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applied to the War Department for a unit of Reserve Officers Training
Corps, U.S. Army. There were regular stories on the growing number
of students entering, or applying for, the armed forces. Cadet uniforms
were ordered from the Quartermaster Corps, with a handmade version
available downtown at Shotwell's for $16.50.

Congress had voted to go to war only hours before a regular edition
of the Thresher was due on campus. The staff responded with a
well-written editorial entitled "The Nation Is At War." It began:

"Early this morning. Congress declared war on the German
Empire. In spite of our great desire for peace [and] great patience
under numberless wrongs inflicted ... we can no longer
remain idle .... There is no peace, there can be no peace,
while Prussian militarism exists in the world .... [It is]
autocracy versus democracy, a war to the death.

"What will Rice students be called upon to do? [It is] too
early, but very likely that Congress will pass a selective con-
scription law. This is certainly to be hoped for. Let the classes
of service be outlined by law and men be selected for each. If it
is a man's duty to be in the front rank, let him do this. If [his
duty and better opportunity to serve is] at home, let him serve
here. And very often, the latter requirement will be harder than
the first."

The "selective conscription law" would not be long delayed. It was
passed by Congress, viva voce, before the end of April. The Thresher
had correctly predicted "that the men of Rice, yea, and the women
too, will do their full duty .... No one who knows them dares to
question [this] ..."

Almost fifty male students were already en route to Leon Springs,
Texas, a U.S. Army reserve training center near San Antonio. The
Rice administration had ruled that anyone joining the armed forces
with a passing grade in a course would be given full credit.
Remaining classes, laboratory work, term papers, and final exami-
nations were waived. In addition to those at Leon Springs, the rest of

148 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

the men in the graduating class of 1917 soon showed up en masse at
the downtown recruiting center, and many more were sent to join the
burgeoning Rice Institute contingent at Leon Springs.

Then, on May 12, 1917, the application for an ROTC unit on
campus was approved by the War Department. Special Order 110
also detailed Major Joseph Frazier, USA (retired), to report to
President Lovett immediately as professor of military science and
tactics. The major, a veteran of such historic campaigns as the
Philippine revolt against Spain and the Boxer Rebellion in China, lost
little time in taking up his duties. Dr. Lovett introduced him to the
male student body in the Physics Amphitheater on May 25, less than
a week after Special Order 110. His audience, almost entirely
undergraduates, was told to report to the athletic field three days later
"for military instruction."

The Rice campus responded more and more to the reality of war.
From the status only weeks before of a private educational institution,
the university became, to a considerable extent, a military installa-
tion. All of the seniors had departed, with a number of undergraduate
students. The male members remaining now drilled twice a day in
uniform, to marches raggedly performed by a cadet band. Women
also wore uniforms, but had fewer drills.

Students finally reacted, in predictable manner, to what many
thought the unnecessarily severe change on campus. They requested,
and were granted late in January 1918, a meeting with Chairman
James A. Baker, President Lovett, and the other trustees. At the
meeting, a spokesman explained that he and other student petitioners
understood the need for drastic change while the nation remained at
war. They acknowledged the need for some military training while
continuing their studies, but they wanted what had become "a
military regime" to revert to "the Rice of old, with an ROTC added
because of necessity."

The trustees, all reasonable men, listened carefully. They asked
questions, made some statements of their own, and agreed to respond
to the students. The response came two weeks later, after consulta-
tions with Frazier and long discussions within the governing board.
Some parents were also consulted.

Chapter Five 149

The students scored heavily on a number of their complaints:
Morning drill for the male cadets, as well as the hated 5 :30 a.m. reveille
and various calls to quarters, were abolished. There was to be no more
guard duty, or roll call during meals. Women students also won some
important points: Drill for them was replaced by mandatory physical
training sessions once a week, plus participation in Red Cross projects.
Their "highly unattractive" uniforms would be worn only for physical
training. Coeds, moreover, were to have a voice in deciding upon
suggested changes in the hated uniforms of heavy khaki.

