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1950s - Part 1

By the year 1950, Rice had experienced intense growth, with their 1945 long-range plan largely fulfilled. There had been a general increase in endowment, new buildings, enrollment, and faculty. The increase in faculty lead to more graduate programs. (Despite this, the doctorate degree was still only offered in STEM.) The trustee board and administration had successfully fund-raised in their first capital campaign. 

Rice’s board of trustees had also changed dramatically. It added a board of Governors--an additional eight members with no voting rights and only advising power. In 1950, Board Chairman Harry Hanszen died, and George R. Brown took his place. Brown was a wise choice because of his national outlook and ties to rising politician Lyndon B. Johnson. His leadership would prove crucial to Rice’s “growth in quality and prestige throughout the next two decades” (14).

Rice’s relationship to--and perception of--race in the early 1950s was influenced by many factors including the Houston community and Rice’s dedication to STEM education and secularism. The Houston community was radically anti-Communist and anti-socialist; this mentality discouraged discussion on race relations on Rice’s campus. Virtually all of Rice’s academic programs and departments focused on STEM education: “These programs attracted few blacks and were also unlikely to produce research that challenged the community’s social and racial beliefs” (15). Rice’s secularism and lack of a law school inhibited much dialogue about the legality of racial segregation.

Additionally, there were no black speakers that came to campus in the early 1950s. The only discussions on race were lead by white male professors within Rice’s all-white academic community. The argument these faculty members made was that America should set an example to Africa and Asia (at risk regions within the world) about the advantages of US Democracy and the disadvantages of Russian Communism.

There was a general apathy within the Rice community, among the students, faculty, administration, and trustees. The only exception was William P. Hobby, Jr., a member of the famed Hobby family of Houston and the assistant editor of the Thresher. Attempting to foster dialogue on race relations at Rice, he argued that segregation was morally wrong and that Rice needed to move towards integration as soon as possible. He referenced the efforts of Brady Tyson ten years before. He condemned the unreasonable actions and decision-making of President Houston and the administration for refusing to act in regards to race relations. Unfortunately, Hobby’s efforts were met with still more apathy, especially from the administrators and board of trustees: “The university remained an island, seemingly untouched by real debate over race” (16).