The late 1960s proved to be a transitional era in the leadership of the emerging research university. President Pitzer understood that Rice should provide academic leadership in its region of the nation, and he consciously sought to make Rice more like Stanford in that respect, recognizing all the while that Rice had unique features that ought to be preserved. In 1968 Pitzer resigned the presidency of Rice to become president of Stanford itself. When the Rice trustees announced in February 1969 their choice for the new president, historian and former dean of humanities William H. Masterson, most faculty and students protested that they were not consulted in the decision. Within several days Masterson withdrew his name. History professor Frank E. Vandiver, an eminent Civil War historian, served as acting president the remainder of 1969 and 1970. After an extensive search, the board of trustees announced Rice’s fourth president, chemist Norman Hackerman, then president of the University of Texas at Austin.
Hackerman came to a university that had just completed its most expansive twenty-five years, with plans already underway for a significant broadening of its programs. The Institute for the Arts had begun in 1969, and the Shepherd School of Music was being developed, to open in 1974. Both would transform the artistic dimension of life at Rice, with new courses, exhibits, recitals, and concerts. The Media Center, with its extensive program of films, quickly became a resource for the Rice community and the entire city. True to the intentions of the founding charter, Rice’s new offerings in studio art and photography and film, in art history and music history, in musical theory, composition, and performance, revealed the university’s commitment to literature and art as well as science.
But these welcome developments also presented a dilemma to President Hackerman. Substantial as the endowment was, the expansion of programs and personnel had stretched the financial resources of the university to their limits. The university had run slight deficits in the late 1960s, and Hackerman saw as his first obligation the need to balance programs with means. The result was a decade of consolidation and reining in of grandiose plans and making sure new programs were fully endowed before they were begun. The Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration, for example, was founded in 1974 only after it was endowed by Houston Endowment, Inc. Ten years later, additional contributions allowed the school to move into the national-award-winning Herring Hall, designed by Cesar Pelli.
New programs did develop during the 1970s, but Hackerman was most concerned with restructuring and rationalizing the university’s administration. The Office of Advanced Studies and Research was organized in 1972 to coordinate graduate studies and programs of funded research. The Division of Science and Engineering was split into two schools in 1975, the appropriately named George R. Brown School of Engineering and the School of Natural Sciences (renamed the Wiess School of Natural Sciences in 1979). Similarly the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences became two separate schools in 1979; these four schools, added to the new music school and the graduate school of administration, and the School of Architecture, which had been organized in 1965, brought the total to seven, each with its own dean.
Computer operations were expanded into the Institute for Computer Services and Applications in 1971; twelve years later ICSA (pronounced ik-sa on campus) moved into its own building, named in honor of Seeley G. Mudd. In the late 1980s ICSA’s services expanded still further and its identity broadened into a number of administrative units, all gathered under the rubric Information Systems.
Rice’s administration was growing in order to address the needs of a larger, more complex, more research-oriented university. Such reorganization became one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Hackerman years. “Centers” or “institutes” were founded to coordinate specialized research and services. Among the more than dozen centers were the Rice Center for Community Design and Research (1972), the Rice Engineering Design and Development Institute (1978), the Rice Quantum Institute (1980), the Rice Institute for Policy Analysis (1981), and the four-university consortium, the Houston Area [later changed to Advanced] Research Center (1982) housed at the Woodlands twenty-five miles north of Houston. As Charles Garside, Jr., of Rice’s Department of History said in April 1985 at a faculty convocation honoring President Hackerman upon his retirement, this administrative restructuring “restored equilibrium” to the university and connected Hackerman’s term philosophically to that of Lovett in their common desire to promote both technical and liberal learning.
Another hallmark of the Hackerman years was providing for the long-range financial needs of the university. President Lovett had been forced to defer his dreams of Rice’s quick escalation into the top tier of universities by the economic exigencies of the post-World War I years and the Great Depression. President Hackerman, in Garside’s words, “found himself confronted by a concern for the financial security of the University not unlike that of President Lovett. With an unanticipated vigor and single-mindedness he addressed himself to the problem immediately.”