The men also had to accept some new regulations: Carefully
maintained uniforms must be worn at all times to the reduced
number of drills. No overnight absences were allowed without
written permission. Monitors were to be posted to maintain better
order in the residence halls, where women were forbidden to enter
"without adequate chaperonage." Throwing food in the Commons
was strictly forbidden.

Special courses, including wireless telegraphy and the maintenance
of Army trucks, would be added to an already demanding wartime
curriculum. The changes, which included a decision by the trustees to
expedite the formation of a Student Association, were all beneficial.

Other problems, especially concerning the number of faculty on
leave in the armed forces or other government service, became more
and more significant. Watkin was confronted by a range of shortages
in attempting to keep buildings in good order and the grounds in
reasonable condition. Even such basics as student drawing instru-
ments were virtually unobtainable. He faced both the threat and the
reality of losing faculty members. What he did not realize was that he
was receiving valuable training for the far more extensive problems
that would arise years later during a much longer World War 11, at a
larger and more complex Rice Institute.

For a time, just before Armistice Day on November 18, 1918, it
appeared that Watkin might well be the only member of the architec-
ture faculty during the 1918-1919 academic year. Jack Tidden, in
Philadelphia for the summer, had sent President Lovett a telegram on
August 24, 1918. This announced, only two weeks before the
opening of the fall semester, that he had enlisted in the Army, and

150 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

requested a leave of absence from Rice. A letter explaining this
decision followed.

Dr. Lovett responded with a gracious letter commending Tidden for
his patriotism, and stating the belief that the leave of absence could be
arranged. This was soon confirmed, along with news that the Institute
would make up the difference between Tidden' s Army pay and his
salary at Rice. About the same time, it became necessary for President
Lovett to file a formal request for deferment for James H. Chillman,
who had a temporary summer job with the U.S. Food Administration
at Germantown, Pennsylvania. The basis for the petition was that
Chillman would be teaching enrollees of the Student Army Training
Corps unit at Rice, as one of the remaining members of a faculty
decimated by the departure of twenty-six men on various military or
government assignments. The request for deferment was granted.

With Chillman back on campus, he and Watkin were able to cover
the classes, studio work, and project assignments within the Depart-
ment of Architecture. Enrollment had dropped because of the war,
but it was still a formidable task to provide instruction ranging over
a five-year curriculum. Thus there was the relief when Jack Tidden
telegraphed on December 6, 1918, that he had been released by the
Army and would be resuming his teaching at Rice immediately after
the approaching Christmas holiday.

Professor Watkin's faculty problems in the Department of Archi-
tecture were not over, however. Just as the war ended in 1918 and
things seemed to be proceeding smoothly, with Jimmy Chillman
increasingly valuable and Tidden handling a heavy teaching and
extracurricular load, a new development arose: Chillman won a
coveted fellowship in architecture at the prestigious American Acad-
emy in Rome. He would not return to Rice Institute until late
December 1922.

Watkin had always taken a long-range view toward the development
of his department. James H. Chillman was not only a good friend.
His obvious professional abilities would be broadened by the new
fellowship abroad. Therefore, Watkin arranged that Chillman's job
would be waiting and that he would be promoted to assistant professor
upon his return. He would be brought back to Rice for what would
become a long and notable career.

Chapter Five 151

As a temporary replacement for the 1919-1920 academic year in
the Department of Architecture, Professor Watkin added a Houston
architect to the staff, Alvin C. Bieber. This appointment lasted for
only a year, however. Bieber was replaced by Charles L. Brown, a
recent graduate of Paris' elite Ecole des Beaux- Arts. Brown would
remain for many years on the architectural faculty at Rice as a great
asset to the department.

The early post-World War I years at Rice Institute, especially those
of 1919-1920 and 1920-1921, were a time of adjustment. Students
returning from the Great War were added to those they had left behind,
pushing enrollments considerably higher. In addition, some of the
twenty-six faculty members absent on active duty or in other wartime
service either did not return or were delayed getting back to the campus.

Julian Huxley, one of the most notable postwar faculty losses,
remained in England, where he had returned late in 1914 to volunteer
for the armed forces. He had been much impressed with the potential
of the Rice Institute, however, and retained his many friendships and
professional contacts there. The brilliant young scientist was soon a
full professor of zoology at the University of London's Kings
College, and well into a lifetime career in teaching, research, and
administration. Mr. Watkin was one of the Rice faculty who main-
tained his friendship with Huxley into the next decade.

