The Life and Times of Michael C. McGoodwin
College Years 1961 – 1965

To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. 
And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States.
(George W. Bush)



Mike with Becky at Rondelet Pageant May 2, 1964
Mike and Becky at Rondelet Pageant
May 2, 1964


Topics Discussed On This Page

Freshman Year in College at Rice University 1961 – 1962

In September 1961, I began my freshman year at Rice University in Houston, Texas, majoring in Physics in the Science and Engineering curriculum.  Rice was an easy choice for me because it was reputed to be strong in science, it was highly affordable, Houston was only 200 miles from my home in San Antonio, and I already had connections with Houston.  

Houston:  Houston is a huge sprawling city situated on the Gulf Coast plain, in 2010 the fourth largest city in the U.S. by population (the greater metro area being the sixth largest in 2010).  Houston has never had zoning, and has uncontrollably sprawled in all directions, into the woods to the north and east and the marshy grasslands to the south.  Houston and its environs include some nice sights: the nearby Hermann Park; the Museum of Fine Arts; a variety of excellent performing arts, movies, attractive wealthy neighborhoods such as River Oaks with nice landscaping and flowers celebrated during the annual Azalea Trail garden tours; the NASA Space Center; the Galveston beaches; etc.  But in general, Houston did not offer the types of seductive outdoor distractions that make it harder for students to focus on their studies, such as may be found for example around Seattle, Boulder, and Bozeman.  I have always though it was a good city to be a serious student in, just as many businessmen and others out to succeed or to make their fortunes have found Houston to be a great place in which to do business in (especially in oil, gas, and medicine).  There is an openness and receptivity in the inhabitants of Houston, a kind of earnest Texas Hospitality, that can be very appealing.

Rice University Campus and History:  Rice's endowment, established by businessman William Marsh Rice, made it possible for there to be no tuition fees, and every student was effectively on scholarship.  I don't recall any particular difficulty getting in and certainly did nothing to prepare for the admission process—my SAT and achievement test scores were good enough (they included an 800 in math achievement), the interviewer was impressed with how much I read, and they liked my science and math orientation.

Rice was an elitist institution with some enlightened traditions, including the Honor System adopted by the student body in 1916 (and to which we were pledged), and the Residential College system.  It aspired to be the "Harvard of the South", clearly viewing itself as competing with the Ivy League in the academic universe.  It tried to earn that standing by making its academic curricula rigorous and exhaustive in scope, to assure that its high caliber students would be well educated.  (In those days, classes were held six days a week including on Saturday mornings, and it was not uncommon to have a mid-term exam on a Saturday morning, so the more recent practice of college students transforming long weekends into mini-vacations was not readily accomplished back then.)   When I attended Rice, it attracted top students not just from Texas but also from throughout the US.  The Rice Institute had opened in 1912 with a student body of 77 (48 men, 29 women), 75 of whom came from Texas.  Its full name was the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Letters, Science, and Art.  (See note 7 for finding details about Rice during this period.)

Rice in the early 1960s was still a lily-white campus.  The original terms of the charter (dating to c. 1891 and its great patron William Marsh Rice) specified that Rice would offer free tuition for "white inhabitants of Houston, and the state of Texas".   When I was admitted in 1961, the restrictions of the charter had never been fully adhered to, so that occasional exceptions had been made for the racial restriction (though not yet for blacks).  But Rice was slow even among southern colleges and universities to fully integrate, as a result of its restrictive charter and the free tuition tied to it.  In early 1963 (during my sophomore year), the Rice trustees with the support of Rice President Kenneth Pitzer entered into court actions to revise the charter to allow admission to students of color.  They won their initial case in 1964, won on appeal against two opposing alumni in 1964 and 1965, and won a final appeal carried to the Texas Supreme Court against the same alumni in 1967 (after I had graduated).  The first black student admitted to Rice was a math graduate student in 1963, and the first black undergraduates were admitted in 1965.  In 1960, Rice's name was formally changed to William Marsh Rice University, and tuition was first charged for incoming freshmen beginning in 1965.  There are no dark-skinned student faces in my school annuals through the year of my graduation, 1965.  One of the campus traditions was the annual Hanszen College Minstrel.  This blackface event persisted on campus as late as 1964, possibly even 1965.  Thus, a general recognition of demeaning racial stereotyping arose only slowly on the Rice campus (and in American society in general) during that era.  I see however that the noted civil rights leader Roy Wilkins appeared as an honored speaker in 1965.  Rice is now fully integrated: the Rice profile in fall 2010 of undergraduates reported that 53% were male and 48% were white, while 8% were identified specifically as African-American.

