William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a 295-acre (1.19 km2) campus in Houston, Texas, United States. The university is situated near the Houston Museum District and is adjacent to the Texas Medical Center. Rice is generally considered the top university and the most selective institute of higher education in the state of Texas.
Opened in 1912 after the murder of its namesake William Marsh Rice, Rice is now a research university with an undergraduate focus. Its emphasis on education is demonstrated by a small student body and 6:1 student-faculty ratio. The university has a very high level of research activity for its size, with $115.3 million in sponsored research funding in 2011. Rice is noted for its applied science programs in the fields of artificial heart research, structural chemical analysis, signal processing, space science, and nanotechnology. It was ranked first in the world in materials science research by the Times Higher Education (THE) in 2010. Rice is a member of the Association of American Universities.
The university is organized into eleven residential colleges and eight schools of academic study, including the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, the George R. Brown School of Engineering, the School of Social Sciences, and the School of Humanities. Graduate programs are offered through the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, School of Architecture, Shepherd School of Music, and Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Rice students are bound by the strict Honor Code, which is enforced by a student-run Honor Council.
Rice competes in 14 NCAA Division I varsity sports and is a part of Conference USA, often competing with its cross-town rival the University of Houston. Intramural and club sports are offered in a wide variety of activities such as jiu jitsu, water polo, and crew.
William Marsh Rice's estate funded the establishment of the Rice Institute
The history of Rice University began with the untimely demise of Massachusetts businessman William Marsh Rice, who made his fortune in real estate, railroad development and cotton trading in the state of Texas. In 1891, Rice decided to charter a free-tuition educational institute in Houston, bearing his name, to be created upon his death, earmarking most of his estate towards funding the project. Rice's will specified the institution was to be "a competitive institution of the highest grade" and that only white students would be permitted to attend. On the morning of September 23, 1900, Rice was found dead by his valet, and presumed to have died in his sleep. Shortly thereafter, a suspiciously large check made out to Rice's New York City lawyer, signed by the late Rice, was noticed by a bank teller due to a misspelling in the recipient's name. The lawyer, Albert T. Patrick, then announced that Rice had changed his will to leave the bulk of his fortune to Patrick, rather than to the creation of Rice's educational institute. A subsequent investigation led by the District Attorney of New York resulted in the arrests of Patrick and of Rice's butler and valet Charles F. Jones, who had been persuaded to administer chloroform to Rice while he slept. Rice's friend and personal lawyer in Houston, James A. Baker, Sr., aided in the discovery of what turned out to be a fake will with a forged signature. Jones was not prosecuted since he cooperated with the district attorney, and testified against Patrick. Patrick was found guilty of conspiring to steal Rice's fortune and convicted of murder in 1901, although he was pardoned in 1912 due to conflicting medical testimony. Baker helped Rice's estate direct the fortune, worth $4.6 million in 1904 ($121 million today), towards the founding of what was to be called the Rice Institute. The Board took control of the assets on April 29 of that year.
In 1907, the Board of Trustees selected the head of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at Princeton University, Edgar Odell Lovett, to head the Institute, which was still in the planning stages. He came recommended by Princeton's president, Woodrow Wilson. In 1908, Lovett accepted the challenge, and was formally inaugurated as the Institute's first president on October 12, 1912. Lovett undertook extensive research before formalizing plans for the new Institute, including visits to 78 institutions of higher learning across the world on a long tour between 1908 and 1909. Lovett was impressed by such things as the aesthetic beauty of the uniformity of the architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, a theme which was adopted by the Institute, as well as the residential college system at Cambridge University in England, which was added to the Institute several decades later. Lovett called for the establishment of a university "of the highest grade," "an institution of liberal and technical learning" devoted "quite as much to investigation as to instruction."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."
An illustration of the Administration Building of Rice University in 1913
In 1911 the cornerstone was laid for the Institute's first building, the Administration Building, now known as Lovett Hall in honor of the founding president. On September 23, 1912, the anniversary of William Marsh Rice's murder, the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art began course work. 48 male and 29 female students were enrolled, paying no tuition, with classes taught by a dozen faculty. Unusual for the time, Rice accepted coeducational admissions.
Administration Building, Rice Institute, Houston, Texas (postcard, circa 1912-1924)
Three weeks after opening, a spectacular international academic festival was held in celebration, bringing Rice to the attention of the entire academic world. Four years later, at the first commencement ceremony, 35 bachelor's degrees and one master's degree were awarded. That year, the student body voted to adopt the Honor System, which still exists today. The first doctorate was conferred in 1918 on mathematician Hubert Evelyn Bray.