Seven members of Rice's early senior faculty had exceptionally
notable assignments during World War I. Stockton Axson, the widely
acclaimed Shakespearian scholar from Princeton, served as national
secretary of the American Red Cross. He did not return to Rice until
1920, having been busy carrying out his duties connected with the
postwar organization of the International Red Cross in Geneva.

Harold A. Wilson, a former associate of three Nobel laureates in
physics at Cambridge University, had directed a team of several
hundred scientists for the U.S. Navy. He had been working in a secret
center on the vital problem of antisubmarine detection equipment. He
was personally credited with having developed an effective deep-
water listening device called the "Sea Tube." This deadly weapon
was used against the marauding German submarines that had sunk so
much of the English merchant marine fleet between 1915 and 1917.

152 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

Griffith Evans had been commissioned a captain in the U.S.
Army's Aviation Corps (the forerunner of today's separate Air
Corps). Utilizing his dual abilities as both mathematician and lin-
guist, Evans was sent to Rome, where he had studied a decade earlier.
Dr. Evans served as scientific attache to the U.S. Embassy and liaison
to the Italian Air Corps. He also conducted mathematical research of
use to Air Corps operations on the Western front.

Others of Watkin 's faculty friends in the Southmore area had also
covered interesting assignments in the war. Albert Leon Guerard had
been commissioned with other members of the Rice faculty at Leon
Springs. At this Army installation near San Antonio, reserve com-
missions were issued after three months of intensive training. Presi-
dent Lovett had gone there for a ceremony at the beginning of the war
to personally present diplomas to graduates of the Class of 1917 who
could not attend the campus commencement.

Dr. Guerard was transferred overseas almost immediately, and
attached to a liaison group working with high officials in the French
government. He was decorated for exemplary service, in the tradition
that had earlier won him the honor of being the first-ranking student
at the University of Paris.

Harry Boyer Weiser took temporary wartime leave to be commis-
sioned by the U.S. Army. He headed a key research group of sixty
men within the Chemical Warfare Corps. They had been assigned the
difficult task of discovering means of protecting Allied troops against
the wide and terrifying use of poison gas by the Germans. Captain
Weiser's performance in this unique and significant project advanced
his growing reputation among leading U.S. research chemists and at
the Rice Institute.

A. Llewelyn Hughes, physicist, known more often now by his first
name of Arthur, spent the war working on the same problem that Dr.
H.A. Wilson had studied so successfully for the U.S. Navy: the
detection of enemy submarines. He headed a unit of thirty men from
the British Navy whose studies were somewhat different. Stationed
off the coast of England, Hughes' command was active in highly
secret experimentation involving the use of detection equipment on
dirigibles and specially equipped ships of the Royal Navy.

Chapter Five 153

The multilingual Thomas Lindsey Blayney (the Rice Institute
professor of languages skilled in German and French) served his war
years with the famed "Blue Devils" division of the French regular
Army. He was decorated with the Croix de Guerre for this tour of duty.
Major Blayney also served as liaison officer to the British general staff
at Ypres, to a French division in the advance on Amiens, and to the
U.S. Army at Chateau-Thierry. It was there, on the River Marne north
and northeast of Paris, that combined French and American forces
stemmed the tide of German invasion and turned the initiative toward
Allied victory in November 1918. Professor Blayney then completed
his tour by serving with a post-war Allied mission to Germany.

Clearly, then, many of the senior teaching staff of the Rice Institute
had made substantial contributions to the war effort. But, in their own
way, so had President Lovett and the trustees, as well as Watkin and
his colleagues who remained on campus. They kept the institution
alive and under way during a trying time by covering other faculty
duties in addition to their own.

Maintaining faculty strength was a problem, extending on
through the 1920-1921 academic year. However, the opening of the
second post-war year in September 1921 signaled a welcome return
to normalcy.

