The Fire in the Dean’s Office


This 1961 letter from Reed Martin, the Student Association president at the time, was in the Dean of Students' office at the time of the 1970 fire. It is one of the few documents remaining, as most property in the office was destroyed in the fire. The edges of the letter are burned and browned as a result.


The dean's office was the subject of an arson attack in April 1970.

Sunday April 5, 1970

At 3:30 a.m., a fire broke out in the Dean of Students’ Office, which were in what are now the Rice Memorial Center cloisters near the chapel.

Within fifteen minutes, the Houston Fire Department arrived and was able to put out the fire by 4:15 a.m. The office was destroyed, however, along with the many student files and records it once housed. The arson squad of the Houston Fire Department began investigating, declaring that it was a criminal act of arson. The results of their investigation were never announced.

That evening, at 8:30 p.m., the Rice Faculty University Welfare Committee met for four hours to discuss the possibility of overriding Dean Frederick Weirum’s rejection and approving the Hoffman event in light of the events of the early morning. Eventually, the committee decided to uphold Weirum’s decision that any event had to be closed to the public given the circumstances of the fire and the revelation that several threatening calls had been placed to members of the administration from both the far left and right regarding the event.

Dean of Students Frederick Weirum broadcasting an update regarding campus climate and his decision to refuse the use of the university's facilities for the Abbie Hoffman event.