Rice University’s Academic Quadrangle will undergo a major redesign that will include moving the Founder’s Memorial statue of William Marsh Rice to a new location within the quadrangle.
William Marsh Rice was an oil and cotton tycoon, who when he died was said to be the richest man in Texas. He left the bulk of his estate to establish the Rice Institute for Literature. His will stipulated that only White students were allowed to enroll. From its founding in 1912 to 1965, no Black student was permitted to enroll. The university eventually won litigation allowing the educational institution to overrule the “Whites only” stipulation in its founder’s last will and testament.
The board of trustees of Rice University has decided the relocated statue will be presented with historical context and information about the university’s founder, including his ownership of enslaved people. A new monument of similar prominence will commemorate the beginning of the university’s integration a half-century after its opening.
“The board believes that the founding gift of William Marsh Rice is an essential landmark in our history, and the philanthropy of William Marsh Rice should be recognized,” the board’s statement said. “In addition, we acknowledge our founder’s entanglement with slavery, which is in stark contrast to the modern vision and values of our university.”
“We intend for the Academic Quadrangle to both fully acknowledge the history of our founding and founder, and to mark and celebrate the important evolution and growth of our university over time,” said Rob Ladd, chair of the board of trustees. “We believe the redesign will allow us to move forward as a community.”
The university has already implemented another recommendation that the Founder’s Memorial statue “should no longer be used as an iconic image of the university in its publicity.”