The development office began in earnest in 1970, and within fifteen years it had raised more than $200 million. In 1976 the Brown Foundation, in one of the most significant decisions ever made on behalf of the university, extended to Rice a ten-year, $20-million challenge grant to inspire the university and its friends to generate new levels of support. In 1986 this challenge was renewed for another ten years, bringing the total of Brown Foundation gifts during the period to almost $53 million. At the same time the Brown matching money attracted additional tens of millions of dollars from individual donors. This Brown Foundation challenge represents one of the largest gifts to a single academic institution in the history of American higher education. And of course the Brown Foundation has supported many other projects at Rice and continues to do so.
Such contributions, combined with President Hackerman’s careful stewardship of the total university resources and expenditures, resulted in a dramatic growth in the endowment, which climbed from $131 million in 1970 to $484 million in 1984. These figures spoke for themselves. They allowed Rice to provide exceptional students an outstanding education at a tuition cost about half that of comparable institutions, with generous scholarship support to guarantee that any student admitted could afford to attend.
Administrative restructuring and financial stabilization were the major concerns of the 1970s, and the campus experienced little construction during the decade. (Several buildings planned in the late 1960s were actually completed in 1970 and 1971). But the absence of construction was deceptive; these were active, rewarding years at Rice. The library, which had owned sixty-nine books in 1912, passed the one-million-volume mark in 1979 and began to bulge at the seams. In 1980 the Woodson Research Center of the library acquired the papers of the university’s first biology professor, Sir Julian Huxley. In 1978 physicist Robert W. Wilson became the first Rice alumnus to win a Nobel Prize. (In 1986 alumnus Larry McMurtry would win the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Lonesome Dove.) Baker and Hanszen colleges were made coeducational in 1973. Within fifteen years, all the colleges had become coed, to the great delight of the students who found male-female interaction more relaxed as a result. Rice had come a long way since the years when women were not allowed on campus after 5:00 p.m.
At times in the past Rice had been considered aloof from the community. The Office of Continuing Studies, begun in 1968, successfully countered that image and pioneered new ways for the university to serve the broader society. In the beginning most of the continuing studies courses were of a technical nature. Within several years Continuing Studies branched out into a variety of areas with its novel “Living Texas” programs that explained to Houston newcomers unusual aspects of the life and culture of the Lone Star State. Soon a long list of noncredit courses was offered on such topics as art, history, languages, literature, photography, religion, crafts, and computers. An innovative publishing program brought experts in all aspects of publishing to the campus to teach how to plan, design, edit, publish, and market everything from books to periodicals. Thousands of alumni and community people were attracted to the campus for these evening and special courses.
The Mellon Foundation also underwrote in the schools of social science and humanities a series of summer seminars for teachers in small colleges in Texas and contiguous states. These professors would spend two weeks at Rice taking a specialized refresher course with two Rice faculty members and utilizing the university facilities. The Mellon seminars were only one of the ways Rice sought to serve the academic community of its region.
Suddenly in the early 1980s, after a ten-year hiatus in construction, new buildings and new additions began. Abercrombie Laboratories and Anderson Hall were renovated and gained significant additions, Anderson Hall elegantly so with a wing designed by the British architect Sir James Stirling. The Seeley G. Mudd Computer Science Building was completed in 1983 and Herring Hall (designed by Cesar Pelli) for the Jones School in 1984. A new building for material science, underwritten by John L. Cox, completed the engineering quadrangle in 1984, with the quadrangle itself strikingly complemented by the installation in December 1984 of three massive granite monoliths, conceived and displayed by sculptor Michael Heizer and dedicated to Rice’s major donor, George R. Brown. A handsome addition to the Rice Memorial Center, also designed by Pelli, was begun in 1984 and named in honor of the Ley family, who contributed substantially to it.
When in March 1984 President Hackerman announced his imminent retirement, he could take comfort in the health of the institution. Clearly Rice had been brought to the threshold of the kind of greatness envisioned at its founding. Houston was no longer a small southern marketing center—the Magnolia City, it called itself in 1912—but a large, dynamic, cosmopolitan metropolis with enormous cultural, medical, scientific, and economic resources. The university’s 3,800 students were among the most able on any American campus, whether measured by average SAT scores, by the number of National Merit Scholarship winners, or by the percentage of graduates who had earned a doctorate (Rice ranked sixteenth overall in the nation). A faculty of more than 400 members included scholars and artists of international distinction. The endowment of the university was the envy of other universities everywhere. Rice’s future seemed bright indeed.