The founding of Rice University reads like an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
Massachusetts-born William Marsh Rice moved to Texas in 1838 to pursue his business ambitions, and became a wealthy man. As he grew old, he drew up a will bequeathing an institute of higher learning as a gift to the city of Houston, where he made his fortune. The terms of the will required that work on the new institute would begin only after Rice’s death.
On September 23, 1900, Rice was murdered by his valet, Charlie Jones, who had conspired with an unscrupulous lawyer, Albert Patrick, to kill the aging millionaire and claim his estate using a forged will. When an autopsy revealed evidence of poisoning, Jones provided state’s evidence in return for immunity from prosecution. Patrick was convicted of murder and sent to Sing Sing.
After the trial, Rice’s attorney set about fulfilling the dead man’s wishes. The school opened on September 23, 1912, the anniversary of Rice’s murder.
Since that date William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University, has grown into a preeminent research university. The university has a very high level of research activity for its size, with $95.9 million in sponsored research funding in 2010. It was ranked first in the world in materials science research by the Times Higher Education in 2010.
Located on a heavily wooded 295-acre campus, the university offers undergraduates a 5:1 student-faculty ratio, the lowest among top American universities.
Notable names who attended Rice are Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City; and Howard Hughes, eccentric philanthropist and aviator.