To my eyes, the Rice campus was lovely, with attractive Mediterranean-style buildings (including the Campanile or bell tower), attractive plantings and oak trees, plus, at least on parts of the campus, a lot of open space (especially to the east and northeast of Lovett Hall, to the west of the student center, and in the region surrounding Cohen House).  The campus was flat in contour (like the rest of Houston) but pleasing to the eye, an oasis within bustling Houston that was conducive to intellectual contemplation and academic pursuits.  (The grounds were tended by workers who were affectionately termed "gnomes", pronounced guh-NO-mees, as they were jokingly thought to live in the tunnels that crisscrossed beneath the campus.)

Freshman Curriculum and Courses 1961 – 1962

My freshman courses included Chemistry, English, American History, Math, Physics, and Physical Education.  As in high school, I did not place a great emphasis on achieving high grades in college, but I'll mention specific grades that I made in college because they help to tell the story of the academic struggle I had while at Rice.  I have translated my grades from the quirky Rice system in which 1 more-or-less equaled A, 5 equaled F, etc.  Rice just wanted to seem different by adopting this system of grading, but also was trying to indicate that a 3 was not really equivalent to a more easily earned C at other universities.  

Chemistry:  The Chemistry 120 course, "General Inorganic Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis", taught by Drs. Ronald L. Sass and Thomas E. Brackett, was challenging but not excessively difficult, other than perhaps the hard-to-visualize world of quantum orbitals.  I enjoyed the well-organized labs where we did meaningful demonstrations of various chemical phenomena, crystallization and purification, etc.  In those days, the large chemistry lecture hall, like many other buildings on campus, was not air-conditioned, and I recall times when students in the upper tiers would pass out from the heat.  I earned B's in this course.

English:  Dr. John E. Parish's English 100 course, "Introduction to Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing", was also hard but quite interesting and enjoyable, and I earned B's.  (I also had him in my second year for  "Modern and Ancient Narrative in Prose, Verse, and Drama".)  We read a number of novels, plays, and poetry that year (or the next) including Salinger's 1951 Catcher in the Rye, Golding's 1959 Lord of the Flies, Orwell's Animal Farm, Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, Huxley's Brave New World, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, part of Don Quixote, James's Turn of the Screw, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and many other thought-provoking works by white males.  Dr. Parish introduced us to a concept that might sound hopelessly out of date and elitist these days, but which I believe was well-intentioned and which helped to awaken my rather dormant social conscience.  He taught the concept of "noblesse oblige" (from French, meaning "nobility obligates", the belief that the wealthy and privileged in society are obliged to help those less fortunate).  We were ostensibly destined to be the future intellectual elite of society, and as such we had an obligation to apply our minds and energies for the betterment of mankind and the underlings whom we would presumably have dominance over.  (Of course, those of my freshman class who did not flunk out and who did indeed rise to the top would eventually form a type of nobility much different from the old and decadent European aristocracies from which the term arose, more like a meritocracy or technocracy.)  He was an influential teacher in my life and though demanding academically, he represented a warm and humanistic voice in an otherwise rather extreme freshman curriculum.  I regret that I had not learned to type even by then, and still handed in hand-written papers.  

