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Alumni re-explore Rice lore


Genesis Hahn / Thresher

By Jonah Sposito     4/11/23 10:56pm

From setting off fireworks in students’ rooms to painting the ceiling of Hanszen to massive food wars, anything can happen within the hedges at Rice. The Thresher compiled some of the best lore and unique stories from Rice over the years.

May the best man win

Many Rice students know about the steam tunnels, which are a network of passageways below Rice’s campus. In 1977, Phillip Walters (’76) used these tunnels to his advantage. Walters had a predicament: He didn’t know which of his closest friends should be his best man. To make his decision, he set up a series of trials in the steam tunnels. Full of pipes, debris and decades-old graffiti, the tunnels weave through Rice’s history. Many of the entrances are hidden behind locked doors, but Walters worked in the steam tunnels, which gave him official access. After opening the doors for his friends, the chase began.

“There were people in the tunnels, spotters,” Walters said. “We all operated under the basic premise that it’s easier to get forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

Walters had his friends and future wife dispersed throughout the steam tunnels to give clues for a puzzle of his own design. It was a huge success and after fierce competition, one of Walters’ friends won the title. A search party was sent out to find the others.

After this event, Walters and his buddies went above ground to celebrate, but they didn’t just go to the nearest dorm room. They went to Rice’s Bell Tower.

The Bell Tower

Located next to the Rice Memorial Center chapel, the Bell Tower is an unfamiliar space to many Rice students. Chris Reed (’77), however, made the tower a home, according to the Fall 2011 issue of The Cornerstone, the Rice Historical Society’s newsletter at the time. 

During his time at Rice, Reed, who also started the steam tunnel challenge continued by Walters, served as student manager of the RMC. After a group of students attempted to break into the tower while Reed was working, he explored the space. 

The tower had not been cleaned after its construction, but Reed had a vision. Slowly, the space transformed: Reed brought in wall decorations, furniture, a working toilet and even a nine-foot-long chandelier. Although Reed never actually lived in the building, he did use it as a study space. Throughout his time at Rice, he made more additions, including air conditioning and a bed. 

The administration discovered the changes that Reed had made to the Bell Tower, but allowed it to remain until he graduated. Reed removed his personal belongings and the rest of the fixtures were relocated.

Save Duncan’s Butt

Baker 13 has its own storied history. To participate in the run, students strip down, cover themselves in shaving cream and leave their mark on windows around campus. The slippery nature of this activity can lead to some destruction of property, such as in 2011 when engineering student Duncan Eddy (’13) broke a Fondren Library window. 

“Baker 13 on Halloween is one of the few chances in your life where you can run naked with over 250 of your close friends,” Connor Hayes wrote in an op-ed to the Thresher on November 18, 2011. “All 250 of those who ran with me that night probably remember it not for the exciting time they had streaking across campus, but instead for the moment when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Or, in this case, the moment the butt hit the window.”

Eddy, in an effort to bestow some of his shaving cream upon one of the large windows, jumped backwards towards the window, shattering it and landing himself in the hospital with a wounded rear end. The cost to repair it, according to Rice, was $15,000. To pay for his crime, Eddy collected donations and began selling t-shirts commemorating the incident, which fittingly said “Save Duncan’s Butt.”

Rice rotation

According to the April 15, 1988 issue of the Thresher, the William Marsh Rice statue in the Academic Quad has turned its back on Sallyport only once in its existence. On April 12 of that year, a group of 11 students had managed to turn Willy 180 degrees to face Fondren library. 

Having spent weeks preparing, they brought their equipment into the Academic Quad under cover of night, using walkie talkies and disguised with code names from the X-Men comic books. They used their engineering expertise to lift the statue several inches off the ground, then rotated it. The turning of the Willy statue made local news and is still considered one of the most elaborate and iconic pranks to take place at Rice. 

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