Within the Department of Architecture, the curriculum had been
kept intact through June 1917. Three of the original students from
1912 had been awarded the bachelor of arts degree in 1916, as well
as the fifth-year bachelor of science degree in architecture a year
later. These three men were W.P. Clyce, Leonard Gabert, and Rollin
Montfort Rolfe. They, together with Francis T. Fendley, L.A.
Hodges, J.T. Rather, CM. Sanford, S.M. Sanford, T. Shirley
Simons, Lloyd Y. White, and L.J. Woodruff, had organized the Rice
Institute Architectural Society in the fall of 1916.

Fendley, the first president of the Society, and Rather would both
serve as members of the Rice Board of Governors a generation later.
They were both active in the Architectural Society's opening project.
The Society put on a play entitled "The Brain Trust," set in Panama.
It was presented March 22, 23, and 24 of 1917 in a room temporarily
renamed the Blue Drawing Room Theatre. This new center of the
dramatic arts was actually the drafting room for the Department of

154 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

Architecture, located at that time on the second floor of the Mechan-
ical Engineering Building.

Produced by two "supervising artists" (John Clark Tidden and
James H. Chillman, Jr.), the satirical "Brain Trust," a mixture of
comedy and drama, had a marked resemblance to a similar produc-
tion by architectural students at the University of Pennsylvania in
1908, in which Watkin had played a leading role. "Brain Trust" was
an important step in the growing sense of camaraderie within the
Department of Architecture. Chairman Watkin was quietly and
effectively encouraging the comradeship and good will he had known
as a student at Penn.

The Architectural Society was barely under way in 1916 before the
growing threat of war rendered it inactive. The minutes of the final
meeting of 1917 stated that many students in the architecture
department "threw down their T-squares and took up the sword."
However, with the returned Jack Tidden playing a central role and
with Watkin's strong support, the Society was reorganized in 1919.

The first post-war meeting of the architectural group was convened
on November 7, 1919. A constitution had been drafted by J.T. Rather,
who was elected president after the constitution was adopted and new
members sworn in. They agreed to support the programs of the
Society, together with its principles and objectives, with their right
hand resting upon a copy of Kidder's Ma^Ma/ of Construction. There
were regular meetings every other Monday evening, as post-war
programs and activities resumed slowly but steadily.

An important moment came on February 21, 1921, when Wil-
liam Ward Watkin introduced Ralph Adams Cram to a joint
meeting of the student group and the local chapter of the American
Institute of Architects [3]. At the meeting, Ralph Adams Cram
emphasized the traditions, opportunities, and potential rewards of
the architectural profession most eloquently. His lecture seemed to
stimulate a new level of activity for Rice's student Architectural
Society. That same year. Professor Albert Guerard followed Cram
with a lecture on the architecture of Paris. Soon thereafter, a record
class of initiates joined the Architectural Society, to be honored
with a dinner-dance. Then it was suggested that planning should

Chapter Five 155

begin for what would become an annual tradition of the Rice
Institute architects: the annual Archi-Arts Ball.

Both Watkin and Tidden had encouraged and hoped for a project
that would increase campuswide "interest in art and architecture."
Now the project was under way, as planning began for the first
Archi-Arts Ball. A costume ball was suggested and approved. A.
Stay ton Nunn was named chairman of the first Ball Committee.
Months of imaginative thinking, plans, and hard work would go into
a "Baile Espafiol," to be held February 3, 1922, at Autry House, the
new center for extracurricular activities at Rice. Students, faculty, and
alumni were busy for months on decorations, costumes, a program of
authentic Spanish music and dances, and the more prosaic but vital
matters of a band, food, and ticket sales.

The "Baile Espafior' was a huge success, and even made money for
the tiny Architectural Society. Of far more importance, it seemed to
have clearly achieved its objective of building campus as well as
city wide interest in art and architecture at Rice. At the same time, the
ball strengthened a sense of togetherness among students, their
teachers, and the small but growing band of architectural alumni. In
the next several years, the Archi-Arts Balls would draw increasing
attention and attendance with a variety of themes, including the motif
of the streets of Paris, Old New Orleans, the civilization of Mexico's
Aztec chieftains, and many more.


