Guide to the Rice University 1990-1991 Charter Centennial Celebration Committee records, 1987-1990 UA 256
These papers record committee work done concerning possible ways of celebrating either the one hundredth anniversary of the charter establishing Rice Institute or the seventy-fifth anniversary of the opening of classes, or both. The one hundredth anniversary of the charter would occur in the spring of 1991, and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the actual opening, in October 1987. It was decided that during the entire academic year of 1990-91, a major celebration commemorating the centennial of the signing of the Charter of Incorporation of W. M. Rice Institute would take place. A Centennial Celebration Committee was formed with Dr. Harold E. Rorschach, Jr., appointed as chair. In his October 14, 1987, charge to the committee, President George Rupp wrote, “The centennial celebration should involve all segments of the Rice community—alumni, faculty, staff, students—and the larger community beyond. It should include a variety of celebrative events—lectures, symposia, concerts, exhibits, dinners, social occasions—with the purpose of indicating the breadth of activities associated with Rice.”
The Centennial Committee came to include two trustees, two academic coordinators, two operational coordinators, and chairs of subcommittees for symposia, alumni activities, student activities, ceremony, community relations, and facilities. Ex-officio members were President Rupp and four other members of the administration or staff.
The first meeting of a smaller steering committee was held Saturday April 9, 1988, at 9 a. m. in the Founder’s Room on the second floor of Lovett Hall. It was agreed that regular meetings of this group would be scheduled at the rate of about one per month. The second meeting took place on May 19, at which time agreement was reached on six goals for the celebration: 1. Bring people to the campus (alumni, community, nation); 2. Provide a stimulating and unifying intellectual atmosphere; 3. Attract favorable media coverage; 4. Provide a setting for fund raising, either general or for specific projects; 5. Not overload the calendar; and 6. Unify the alumni through an outreach program.
The steering committee next met on June 29. Discussion centered on planning priorities, preliminary cost estimates for various activities, and subcommittee appointments. On July 6 Chairman Rorschach sent a memo to all department chairs informing them of the intended Charter Centennial Celebration being planned for 1990-91 and inviting them to submit ideas for activities like seminars, colloquia, and visiting speakers that would be enhanced with funds from the Centennial Committee.
By October 6 a steering committee meeting took place for the purpose of discussing ideas generated by the various subcommittees and the departments. This was to be in preparation for developing a budget. Another point to be discussed was the scope of the celebration, alternatives being a series of activities spread over an entire year, or a few days of concentrated activities in the manner of a celebration at Harvard that this committee had heard of.
The steering committee in December was awaiting “guidance from the board as to the desired scope of the celebration.” The goal at this point was to place in the hands of the president and the board, early in the second semester, a proposal of preliminary planning and budget estimates.
The steering committee meeting at which specific figures for all of the suggested activities were gathered together took place on April 5, 1989. Cost estimates organized under four headings were $100 thousand for ceremonial expenses, $200 thousand for symposia, $100 thousand for special events, and $200 thousand for staffing, publicity, and media. Allowing an additional $100 thousand as a contingency and inflation factor brought the total to $700 thousand for what the planners felt would be a “significant celebration.”
It appears that when the steering committee’s report on the estimated costs of the planned activities was presented to President Rupp, his response on August 31 was an offer of $50 thousand as seed money (implying that soliciting would be required to raise more). When the steering committee met on September 7, the members agreed to respond to the president that they considered it impractical to try to raise funds with the offered seed money so close in time to the centennial year. They proposed that instead, the offered $50 thousand should be used to fund department proposals and one of the suggested symposia, the one most desirable to President Rupp.
On November 2, 1989 the president met with the steering committee and discussed what was referred to as “the fund raising situation,” apparently factors that limited what could be done to supply what was needed for the expansive program of activities initially proposed. President Rupp told the subcommittee that in the fall of 1990 the Rice campus would be the location of the international “Economic Summit.” A conclusion was that the Charter Centennial Celebration should consist of one symposium in early spring of 1991, and perhaps a lecture series on the history of Rice architecture, an “expanded” Rice Associates dinner, and other ways of engaging alumni and the Houston community.
The steering committee met again on March 30, 1990, covering topics like a possible art show featuring drawings of Rice buildings, a “community relations” dinner for guests of President Rupp, and presentations on Rice history by Professor Joe Thomas and Professor George Williams.
The last record of a steering committee meeting is dated June 25, 1990. Topics were the form that the celebratory dinner should take and the intended audience for presentations on student history. The meeting apparently ended with a decision that these events would occur in 1991.
The collection consists of a variety of planning materials in preparation for the university-wide celebration of the charter that established Rice Institute. The collection includes the initial charge to the committee from President George Rupp, the committee and subcommittee membership lists, notes, memos, meeting minutes, subcommittee recommendations and reports, and proposals for symposia.
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Permission to publish material from the 1990-91 Charter Centennial Celebration Committee Records must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Rice University 1990-91 Charter Centennial Celebration Committee Records, 1987-1990, UA 256, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Acquired from the office of Dr. Harold Rorschach, chair of the committee.
Detailed Description of the Collection