Boasting a 300-acre tree-lined campus in Houston, Rice University is ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has a 6-to-1 undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio, and a residential college system, which supports students intellectually, emotionally and culturally through social events, intramural sports, student plays, lectures series, courses and student government. Developing close-knit, diverse college communities is a strong campus tradition, which is why Rice is highly ranked for best quality of life and best value among private universities.
A Brief History
On May 18, 1891, Massachusetts-born businessman William Marsh Rice chartered the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art as a gift to the city of Houston, where he made his fortune. The terms of the charter required that work on the new institute would begin only after Rice’s death.
On Sept. 23, 1900, Rice was chloroformed to death by his valet, Charlie Jones, who had conspired with an unscrupulous lawyer, Albert Patrick, to murder the aging millionaire and claim his estate using a forged will. When an autopsy ordered by Rice’s attorney, Captain James A. Baker, revealed evidence of poisoning, Jones agreed to provide state's evidence in return for immunity from prosecution. Patrick was convicted of murder and sent to Sing Sing. He was pardoned in 1912, the same year that classes began at the Rice Institute.
In 1907, the trustees of the Rice Institute acted upon the recommendation of Woodrow Wilson (then president of Princeton) and named astronomer and mathematician Edgar Odell Lovett the first president of Rice. Lovett called for the establishment of a university “of the highest grade,” “an institution of liberal and technical learning” devoted “quite as much investigation as to instruction.” [We must] “keep the standards up and the numbers down,” declared Lovett. “The most distinguished teachers must take their part in undergraduate teaching, and their spirit should dominate it all.”
The Rice Institute opened on Sept. 23, 1912, the anniversary of Mr. Rice’s murder, with 77 students enrolled in that initial academic year taught by a dozen faculty. An international academic festival celebrated the opening three weeks later, a spectacular event that brought Rice to the attention of the entire scholarly world. Four years later, at the initial commencement, 35 bachelor's degrees and one master's degree were awarded, with the first doctorate conferred in 1918.
Every Rice student is a member of one of our 11 residential colleges and maintains membership throughout their undergraduate years. Spirited communities where students live, dine and interact with peers, faculty, staff and alumni, the resident college system allows students to develop strong relationships and contribute to the betterment of each other’s lives and intellectual achievement. Within our colleges, legacies are born, traditions are celebrated and student spirit thrives.
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Can’t make it to campus for a tour? Explore Rice from home! We’re proud of our unique campus and traditions and are excited to share them with you: