Rice was founded in 1891 by American business tycoon William Marsh Rice as The William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement for Letters, Science, and Art. Before the school opened, Rice was poisoned in a conspiracy: Rice’s lawyer prepared a false will in which he would be the benefactor. However, the lawyer was convicted and the school did not open until 1912.
Slowly Rice began to develop its unique identity: the student body adopted an honor system in 1916 and in 1957 the residential college system was adopted. It is interesting to note that the school’s original charter stated that the university should admit and educate “the white inhabitants of Houston and the state of Texas”; this stipulation was changed in 1963 and the school began to admit students of all races. The school’s original charter also specified that a Rice education was free of charge; this was changed in the mid 1960s as well.
Even though Rice is located in the ultra-urban city of Houston, the campus is closed off and relatively self-sustaining. The Rice campus is organized into quadrangles, the most prominent of which is the Academic Quad. Here one can find the memorial statue of the school’s founder William Marsh Rice. Lovett Hall is the school’s architectural jewel. Students generally appreciate the campus’ Spanish Mediterranean architecture but find the ongoing construction irksome.
In terms of specific hangout destinations, students frequent Willy’s Pub and Valhalla attracts its fair share of traffic with the over twenty-oners. Students of all ages frequently head to Lovett Undergrounds to hear live music, listen to a poetry slam, and grab a cup of coffee. For anyone looking for a more chill, laid back atmosphere, the Media Center has a movie theater.
While Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, it doesn’t have a centralized city feel. Its sprawling nature can intimidate the more sheltered of Rice undergraduates. As one freshman remarks, Houston isn't really a 'college town.'
For the more adventurous Rice student, the METRORail system is located next to campus; using this public transportation, students can get to the downtown area and to Reliant Park. Houston’s cultural offerings include basically everything: the symphony, the ballet, bar-hopping (as one student from the class of 2010 informs us, “Houston is a great town and offers a variety of bars. If you want to drink underage most Mexican restaurants have amazing margaritas and usually will not card”), baseball games, and world-famous rodeos. However, to enjoy most of what the greater Houston area has to offer (like the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico), bringing a car to campus is necessary.
The school’s honor code provides students with the opportunity to have take-home exams or open-book exams. Breaking the code is a big no-no, and the all-student Honor Council deals with such infractions.
The Baker 13 takes place at 10pm on the 13th and 31st of every month(or 26th if there is no 31st that month), when a group of dedicated students run around the Rice campus only wearing shaving cream and the proper footwear. While the turn out for this event is usually rather small, on Halloween and the last applicable school day of the year, the event attracts around 100 students.
On Halloween, Wiess College hosts a party that goes by the name of Night of Decadence. The event started in the 1970s and quickly gained a reputation as THE event for All Hallows eve, attracting alum and other college students throughout the area.
Beer-Bike is a Rice competition dating back to 1957 that combines two of Rice’s favorite pastimes, chugging beer and bike racing; think of it as a relay with intoxicating obstacles. With each of of the residential colleges and the graduate school participating with three separate squads (male, female, alumni), bragging rights are on the line.
Willy Week was a tradition started in the 1990s to designate the week before Beer-Bike as a time for general excitement and debauchery. Watch out for campus pranks during Willy Week.
Lance Berkman('97), All-Star Major League baseball stud
Alberto Gonzeles ('79), US Attorney General
Howard Hughes (didn’t graduate), Aviator/Billionaire
Jon Kline('69), United States Congressman
Peggy Whiston ('85), NASA Astronaut
Rice is a strange place when it comes to athletics. The Owls, as they are affectionately referred to, compete in Conference USA as the second smallest school in the country with a Division I athletic program. Because they are consistently competing against larger schools, Rice usually takes a hit when it comes to the win-loss column. From 1961 to 2006, the Rice football squad failed to qualify for a bowl game, which was the second-longest bowl drought at the time. The Rice men’s basketball team hasn’t won a conference title since 1970. Despite these embarrassing statistics, Rice houses a powerhouse baseball squad. They have won the conference the last twelve seasons, and even took home the College World Series in 2003.
Alex Bonnel ’10 notes that “although we aren't crazy about sports, we are crazy about our college system.” Thus, the club and intramural scene is rather lively because rivalries and competition is fueled through the residential college system. More eccentric intramural/club opportunities include Badminton, Fast Pitch, Social Dance Society, Inner Tube Water Polo, Billiards, and Disc Golf.
“Seventeen” magazine named Rice the “coolest college in the land” in its “Top 100 Coolest Colleges” issue in October of 2002.
To mark the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Olympic torch passed through Houston and consequently Rice University. While it was on campus, two streakers ran in front of it.
In 1962 Rice alum John Cox gave Yankee Stadium to his alma mater. In 1971, the city forced Rice to sell the stadium for $2.5 million dollars.
President John F. Kennedy announced at Rice Stadium that American was going to send a man to the moon.
The dorms at Rice are more than just a place to live. Rice University centers the undergraduate experience on the residential college system. Students are assigned to a specific college when they enter the school and remain a member until they graduate. There are nine colleges, all of which have unique personalities. Most students live on campus for their first three years and move into off-campus apartments as seniors.
Because Rice does not have a Greek system, students end up developing a sense of loyalty to their respective college as well as building social circles within those communities. Most enjoy the residential college system. One student from the class of ’11 says, the “really unique thing is our residential college system. It makes Rice more fun, I think.” Nonetheless, the system has a few drawbacks. As Aure from the class of 2010 explains, “The residential colleges are small though, which means that there's not really the critical mass to support a lot of alternative or specialized social groups. It also means that everyone knows everyone else's business, so that's just something you learn to deal with.”