Scope and Contents
Invitations, programs, correspondence, testimonials and general information related to the inauguration of Rice University's second president, William Vermillion Houston, on April 10, 1947. This material was created and maintained by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Permission to publish material from Presidential Inaugural Committee Records: President William Vermillion Houston must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Biographical / Historical
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is charged with the overall planning of the presidential inauguration and the events surrounding it. Twenty-seven college presidents and dignitaries from foreign institutions were in attendance. Karl T. Compton, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delivered the principal address, "Dynamic Education". Harry C. Wiess, Vice chairman of the Rice Board of Trustees, inducted Houston into the Office of President. Lee A. DuBridge, president of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), spoke at a luncheon in the Commons. At a dinner honoring the new president and his wife, addresses were given by Carl M. Knapp, president of the Association of Rice Alumni and by Houston industrialist Jesse H. Jones. Dr. Dixton Wecter, chairman of the Research Group at the Huntington Library, presented a paper.
A precedent for future inaugurations was set when Dr. Houston placed on the steps of William Marsh Rice's statue a wreath honoring the founder of the university.
William Vermillion Houston was born in Mount Giliad, Ohio, on January 19, 1900. He received B.A. and B.S. degrees from Ohio State University in 1920. In 1922, he received an M.S. degree from the University of Chicago, and in 1925, his Ph.D. from Ohio State University.
Houston was a National Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology, and taught there until he became president of what was then Rice Institute, later Rice University, in 1946. Houston studied in Germany on a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927, assisting Warner Heisenberg and others in the development of quantum theory.
The U.S. Navy awarded Houston its Medal of Merit for directing development of the first homing torpedo and for supervising scientific studies which helped improve U.S. weapon effectiveness in the area of undersea warfare. Because of his genuine modesty, Houston never wore his Medal of Merit ribbon.
Houston made pioneering efforts in the fields of atomic spectroscopy and solid state theory. He was the author of two books: "Principles of Mathematical Physics" (1934) and "Principles of Quantum Mechanics" (1951), as well as of numerous scientific articles. After having been a fellow of the American Physical Society for many years, he was elected its president in 1962. He also served on the Society council.
Houston was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, serving on its council and on several important committees. He was also a member of the American Philosophical Society and several other scientific and educational associations. He served on the National Science Board and as a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
When Houston arrived at Rice in 1946, he greatly expanded graduate study and research. He also initiated a five-year engineering program with greater emphasis on the humanities than had previously existed, and implemented the planned residential college system.
Houston died after a brief illness, in Edinburgh, Scotland on August 22, 1968, while attending the 111th International Conference on Low-tempurature Physics at St. Andrew's University.