During World War II, Rice Institute was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.
The Founder's Memorial Statue, a bronze statue of a seated William Marsh Rice, holding the original plans for the campus, was dedicated in 1930, and installed in the central academic quad, facing Lovett Hall. The statue was crafted by John Angel. The residential college system proposed by President Lovett was adopted in 1958, with the East Hall residence becoming Baker College, South Hall residence becoming Will Rice College, West Hall becoming Hanszen College, and the temporary Wiess Hall becoming Wiess College.
In 1959, the Rice Institute Computer went online. 1960 saw Rice Institute formally renamed William Marsh Rice University. Rice acted as a temporary intermediary in the transfer of land between Humble Oil and Refining Company and NASA, for the creation of NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now called Johnson Space Center) in 1962. President John F. Kennedy then made a speech at Rice Stadium reiterating that the United States intended to reach the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s, and "to become the world's leading space-faring nation". The relationship of NASA with Rice University and the city of Houston has remained strong to the present day.
The original charter of Rice Institute dictated that the university admit and educate, tuition-free, "the white inhabitants of Houston, and the state of Texas". In 1963, the governing board of Rice University filed a lawsuit to allow the university to modify its charter to admit students of all races and to charge tuition. In 1964, Rice officially amended the university charter to desegregate its graduate and undergraduate divisions. The Trustees of Rice University prevailed in a lawsuit to void the racial language in the trust in 1966. Rice began charging tuition for the first time in 1965. In the same year, Rice launched a $33 million ($248 million) development campaign. $43 million ($262 million) was raised by its conclusion in 1970. In 1974, two new schools were founded at Rice, the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management and the Shepherd School of Music. The Brown Foundation Challenge, a fund-raising program designed to encourage annual gifts, was launched in 1976 and ended in 1996 having raised $185 million ($279 million). The Rice School of Social Sciences was founded in 1979.
On-campus housing was exclusively for men for the first forty years. Jones College was the first women's residence on the Rice campus, followed by Brown College. According to legend, the women's colleges were purposefully situated at the opposite end of campus from the existing men's colleges as a way of preserving campus propriety, which was greatly valued by Edgar Odell Lovett, who did not even allow benches to be installed on campus, fearing that they "might lead to co-fraternization of the sexes" The path linking the north colleges to the center of campus was given the tongue-in-cheek name of "Virgin's Walk". Individual colleges became coeducational between 1973 and 1987, with the single-sex floors of colleges that had them becoming co-ed by 2006. By then, several new residential colleges had been built on campus to handle the university's growth, including Lovett College, Sid Richardson College, and Martel College.
George H.W. Bush meeting Vladimir Putin at Rice in 2001
The Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations was held at Rice in 1990. In 1993, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy was created. In 1997, the Edythe Bates Old Grand Organ and Recital Hall and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, renamed in 2005 for the late Nobel Prize winner and Rice professor Richard E. Smalley, were dedicated at Rice. In 1999, the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology was created. The Rice Owls baseball team was ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in that year (1999), holding the top spot for eight weeks.
In 2003, the Owls won their first national championship in baseball, which was the first for the university in any team sport, beating Southwest Missouri State in the opening game and then the University of Texas and Stanford University twice each en route to the title. In 2008, President David Leebron issued a ten-point plan titled "Vision for the Second Century" outlining plans to increase research funding, strengthen existing programs, and increase collaboration. The plan has brought about another wave of campus constructions, including the erection the newly renamed BioScience Research Collaborative building (intended to foster collaboration with the adjacent Texas Medical Center), a new recreational center and the renovated Autry Court basketball stadium, and the addition of two new residential colleges, Duncan College and McMurtry College.
Beginning in late 2008, the university considered a merger with Baylor College of Medicine, though the merger was ultimately rejected in 2010.Select Rice undergraduates are currently guaranteed admission to Baylor College of Medicine upon graduation as part of the Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars program. According to History Professor John Boles' recent book University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute, the first president's original vision for the university included hopes for future medical and law schools.
Rice's campus is a heavily-wooded 285-acre (1.15 km2) tract of land located close to the city of West University Place, in the museum district of Houston.
Five streets demarcate the campus: Greenbriar Street, Rice Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Main Street, and University Boulevard. For most of its history, all of Rice's buildings have been contained within this "outer loop". In recent years, new facilities have been built close to campus, but the bulk of administrative, academic, and residential buildings are still located within the original pentagonal plot of land. The new Collaborative Research Center, all graduate student housing, the Greenbriar building, and the Wiess President's House are located off-campus.