The lack of building projects at Rice between 1916 (completion of
the West Hall dormitory) and 1920 (the Field House) was of major
importance to William Ward Watkin. It signalled the end of almost a
decade of dedicated service as Ralph Adams Cram's personal repre-
sentative at the Rice Institute. There were to be other significant
associations with Cram, however, and the extension of a long
friendship that meant a great deal to both men.

Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson (Cram & Ferguson since 1914) closed
its Houston office in the Scanlan Building after almost ten years, on
November 15, 1919. This, plus the completion of a few final details
at West Hall in 1917, left Watkin free, for the first time, to

156 William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute

concentrate more upon his promising private practice. His own
practice had begun as early as 1915 with the completion of the Watkin
home at 5009 Caroline and a rectory for St. Mark's Episcopal Church
in Beaumont.

Watkin now also found more time to give his committee posts at
Rice. He had received an indirect commendation from Edgar Odell
Lovett in 1912 when Lovett appointed him as chairman of the
Committee of Buildings and Grounds.

The chairmanship also carried with it the title of Curator of
Grounds. He learned to value his related knowledge of landscaping.
As the number of campus buildings grew, care of the grounds also
grew in importance. The number and extent of trees, central to the
architects' original landscaping plan, began to grow almost geomet-
rically. Handsome plantings of rose bushes, cape jasmines, hedges,
and trees began to appear. The staff to maintain the grounds was
expanded, with accompanying budgets for plants as well as fertilizer,
tools, wages, and even feed for a team of mules.

In 1912 as has been noted, Lovett had also appointed Watkin to
head another post: the Committee on Outdoor Sports, with the added
title of faculty adviser on athletics. This job had expanded steadily
from the beginning. Even before World War I, there was great interest
at Rice in a program of intercollegiate athletics. A Field House and
improved playing fields for the major competitive sports were now
immediate priorities. Coaches had to be found, placed under contract,
and supervised. The Southwest Conference was being organized, at
which Watkin represented Rice during the complex negotiations.
Finding solutions to problems such as eligibility rules, team sched-
ules, contracts, and traveling arrangements suddenly emerged as part
of the duties of the busy chairman.

After a decade or so, Watkin began, in his own gentlemanly
manner, a campaign for relief from his responsibilities for the
buildings and grounds. He had been conscientious in carrying out his
manifold duties. However, in the busy 1920s he was finding conflicts
in the time available to him for administrative assignments, the
Department of Architecture, and his private practice. Watkin's quiet
campaign consisted of appropriate remarks in meetings, suggestions
in committee reports, telephone calls, and a few personal conferences

Chapter Five 157

with President Lovett. But all to no avail. Dr. Lovett would not
budge. Watkin was to continue as chairman of the Committee on
Buildings and Grounds.

Edgar Odell Lovett had indeed given him an indirect tribute, by
refusing to replace him for what was to become a record term of forty
years. Professor Watkin remained in full chairmanship of the com-
mittee, as he would for the remainder of his life.

The campus benefitted from Watkin' s attention. Apart from the
satisfaction of an aesthetically pleasing physical plant, the buildings
were enhanced in their settings amidst an increasingly appealing
background of trees, shrubbery, flowers, and lawns.

The growing beauty of the landscaping was largely attributable
from the beginning to the dedicated care of the Institute's master
gardener, Salvatore (Tony) Martino. Martino was a trained horticul-
turist, as well as a fine and colorful person. Watkin ("Mr. Wat" to
Martino) was Tony's supervisor for almost four decades. Towering
over the little Italian gardener by a good ten inches, Watkin soon
came to understand and to appreciate the gardener's many admirable
qualities. At the same time, Watkin learned that Martino's loyalty
could be balanced with stubbornness, his innate kindness with
quick-flaring temper and lasting vendettas (although never, of course,
against "Mr. Wat") [4].

Fortunately for the Rice Institute, Watkin, and Tony Martino
himself, the young Italian had first been employed as a gardener by
Captain James A. Baker. Baker and his family had a handsome home
and garden on most of a city block, at 2305 Helena, just west of Smith
and Louisiana Streets. Still far from downtown Houston in the early

Online LibraryPatrick James NicholsonWilliam Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute → online text (page 14 of 31)