Academic Career at Rice Institute
As supervising architect during the building of the Rice Institute, Watkin worked closely with Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett, president of the Rice Institute. As a result of this professional relationship, Lovett offered Watkin a faculty appointment and the Institute opened in the fall of 1912 with Watkin as the only instructor in architectural engineering. In 1914 the architecture faculty expanded to two, and to three in 1915.
In the summer of 1916 Watkin was made an assistant professor and in 1922 he became a full professor. Watkin was also the first chairman of the Architecture Department. Rice awarded the first professional degrees in architecture in 1917.
Watkin's efforts to provide his students with a thorough course in architectural studies led him to organize a traveling fellowship in 1928, which is now known as the William Ward Watkin Traveling Fellowship. His assignments also inspired the theme of the first Archi-Arts Ball, sponsored by the Architectural Society of the Rice Institute.
Watkin's academic duties were not restricted to the Architecture department. He was also Curator of Grounds, Chairman of the Faculty Committee on Buildings and Grounds, and Chairman of the Faculty Committee on Outdoor Sports, a position which resulted in his serving a term as president of the Southwest Conference in 1920. At the time of his sabbatical in the 1928-1929 academic year, Watkin resigned the athletic committee post. He remained, however, head of Buildings and Grounds, as his resignation of this post was not accepted by Dr. Lovett. During World War II, Watkin chaired the Committee on Air Raid Protection and Civilian Defense.