The Way I See It: Hanszen Celebrates its 55th with a new book and a grand celebration


The way I see it, the residential colleges are historically significant to the university and increasingly so. As the colleges get older, steeped in traditions and developing a larger alumni pool, they are becoming stronger entities on campus. Each one has left an indelible mark on the university and each impression grows more distinct as the years pass and history unfolds.

Coco Owens

Coco Owens

Hanszen College is 55 years old, and this year the college published a book about its development from master to master, highlighting the progress of the college through triumphs, tragedies and origin stories. It is the tale of its developing cultural identity.

The book began 20 years ago when a senior at Hanszen, Ross Goldberg, decided to collect significant stories from former masters and presidents of the college between 1957 and 1986. It was published as a chapter of a university journal titled Student Life at Rice University.

Fast-forward to last spring. Joyce Bald, the Hanszen College coordinator, handed me an old blue binder containing more than 100 pages of Ross’ original document, a faded, typewritten record few eyes had seen. That summer, I pored over the pages of Hanszen history in my tiny apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City as I worked for a small publishing company. It was then the idea struck me: Hanszen history had to be completed, published and celebrated! Everyone had to know about what I had just learned in these pages — students and parents, the administration, Rice historians, the whole campus. Once compiled and combined with the Goldberg piece, it had to be published and distributed; it had to be formally recorded in the spirit of all great civilizations who memorialized their history and are known today as a result. This is Hanszen’s effort to be remembered as fully as we can account for.

I spent the next semester in Dr. Boles’ “History of Rice” seminar, chronicling the remainder of Hanszen College history from 1986 through 2004. After months of conducting research, interviewing former masters and collecting additional stories from active alumni on Facebook, I am happy to say that the book is done, fresh off the press and ready for reading.

This week, Hanszenites celebrated our history and our 55th birthday with a dinner party. Guests included current students and associates, in addition to President Leebron, Dean Hutchinson and former Hanszen masters, resident associates and college presidents, including our first college president, Emil Tejml. Dr. Huston gave the keynote address, the Phils sang “Happy Birthday” and the sculptor of the Hanszen Guardian returned to unveil a new shield welded to the base of the newly cleaned metal relic. It was an evening to commemorate the past and present, to connect the endlessly woven strings of stories and people that have shaped the making of a community of students and scholars at a college named after Harry Clay Hanszen.

I hope every college works to understand their development since the beginning, to solidify the importance of their presence on campus, as a body that knows who it is, where it came from and where it would like to go.

Hanszenites may purchase the Hanszen History book for $10, parents and alumni for $15. All proceeds will go to the Hanszen Historical Fund to publish future editions of our history for every decade to come. And surely a slew of new characters and happenings will color the college in such a way that we deem it worthy to share, to commemorate, to memorialize, as we shall never again forget to record all the grand and interesting things that make us the college we are.

For more information, contact Joyce Bald at or Coco Owens at

— Coco Owens is president of Hanszen College and a senior majoring in English.

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