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Charter and endowment, 1891

Charter of the William M. Rice Institute (handwritten copy version)

Charter of the William M. Rice Institute (1891 handwritten copy version)

The institute was initially endowed with a promissory note for $200,000 to be paid upon Rice's death. Rice revised his will on September 26, 1896 and left the bulk of his estate to his namesake institute, totaling $4,631,259.08. In today's dollars, that would be an endowment of around $120,000,000.

In article two of the charter:

(t)he objects, intents, and purposes of this Institution are declared to be the establishment and maintenance, in the City of Houston, Texas, of a Public Library, and the maintenance of an Institution for the Advancement of Literature, Science, Art, Philosophy and Letters; the establishment and maintenance of a Polytechnic school; for procuring and maintaining scientific collections; collections of chemical and philosophical apparatus, mechanical and artistic models, drawings, pictures and statues; and for cultivating other means of instruction ...

The 1891 charter laid out some details, but not all, of what would become the Rice Institute. It did make clear the founder's intentions that the school be located in Houston, be tuition free, non-sectarian, non-political, open to men and women, and only open to whites.

Charter of the William M. Rice Institute (printed version)

Charter of the William M. Rice Institute (1891 printed version)

Many years later, this 1891 charter would be challenged in court. The trustees of the Rice Institute petitioned the courts in February 1963 to change the charter to enable the admission of students of color and to charge tuition. The Rice Board of Trustees was unanimous in supporting this suit, claiming that such actions were necessary in order to carry out William Marsh Rice's primary intent to establish an educational institution of the first class. Rice President Kenneth Pitzer was also in full support of this initiative. Rice was unable to compete for grant funding because it did not charge tuition to students, and was under increasing pressure by the civil rights movement to officially admit students based on merit and without regard to race.  In 1964, the courts approved this change to the charter.