Feb. 18 forum will commemorate 50 years of black undergraduate life at Rice

A Feb. 18 forum featuring an alumni panel discussion of Rice in the 1960s and 1970s when the campus and Houston desegregated will help kick off a yearlong series of events celebrating 50 years of black undergraduate life at Rice University.

"50 years of black undergraduate life" printed over black-and-white phots of five black alumniTitled “Reflections of the Past, Promises for the Future,” the forum will provide a historical account of Rice’s desegregation and firsthand perspectives on the early years of this transition.

Rice University and the Association of Rice University Black Alumni (ARUBA) welcome the Rice community, alumni and the general public to attend the event, which will start with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in McNair Hall’s Executive Commons, followed by the program from 6:30 to 8:30 in Shell Auditorium.

President David Leebron will present opening remarks. Centennial historian Melissa Kean ’96 and Allen Matusow, the William Gaines Twyman Professor Emeritus of History, will discuss the administrative and legal process of desegregating Rice within its historical context. The original charter of the Rice Institute allowed only white students to attend. In 1963 a unanimous Rice Board of Governors filed a lawsuit to allow the school to modify its charter to admit students of all races. Two alumni sued to keep the original charter intact, but in 1966 a state appellate court upheld the modification of Rice’s charter.

A panel of four alumni who graduated in the ’70s will reminisce about Rice during that transitional period: Ronald Arceneaux ’74, Charles Szalkowski ’70, Regina Tippens ’74 and Jan West ’73. Harris County Commissioner Gene Locke will moderate the panel discussion.

The deadline to register online for the free forum is 8 a.m. Feb. 16. Visit here.

The yearlong series of events commemorating 50 years of black undergraduate life at Rice began with the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil and Celebration hosted by the Black Student Association (BSA).

Other activities planned for the year include:

* A special exhibit currently on display at the Rice Memorial Center chronicles black history at Rice. It features material from Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center and will be available through May 14.

* “A Soldier’s Story,” a re-enactment of the life and times of the Buffalo soldiers featuring Trooper Wayne DeHart, will be presented at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 in Farnsworth Pavilion in Rice Memorial Center.

* Poet Tracy K. Smith will do a reading on campus Feb. 29. This event will be presented in association with Public Affairs’ Multicultural Community Relations and the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance.

* A performance of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 11-12 and 2 p.m. March 13 in Sewall Hall, Room 301. This student-led production is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

* The BSA’s annual Soul Night cultural extravaganza will be held March 26.

* A reunion and celebration of black student-athlete alumni will be co-hosted April 1-3 by ARUBA and Rice Athletics.

* ARUBA will host a celebration of new alumni May 12 prior to commencement weekend.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.