WWI Begins, Rice Students and Faculty Called to Service
On April 2, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.
The effect of this declaration was immediately felt on campus as many students and faculty members volunteered for military service. Out of the 44 seniors scheduled to graduate with the Class of 1917, 18 had already arrived at the officers’ training camp in Leon Springs, Texas. The graduating seniors who arrived at Camp Funston prior to commencement received their degrees from President Edgar O. Lovett during a special ceremony held at the training camp.
In an article from The Thresher, published May 4, 1917, it is noted that among the upperclassmen that had left for officers' training in Leon Springs were the student body president, president of the student honor council, editor-in-chief and business manager of the Campanile, and the athletic editor and managing editor of The Thresher, as well as the following year's business manager and editor-in-chief of the Campanile. Officers from the Engineering Society were also gone by this time, and many board members of Literary Societies and The Thresher had left campus as well.
Rice student's scrapbook provides personal anecdotes of his time abroad.
Electrical engineering student James S. Waters was one of the 18 students who attended officer training camp in Leon Springs in 1917. According to the scrapbook kept by Waters’s wife, Pauline, he joined the first officers’ training camp at Leon Springs on May 7, 1917. By June 1917, thirty-five Rice students had been admitted to the officer training camp.
In 1918, Waters trained at Camp Travis as part of the 90th Division and joined other service recruits in offensives in St. Mihiel and Argonne that summer, which earned him three combat stars and rank as First Lieutenant.
Waters returned to Rice in the spring of 1919 as an instructor and became chairman of the electrical engineering department in 1927. He remained a member of the Rice University faculty for 45 years.
Twenty-five faculty members served in World War 1.
Dr. Thomas Lindsey Blayney was one such member. Dr. Blayney was the Rice Institute's first professor of German and was present on the Institute's very first day of classes in 1912. He met Edgar O. Lovett in the late 1890s while both were graduate students in Germany.
Soon after war was declared by the US, Dr. Blayney was one of the first faculty members to enlist. He attended the first officers' training camp at Leon Springs and secured a Major's commission, serving alongside General John J. Pershing's staff. Among his many accomplishments while in service, Dr. Blayney received two French Croix de Guerre, war crosses for conduct on front line duty.
Dr. Blayney remained a Rice faculty member until 1924 when he accepted an appointment as the president of the Texas State Women's College.