This is a tweak and reprint of a book published previously, and is being redone for the centennial of Rice University, which took in its first students in the then outer suburbs of Houston, Texas in 1912. I was honored to re-index this book for the new edition. What a fascinating story! I mean, this guy was incredible! Self-made man, mostly, although his father did set the tone by building a local business presence in his hometown in Connecticut. Rice ended up going to seek his fortune in pre-Civil War Houston, Texas, and he certainly found it. A very private fellow, actually, who didn’t talk or write much about people, but kept his mind on the methodical accumulation of wealth in a most conservative and sensible fashion. I think he’d be a quiet man in company, but although an introvert, he was, until close to the end of his life, a good judge of character, at least of men, and had excellent fellows around him to help him build his wealth.
He had gotten the idea from his father’s dedication to local education in Connecticut in the early 19th century, as well as progressives’ inspiration to educate without recourse to wealth later on, to lend his wealth to the establishment of an institute of higher education in the new and bustling city of Houston. This institute, he said, would not charge any tuition for attendance, and so it remained for many, many years thereafter. Bless him, he was a philanthropist of the first order.
The irony is that he was murdered for his money at the ripe old age of 84 in New York City in 1900. And at that point, the endowment for the Rice Institute was almost lost in a will swindle. Very dramatic. All over the papers. He’d been living in New York for many years, with lieutenants managing things in Houston. His hypochondria made him vulnerable to exploitation by the unscrupulous, and a couple of guys, one a lawyer, tried to figure a way to get hold of his money by forging a will. They got in a hurry when the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 looked to damage some of his property, and killed him. They were found out and went through a very publicized trial and were convicted. Bless poor Rice’s heart that he had to die that way, but his wealth was preserved, and Rice Institute (now Rice University) was established a 100 years ago this fall.
Quite a tale, and well worth reading in this reprint. Check it out here.