartered the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science, and Art as a gift to the city of Houston, where he made his fortune. The terms of the charter required that work on the new institute would begin only after Rice's death.

On September 23, 1900, Rice was chloroformed to death by his valet, Charlie Jones, who had conspired with an unscrupulous lawyer, Albert Patrick, to murder the aging millionaire and claim his estate using a forged will. When an autopsy ordered by Rice's attorney, Captain James A. Baker, revealed evidence of poisoning, Jones agreed to provide state's evidence in return for immunity from prosecution. Patrick was convicted of murder and sent to Sing Sing. He was pardoned in 1912, the same year that classes began at the Rice Institute.

In 1907, the trustees of the Rice Institute acted upon the recommendation of Woodrow Wilson (then president of Princeton) and named astronomer and mathematician Edgar Odell Lovett the first president of Rice. Lovett called for the establishment of a university "of the highest grade," "an institution of liberal and technical learning" devoted "quite as much investigation as to instruction." [We must] "keep the standards up and the numbers down," declared Lovett. "The most distinguished teachers must take their part in undergraduate teaching, and their spirit should dominate it all."

The Rice Institute opened on September 23, 1912, the anniversary of Mr. Rice's murder, with 77 students and a dozen faculty. An international academic festival celebrated the opening three weeks later, a spectacular event that brought Rice to the attention of the entire scholarly world. Four years later, at the initial commencement, 35 bachelor's degrees and one master's degree were awarded, with the first doctorate conferred in 1918.    

Dates of Note  

  • 1891 Charter establishing the Rice Institute signed (May 18).
  • 1896 Rice's second wife dies. Her will claims half of Rice estate.
  • 1900 William Marsh Rice murdered (September 23).
  • 1901 Albert Patrick imprisoned for the murder.
  • 1904 Legal challenges to Mrs. Rice's will resolved; Rice Institute receives $4.6 million founding endowment from Rice estate.
  • 1907 Edgar Odell Lovett named first president of Rice Institute.
  • 1911 Cornerstone laid for first campus building (now Lovett Hall).
  • 1912 First classes held; 77 male and female students, 10 faculty.
  • 1914 Rice becomes a charter member of the Southwest Conference.
  • 1916 Honor system adopted by vote of the student body.
  • 1918 First Rice Ph.D. awarded to Hubert Bray (in mathematics).
  • 1928 Rice awarded a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter.
  • 1930 Founder's Memorial statue dedicated.
  • 1945 William Vermillion Houston named second president of Rice.
  • 1950 Rice Stadium opened.
  • 1958 Residential college system initiated.
  • 1960 Rice Institute is formally redesignated as Rice University.
  • 1961 Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer named third president of Rice.  
  • 1962 Speaking in Rice stadium, President John F. Kennedy spoke on the nation's space efforts to land a man on the moon.
  • 1963 Rice opens nation's first department of Space Physics.
  • 1965 School of Architecture founded.
  • 1966 University-led lawsuit to modify Institute charter is successful, permitting Rice to charge tuition and admit non-Caucasians.
  • 1967 Continuing Studies Program founded (now School of Continuing Studies).
  • 1969 William H. Masterson appointed then withdraws as president of Rice. Frank Vandiver appointed interim president.
  • 1970 Norman Hackerman named fourth president of Rice.
  • 1974 Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration founded.
  • 1975 Shepherd School of Music founded.
  • 1979 School of Social Sciences founded.
  • 1981 Rice made repository of NASA Johnson Space Center Archives.
  • 1985 George Erik Rupp named fifth president of Rice.
  • 1990 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations held at Rice.
  • 1993 S. Malcolm Gillis named sixth president of Rice.
  • 1993 James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy founded.
  • 1996 The Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by Professors Richard Smalley and Robert Curl for the discovery and application of carbon 60 molecules (buckminsterfullerenes)
  • 1999 In October, former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela speaks in Autry Court before a packed crowd.
  • 2001 Former president George H. W. Bush introduces Russian president Vladimir Putin in Stude Concert Hall.
  • 2003 Rice Owls baseball team defeats Stanford, winning the College World Series, the 1 st National Championship in a team sport for Rice.
  • 2004 David W. Leebron named seventh president of Rice.