Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 77.djvu/619

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.





In 1891 the late William M. Rice, a native of Massachusetts, who emigrated to Texas and there amassed a large fortune, selected a board of six trustees, and to them made over the sum of two hundred thousand dollars, the foundation of future philanthropies. At his further instance these trustees immediately incorporated under the name of the William M. Rice Institute, for the advancement of literature, science and art, and with the founder serving as a member of the self-perpetuating board undertook to administer the property of the institute until his death, and then—according to his wish, not before—to take up the organization of an institution of higher education open and free to the white inhabitants of Houston. When the donor died in 1900 the corporation was named as the residuary legatee of his estate; this bequest together with the original endowment and several generous gifts made during his lifetime make up the institute's present foundation of ten million dollars. Prolonged litigation established his will and the security of the foundation upon which the trustees were to begin the work of organization by placing its direction in the hands of Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett, called from the chair of astronomy at Princeton University. The task at hand was the planning of a non-sectarian institution which should look toward embracing eventually all the functions and activities of a university, but in which at the outset the interests of science should predominate; on the instructional side there was to be no upper limit, the lower limit being defined by the necessity of articulating with the best public high schools and preparatory schools of the south and the southwest; upon the investigational side where emphasis was to be laid, the direction of research in pure science and its applications was to be taken from the problems of material development peculiar to the south, commercial, industrial and agricultural; laboratories of biology, physics, chemistry, besides their use for purposes of instruction were to provide special facilities for research work by men of science, who should become identified with the institution. In effect, the terms of the charter, the will of the trustees, and every local consideration called for the establishment of a school of science, pure and applied, of university rank, wherein scientific studies were to be liberalized in an ever-increasing degree until with fuller means and ampler resources a university program, with all its complexities, might be entered upon.

By way of preparation for this work President Lovett made an extensive tour of investigation among the universities and higher educational establishments in this country and abroad, and upon his return attacked first the problem of planning a domicile worthy of the large endowment of the Rice Institute, and in keeping with its high aims and the character of its projected development. Striving to make a distinctive contribution to academic architecture in America, the trustees of the Rice Institute have boldly avowed their belief in the potency of a noble and impressive architecture as an inspiration to the youth who live and study within its shadow.

The solution of the problem was entrusted to Messrs. Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, of Boston and New York, supervising architects of the institute,