Centennial Story Project collects the personal memories of Rice alumni, students, faculty and staff

Rice News staff

The public story of Rice has been told many times: An ill-fated founder, a young president who toured the world and a hundred-year sweep of expansion and exploration, groundbreaking research and award-winning discovery.

But there are thousands of private stories – the personal memories held by generations of alumni, students, faculty, staff and everyone else who has walked the oak-shaded campus sidewalks.

As part of the Rice Centennial Celebration, the university is collecting those memories to build a permanent digital archive. The Centennial Story Project urges students, staff, faculty, alumni – anyone with a connection to Rice – to record a one- to three-minute video that offers a personal story or a favorite anecdote.

Already, the project has collected a number of videos:

  • Political science professor Gilbert Cuthbertson, known as ‘Doc C’ to generations of his students, recalled the time a few students built a foil-covered craft and attached it to a weather balloon. The object floated beyond the campus and hovered over Houston’s Southwest Freeway, where it created traffic gridlock and generated media reports of a flying saucer.
  • Teveia Barnes ’75 recalled her favorite professor, Paul Pfeiffer, who gave her help and returned her self-confidence after she bombed an exam. ‘He took every student seriously,’ Barnes said, ‘and, at least for me, was like my guardian angel.’
  • Bryan Guido Hassin ’01 talked about falling in love at Rice – with the campus, with computer science and then with his future wife. ‘My story of Rice,’ he said, ‘is a love story.’

The videos are ‘different from the way Rice usually talks about itself,’ said Jeremy Miller, the university’s director of development communications.

‘We’re good at sharing the institution’s iconic moments,’ he said, but the individual memories of classes and friendships, pranks and professors can disappear in that larger narrative.

The Centennial Story Project will set up recording booths at Rice events throughout the year; look for the first ones on Rice Day, Oct. 12, and at Rice Homecoming, Nov. 4-6. You don’t even have to leave your house to participate, though: If you have a camera and a computer, you can submit your videos online.

‘Anyone can do this,’ Miller said. No fancy equipment is necessary; a webcam or a smartphone video camera will do.

The project’s best videos, he said, might start with a prompt: “I was there when …” or “My favorite professor was …” or “One time at Beer Bike …”

‘It doesn’t have to be polished,’ Miller said. ‘We’re just trying to get people telling short and sweet stories about Rice.’

Not interested in video? The Centennial Story Project website features two more ways to contribute:

  • Flash Your Owl Sign‘ is a photo archive: Use an online form to submit a photo of yourself – thumbs interlocked, fingers spread wide – in any setting you choose. So far, the archive features photos taken at football games, all over the Rice campus, even in Rome.
  • And ‘100 Reasons to Celebrate Rice‘ invites users to explain (in 500 characters or less) why the university, in its 100th year, is worth celebrating. The best 100 reasons will be selected from the archive of submissions.

The Centennial Story Project is ‘a way of engaging people out in the world,’ said Kathleen Boyd, director of the Rice Centennial Celebration. After all, everyone can contribute to this project – from anywhere, at any time. Alumni, who are scattered over almost every continent, can contribute to the Centennial Celebration even if they can’t return to campus.

The entire project – collections of videos, photos and written submissions – will be moved to a permanent archive when the Centennial Celebration is over. And all those personal stories and private memories will become part of a larger story – a shared history of Rice’s first 100 years, told by those who know it best.

Find the growing Centennial Story Project collection – and contribute your own photos, videos or ‘Reasons to Celebrate Rice’ – at http://centennial.rice.edu/stories.

About Rice News Staff

The Rice News is produced weekly by the Office of Public Affairs at Rice University.