Rice prides itself on the amount of green space available on campus; there are only about 50 buildings spread between the main entrance at its easternmost corner, and the parking lots and Rice Stadium at the West end. The Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum, consisting of more than 4000 trees and shrubs (giving birth to the legend that Rice has a tree for every student), is spread throughout the campus.
The university's first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, intended for the campus to have a uniform architecture style to improve its aesthetic appeal. To that end, nearly every building on campus is noticeably Byzantine in style, with sand and pink-colored bricks, large archways and columns being a common theme among many campus buildings. Noteworthy exceptions include the glass-walled Brochstein Pavilion, Lovett College with its Brutalist-style concrete gratings, and the eclectic-Mediterranean Duncan Hall. In September 2011, Travel+Leisure listed Rice's campus as one of the most beautiful in the United States.
Lovett Hall, named for Rice's visionary first president, is the university's most iconic campus building. Through its Sallyport arch, new students symbolically enter the university during matriculation and depart as graduates at commencement. Duncan Hall, Rice's computational engineering building, was designed to encourage collaboration between the four different departments situated there. The building's colorful Martel Foyer, drawn from many world cultures, was designed by the architect to symbolically express this collaborative purpose.
The campus is organized in a number of quadrangles. The Academic Quad, anchored by a statue of founder William Marsh Rice, includes Ralph Adams Cram's masterpiece, the asymmetrical Lovett Hall, the original administrative building; Fondren Library; Herzstein Hall, the original physics building and home to the largest amphitheater on campus; Sewall Hall for the social sciences and arts; Rayzor Hall for the languages; and Anderson Hall of the Architecture department. The Humanities Building, winner of several architectural awards, is immediately adjacent to the main quad. Further west lies a quad surrounded by McNair Hall of the Jones Business School, the Baker Institute, and Alice Pratt Brown Hall of the Shepherd School of Music. These two quads are surrounded by the university's main access road, a one-way loop referred to as the "inner loop". In the Engineering Quad, a trinity of sculptures by Michael Heizer, collectively entitled 45 Degrees, 90 Degrees, 180 Degrees, are flanked by Abercrombie Laboratory, the Cox Building, and the Mechanical Laboratory, housing the Electrical, Mechanical, and Earth Science/Civil Engineering departments, respectively. Duncan Hall is the latest addition to this quad, providing new offices for the Computer Science, Computational and Applied Math, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Statistics departments.
Roughly three-quarters of Rice's undergraduate population lives on campus. Housing is divided among eleven residential colleges, which form an integral part of student life at the University (see Residential colleges of Rice University). The colleges are named for university historical figures and benefactors, and while there is wide variation in their appearance, facilities, and dates of founding, are an important source of identity for Rice students, functioning as dining halls, residence halls, sports teams, among other roles. Rice does not have or endorse a Greek system, with the residential college system taking its place. Five colleges, McMurtry, Duncan, Martel, Jones, and Brown are located on the north side of campus, across from the "South Colleges", Baker, Will Rice, Lovett, Hanszen, Sid Richardson, and Wiess, on the other side of the Academic Quadrangle. Of the eleven colleges, Baker is the oldest, originally built in 1912, and the twin Duncan and McMurtry colleges are the newest, and opened for the first time for the 2009-10 school year. Will Rice, Baker, and Lovett colleges are undergoing renovation to expand their dining facilities as well as the number of rooms available for students.
The on-campus football facility, Rice Stadium, opened in 1950 with a capacity of 70,000 seats. After improvements in 2006, the stadium is currently configured to seat 47,000 for football but can readily be reconfigured to its original capacity of 70,000, more than the total number of Rice alumni, living and deceased. The stadium was the site of Super Bowl VIII and a speech by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1962 in which he challenged the nation to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. The recently renovated Tudor Fieldhouse, formerly known as Autry Court, is home to the basketball and volleyball teams. Other stadia include the Rice Track/Soccer Stadium and the Jake Hess Tennis Stadium. A new Rec Center now houses the intramural sports offices and provide an outdoor pool, training and exercise facilities for all Rice students, while athletics training will solely be held at Tudor Fieldhouse and the Rice Football Stadium.
The university and Houston Independent School District jointly established The Rice School, a kindergarten through 8th grade public magnet school in Houston. The school opened in August 1994. Through Cy-Fair ISD Rice University offers a credit course based summer school for grades 8 through 12. They also have skills based classes during the summer in the Rice Summer School.