Rice University is housed in the Museum District of Houston, Texas. The goal of Rice has been to combine the intimate size and teaching emphasis of a liberal arts college with the scholarship of a major research university. It has recently become most known globally for its early groundbreaking research in nanotechnology, and its faculty are at the forefront of this rapidly expanding field. Much of the initial development of artificial hearts has also been conducted with the help of Rice faculty. Rice University established the world's first department of space science (now the Rice Space Institute ) and donated the land that established the Johnson Space Center for NASA (which eventually led to "Houston" being the first word spoken by a human on the Moon). Fullerenes were discovered at Rice, leading to a Nobel Prize for two faculty members in 1996.
The intellectual quality of Rice University is apparent among those who study there. Approximately one quarter of undergraduates are National Merit Scholars, and Rice often holds the highest percentage in its freshman class among all American universities. Rice has also recently ranked #1 for the percentage of its students receiving National Science Fellowships, though it is also known for its strength in the social sciences and humanities. All undergraduate students of Rice are members of the residential college system, and there are no fraternities or sororities.
Rice University boasts an endowment of $3 billion, which at over $600,000 per student, ranks as one of the five highest worldwide (with Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford). Being relatively generous with these funds allows the university to charge no excessive fees relative to most other prestigious private universities, and the cost of education (tuition, room, and board) at Rice University is generally kept more reasonable than its competition. Rice has recently been ranked first among 1,600 private universities for "Best College Value" in Kiplinger's Personal Finance and first for "least amount of debt per graduate" by U.S. News and World Report.
Rice and the Houston Independent School District jointly operate a K-8 school in Houston called "The Rice School" or "La Escuela Rice".
Rice University is located in the Houston Museum District. It is adjacent to the largest medical complex on the planet, Texas Medical Center, and close to Rice Village. Rice is also less than ¼ of a mile (400 m) from the Houston Zoo and within five miles (8 km) of Six Flags Astroworld. Among the twenty or so museums in the district is the Rice University Art Gallery , open during the schoolyear. For access to other parts of the city, Rice University is served by a light rail station on the Red Line of the Houston METRORail system. All students at Rice are given an annual Metro pass, free of charge.
Several interdisciplinary research institutes and think tanks are located on the Rice campus, including the Rice Quantum Institute , the Rice Engineering Design and Development Institute , the Computer and Information Technology Institute , the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology , and the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology .
The campus itself is organized into a number of quadrangles, and features buildings designed in a style informally called neo-Byzantine. The Academic Quad is centered on the memorial to William Marsh Rice. It includes the administration buildings, Fondren Library, and the buildings for physics, languages, architecture, and the humanities. The Engineering Quad is centered on a set of three sculptures by Michael Heizer collectively entitled "45/90/180" and includes buildings for the electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry and computer science departments. The Residential Quad is home to a college system similar to those at Oxford and Cambridge, and the nine residential colleges (Baker , Brown, Hanszen, Jones , Lovett, Martel, Sid Rich, Wiess , Will Rice) act as self-governed social units.
Note: During the sometimes heavy rains that impact the Houston area, and the associated flooding that sometimes occurs, the campus earns the derisive nickname "William Rice's Marsh," a play on words using the founder's name.
Each residential college has unique traditions, including Baker 13, Beer Bike , and the Night of Decadence (also known as NOD). Due in part to the unique traditions of the college system, Seventeen magazine named Rice the "coolest college in the land" in its "Top 100 Coolest Colleges" issue (October 2002).
Rice University was founded by William Marsh Rice in 1891 and was originally named The William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art.
Before Rice Institute could be opened, there were challenges to be endured. William Rice died in 1900, and his will had been changed to leave his entire estate to Albert Patrick , his butler. Patrick was imprisoned for murder in 1901, after it had become obvious that he had both poisoned Rice and changed the will. Legal challenges to William Rice's will continued through 1904, when the Rice Institute received a $4.6 million funding endowment. This millionaire "murder mystery" is believed by some to be, though it is impossible to prove as, the source of the common saying "the butler did it."
Edgar Odell Lovett was the first president of the Rice Institute, and visited 78 institutions of higher learning across the world in 1908 and 1909. The cornerstone was laid for the first campus building, Lovett Hall, in 1911. In 1912, coursework began and Rice was unusual at this time for allowing both men and women students. The first class had 48 male and 29 female students. They voted to adopt an Honor System in 1916, and in the same year were Rice's first commencement exercises.
