University of Cambridge

Rice University Name Origin

It is a common misconception that Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, is named after the life sustaining grain by the same name that is popular the world over. The truth of the matter is that the full name of the research institution is actually William March Rice University but almost everyone simply refers to the school by the abbreviated name of Rice University.

William Rice, born in Springfield Massachusetts in 1816, was a successful businessman who donated his fortune at the time of his death in 1900 to establish what would become known as Rice University. Having lived a full and prominent 84 year life Mr. Rice made his fortune in the commodities of his time which included cotton trading, real estate, and railroad development. Despite being a Massachusetts businessman the majority of his most successful ventures (including the endeavors just mentioned) took place in the state of Texas. The presumed intentions of William Rice to establish a tuition-free higher education institution (Rice would eventually charge tuition for the first time in 1965) almost never came to be.

At the time of Mr. Rice's passing it was initially believed that he died of natural causes when his valet reported finding him dead in his home at the age of 84. Not long after his September, 1900 death a suspicious check was noticed as it was being cashed by an attorney of Rice's. This attorney by the name of Albert Patrick insisted that Rice had recently adjusted his will to leave a substantial sum of money to Mr. Patrick instead of earmarking the funds for the creation of a university. A subsequent investigation by the District Attorney Office of New York brought to light a conspiracy that would have William Rice's attorney (Mr. Patrick) as well as his butler and valet arrested for the murder of Rice and forgery of his last will and testament. In the end the charged parties were found guilty of administering chloroform to Mr. Rice while he slept and conspiring to steal his fortune by forging signatures and documents. After taking into account the scandalous shake up and time the funds were tied up in court legalese it is a wonder that Rice University eventually became a reality.

Edgar Lovett, head of the Astronomy and Mathematics department at Princeton University, was tapped to organize the efforts to see Mr. Rice's intentions through to fruition. Mr. Lovett came recommended by eventual twenty eight President of the United States Woodrow Wilson who was at the time serving as the President of Princeton University. In 1912 Mr. Lovett became the first president of Rice University and quickly saw to it that the campus would be influenced by the aesthetic architectural beauty of such schools as the University of Pennsylvania and Cambridge University in England. So it came to be that through William Rice, the District Attorney Office of New York, and Edgar Lovett Rice University established a name origin and a reputation for excellence.

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