In 1930, the founder's memorial statue, a landmark to the campus, was dedicated. Rice Stadium opened in 1950, and it remains Houston's largest outdoor stadium. The residential college system was adopted in 1957, some twenty years after Yale University did the same. As of 2005, Rice and Yale remain the only U.S. universities where every undergrad belongs to a residential college.
In 1959, the Rice Institute Computer went online. 1960 saw Rice Institute formally renamed Rice University. Rice donated much of its land to form NASA's Manned Space Flight Center (now called Johnson Space Center) in 1962, prompting President John F. Kennedy to make a speech at Rice Stadium announcing that the United States intends "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.
Rice charged tuition for the first time in 1965. The court decision that permitted Rice to begin charging tuition also allowed Rice to enroll non-white students. In the same year, Rice launched a $33 million development campaign. $43 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 Challenge, a fund-raising program designed to encourage annual gifts, launched in 1976, ending in 1996 having raised $185 million. The Rice School of Social Sciences was founded in 1979.
Rice University Studies (formerly Rice Institute Pamphlet, begun in 1915) became the Rice University Press in 1985. 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 Edyth Bates Old Grand Organ and Recital Hall and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology were dedicated at Rice. In 1999, the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology was created. Rice Owls baseball was ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in that year (1999), lasting eight weeks at the top spot beating UT in the College World Series. In 2003, they won their first national championship.
The residential college system is the focus of the undergraduate experience at Rice University. This takes the place of the typical American university on-campus housing organization of dorms and fraternity/sororities. When a student becomes an undergraduate they are assigned to a residential college randomly (often simply referred to as 'college'), although "legacy" exceptions are made to assign students to colleges of which their siblings or relatives have been members.
Each college enjoys the same diversity of the greater university with regard to majors, ethnicity, personality, athletes, etc. Students remain a member of the college that they are assigned to for the duration of their undergraduate career. The majority of students prefer to live on campus for all four years, but shortage of spaces results in some students being "jacked" off campus each year. Students are guaranteed on campus housing for freshman year, and each college has its own system for determining how to allocate the remaining spaces (which are generally sufficient to accommodate all but one year of students). For example, colleges "kick off" a portion of either the sophomore or junior classes, who move off-campus at the end of the previous year and return to campus the next year if they so choose. Each college has its own set of buildings and commons or dining hall (or shares a "servery" with other colleges).
Students tend to develop extreme loyalty to their college and maintain friendly rivalry with other colleges, especially during events such as Beer Bike and O-week . As a result of this organization the colleges are the central social structure of the undergraduate population at Rice. When asked where they are from, students often reply with their college rather than their hometown. Students social groups tend to, but not always, revolve around their college. This has been the most significant criticism of the college system: that it tends to create groups of friends within a college to the exclusion of people in the other colleges. Another perennial issue is that some colleges are old, decrepit, or just plain ugly, while others are new, have larger rooms, or superior facilities, despite all students paying the same tuition and fees.
There are currently 9 residential colleges, including six colleges on the south side of campus and three on the north. Although each college is composed of a full cross-section of students at Rice, each college over time has developed its own personality and traditions to varying degrees. All colleges except Sid Richardson College ("Sid Rich") are organized around their own small quadrangle.
Baker College, slightly smaller than the other eight colleges, is officially the oldest and includes the original wood-panelled library and dining facility of the campus. It is named after Capt. James A. Baker, William Marsh Rice's lawyer who uncovered the plot by William Rice's butler. Baker was also the grandfather of James Baker III, Secretary of State to President George H.W. Bush and is the namesake of the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Traditions at Baker include freshman camping and a Christmas Tree hunt.
William Marsh Rice Jr. College ("Will Rice College") was the second college created, though its original dormitory building, originally called South Hall, is the oldest residential building on campus. Will Rice prides itself on its individualism and tends to focus on its extensive winning history in the annual Beer Bike competition. Will Rice was named after the nephew of William Marsh Rice, himself a contributor to the university.
Hanszen College, known for being mysteriously protective of a knight sculpture near their house, was the third college formed. It was soon followed by Wiess College. Wiess is the southernmost college on campus, and has a reputation for being somewhat insular, with a more distinct or visible set of traditions than the other colleges. The residents here refer to their community as "Team Wiess." Wiess moved into a new building in 2002 as the previous facility, once intended as only temporary housing, was rapidly becoming uninhabitable. Some feel that the new Wiess house somewhat resembles a prison, with corrugated looking roofs, steel mesh railings, and narrow passages overlooked by balconies.
Lovett College was built in the 1970s after the Kent State riots with an eye towards being riot-proof. Lovett is sometimes referred to as "the toaster" after its rectangular facade and brutalist design. Sid Richardson College is the tallest building on campus and was built a few years after Lovett, making Sid and Lovett sister colleges and arch-rivals.
Jones College and Brown College are the two original north colleges. These were followed in 2002 by the third north college, Martel College. As a result of its recent formation, Martel has few traditions thus far and is generally lambasted by the other colleges, though most do admit that its facilities are excellent.
In the past, the south colleges were the mens' colleges, while the womens' colleges were the (at the time) two north colleges. The physical separation made it easier to maintain propriety since reaching the womens' colleges required a long walk down an well-illuminated path still known as "Virgin's Walk."
Graduate students are not affiliated with the College System; most of them live off campus in local apartments, though there does exist a university-owned and operated complex of Rice Graduate Apartments. The complex has all the aesthetic appeal of a Retirement Home, but is still an improvement over the old "Grad House" on S. Main, which was formerly a sleazy "hourly rate" motel that Rice bought out and converted to graduate housing probably out of embarassment at having such an establishment right off campus. Whereas the old Grad House never had 100% occupancy, the newer Rice Graduate Apartments quickly fill up each school year. The complex is located near the museum district, with convenient shuttle service to and from campus.
The old "Grad House" was demolished and is now a fenced-in grassy field across from St. Lukes Hospital on South Main. The future of this lot remains uncertain.
Baker 13 is one of the most enduring student traditions at Rice University. At 10 p.m. on the 13th and 31st of every month (26th of months with no 31st), a group of students runs around the entire campus wearing nothing but shaving cream. (This is made possible because of Houston's temperate climate during the schoolyear.) Although the event usually only attracts a small number of students, on Halloween and the last relevant day of the schoolyear (usually April 26th), the event is very large, regularly attracting over 100 students. The event is so named because it begins and ends at Baker College.
The runners go by all the residential colleges and often make shaving cream impressions by rubbing their bodies on windows and doors. College members often throw water on the runners. The runners usually shout the college anti-cheer (e.g. "Sid Rich sucks, death from behind") of the college they are running by. They also shout the Baker 13 cheer, "Join us! Join us!"
Although the students are naked, the event is non-sexual in nature (unlike NOD). Instead the atmosphere of Baker 13 is silly and exuberant. Both Baker 13 and NOD are, however, the subject of controversy with critics condemning their hedonistic characteristics and the encouragement of underage drinking.
The run usually finishes at Valhalla, the graduate student pub on campus. In recent years runners have been given a complimentary soft-drink in lieu of a free beer, due to the aforementioned concerns raised about under-aged drinking. Sometimes the runners continue their run, joined by a Valhalla patron or two who decides to join in on the fun.
Night of Decadence
Every year around Halloween, Rice University's Wiess College throws a party called the Night of Decadence. Instead of traditional costumes, students wear as little as possible. Although there are always several people creatively attired in Saran Wrap or fishnet stockings and pasties, the traditional costume is boxer shorts for men, and bra and panties for women. The theme of the event is always sexual (e.g. James Bondage, Lust In Space), alcoholic beverages are freely available and sexually explicit materials decorate the Wiess College commons. For these reasons, the party is a polarizing event on the Rice University campus. Although it still exists, the decorations have become more conservative in recent years.
On the other hand NOD doesn't stand for "Night of Decency," either.
A common (though apocryphal and unvalidated) campus tradition holds that in the 1970s, NOD was ranked by Playboy magazine as one of the best campus parties in the country.
The Rice baseball team won the College World Series in 2003, surprising Stanford 14-2 in the final game. This made Rice University the smallest school in 51 years to win a national championship at the highest collegiate level of the sport.
Rice participates in NCAA Division I-A athletics and is part of the Western Athletic Conference. However, in 2005 Rice will leave the WAC and join Conference USA. Rice Stadium seats 72,000 and 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. In addition to football, Rice Stadium also serves as the performance venue for the university's Marching Owl Band or "MOB." Despite its name, the MOB is a scatter band which focuses on performing humorous skits and routines rather than traditional formation marching. Prior to the dissolution of the Southwest Conference, one of the most entertaining half-time shows to watch were during Rice vs. Texas A&M games, if only for the sheer contrast of the pure military precision of the Aggie Band versus the irreverent wackiness of the MOB.
Rice's mascot is an owl named "Sammy." In previous decades the university kept several live owls on campus in front of Lovett College, but this has been discontinued. Wild owls are still occasionally seen inhabiting the oak trees that cover the campus.
Law & politics
Bill Archer (attended), United States Congressman
- Mitch Bainwol , 1983, former chair, Republican National Committee
- Karen Padgett Davis , 1965, president of the Commonwealth Fund
Alberto Gonzales, 1979, U.S. Attorney General
- Kate Goodwin , 2007, actress and daughter of Doris Kearns Goodwin
- William P. Hobby, Jr. , Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1973-1991); former chancellor of the University of Houston system; former president and executive editor at The Houston Post
John Kline, 1969, United States Congressman
- Karl ten Brink , 1937, former president, Texaco
- George R. Brown , 1920, founder, Brown and Root; he built it into the world's largest construction and engineering giant
John Doerr, 1973, influential venture capitalist at Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers , CEO of Silicon Compilers and co-founder of the @Home Network , on the Board of Directors of Intuit, Amazon.com, PalmOne, Sun Microsystems, Google, and Segway, among others
- Dell Butcher , 1934, former president, American Commercial Lines
Charles Duncan, 1947, former president, Coca-Cola; former Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter (1979 - 1981)
- Robert L. Clarke , 1963, Senior Partner of Bracewell & Patterson LLP; U.S. Comptroller of the Currency under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush; consultant to the World Bank
Steve Jackson, 1974, founder of Steve Jackson Games
- Terry Koonce , 1960, president of ExxonMobil
- Burton McMurtry , 1956, influential venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley, helped fund such ventures as Microsoft, Sun, Compaq, Adaptec, Altera, and Synopsys .
Hector Ruiz, 1972, President and CEO of AMD
- William Vaughn , former president, Eastman Kodak
Sam Reed, CEO of Keebler Company
- Wylie Bernard Pieper , 1946, former president, Brown & Root
- Ken Kennedy , 1967, founder of Center for Research on Parallel Computation , the High Performance Fortran Forum ; co-chair of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee with Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems
James Treybig, 1963 and 1964, founder of Tandem Computers
- Charles Tandy , 1939, founder, chairman, president of Tandy Corporation
Lance Berkman, 1997, All-Star Major League baseball player for Houston Astros
- Fred Hansen , 1963, gold medalist in pole vault at 1964 Olympics
- Heather McDermid , 1991, silver medalist in women's 8 at 1996 Olympics
- Frank Beall Ryan , 1958, PhD 1965, NFL quarterback, textbook author, Yale athletic director, appeared on cover of Sports Illustrated, Jan. 4, 1965.
History, literature, journalism, art & music
- Ron Bozman , 1969, Executive Producer of Silence of the Lambs, Beloved, and Philadelphia
- William Broyles , Jr., Founder of Texas Monthly, former editor in chief at Newsweek and screenwriter of Apollo 13, Cast Away, Unfaithful
- Carol Flake , 1969, founding editor of reborn Vanity Fair
- John Graves , 1942, Nature Writer
- Mary Johnston , 1941, editor of Fortune, responsible for origination of the Fortune 500
Larry McMurtry, 1960, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author
- S. I. Morris , 1935, architect of Astrodome, Houston Public Library, One Houston Center, and Wortham Theater
Steve Sailer, 1980 (?), writer for The American Conservative and VDARE.com
- LeAnne Schreiber , 1967, first woman sports editor of a major daily (New York Times)
- Vivian Vahlberg , 1970, first woman president of the National Press Club
Television & film
Science & technology