History:  Dr. William H. Masterson (1914 – 1983) taught the year-long mandatory History 110 course, American History, which was a brutal experience for me.  (The only alternative to his course was a probably equally difficult European history survey course, History 100, taught by Dr. Floyd Lear.)  I had never had such a difficult course in history before, so unlike what I experienced in high school, and I was completely unprepared for the task.  There were probably 300 students in the class attending the main lecture, and we also broke into tutorials guided by associate history professors (not as I recall, by teaching assistants—my tutorial was led by the brilliant Dr. Louis P. Galambos).  Like some of the other professors at Rice in that era, Masterson was autocratic in his manner, seemed to take great delight in exercising his absolute power over us, and had the doors to the classroom locked at the precisely designated starting time for the class.  He liked to start out the year saying (as would a military boot camp drill sergeant) something like this:  "Look to the right of you, look to the left of you.  One of you will not last out this course, or graduate from Rice."  He prefaced at least one major test by saying, "For this test, you will need to study your lecture notes, the textbook and the other assigned reading, and the Book of Common Prayer".  The man was undoubtedly brilliant, but the course rigor would have been far more suitable at a more advanced level for students actually majoring in history.  In the following year, Becky's freshman History 110 class read the 2,000 page two volume text, Morison and Commager's The Growth of the American Republic, 1962 Fifth Edition, and I imagine I used the same work in an earlier edition or another textbook of equivalent throw weight.  We also read numerous primary and supplemental sources, including the writings of the always entertaining Cotton Mather (probably in Waller's Puritanism in Early America), Alexis de Tocqueville's classic Democracy in America, a work by or about Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier thesis", Frederick Lewis Allen's Only Yesterday, possibly Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, and many other noteworthy works.  Even in retrospect, this course was inappropriate for entering freshmen struggling to get their feet on the ground with the whole new experience of being in college, away from home possibly for the first time, and facing a diverse set of highly challenging courses and situations.  In recent decades we have seen the rise of student feedback and evaluations of teachers and professors which influence and moderate their behavior, along with the "Question authority" mandate arising in the mid-1960s, and the general diminution of the absolute powers of professors.  Such humane checks and balances of professorial excesses were entirely absent when I attended college (note 4c).  I made a D the first semester, and was lucky to survive this course with a C- for the year. 

Math:  As I already knew a fair amount of first year calculus, I did well at and enjoyed Dr. H. Arlen Brown's Math 100 course—deceptively named (in the understated manner for which mathematicians are noted) "Elementary Analysis".  I recall in the large class of 300 or so students a moment of pride when Professor Brown, famous for his daringly bold blue jeans jacket, handed back the first major test and asked out loud, "who is this McGoodwin fellow"—I had made the only perfect score.  Alas, that was one of my few genuine academic triumphs at Rice, and it caused a strain in my relationship with my highly competitive roommate, who had not done as well.  We used the text Thomas's Calculus and Analytic Geometry, and  I earned an A for the year.

Physics:  The Physics 100 course, "Mechanics, Heat, Light and Sound"—taught by Drs. Jack R. Risser and Andrew B. Bryan for the first semester and Ben Josephson, Jr. for second semester—and the associated labs were reasonably manageable, and I made an A for the year.  Our main textbook that year was probably Resnick and Halliday's 1960 Physics for Students of Science and Engineering.

Physical Education:  The physical education course proved to be unexpectedly enjoyable to me.  It was the first PE I had experienced since junior high school, and was aimed at improving physical fitness and other personal skills in all of the students, not just in the star athletes—thus it could benefit me for a change.  Among other skills, I learned fencing, one of the few one-on-one fighting sports I ever did in which I learned to show some degree of physical aggressiveness.  I was glad to become more physically active during this year and with this course—unfortunately it lasted only one year.

Rigors of the Curriculum:  Taken as a whole, my freshman year of 36 semester-hours was brutally difficult and demanding, especially American history and the hard sciences, and I saw many of my fellow science and engineering majors around me begin to drop out of college or change majors to the humanities (including two of my suitemates).  It became apparent to me that despite all that I had learned in high school, I was not really well prepared academically for such a rigorous college curriculum, nor did I quickly acquire the study habits needed to knuckle down and get the job done well and efficiently.  My college days preceded the era of grade inflation—a "gentleman's C" at Rice was often unavoidable and considered acceptable to my fellow students.  (Fortunately, this accepting attitude was apparently shared by the admissions committee of Baylor Medical School when considering my erratic college grades.)  Although I could coast in math initially, soon enough we moved into topics I had not already studied and mastered.  I recall that I harbored on entry to Rice the idea that I would eventually do research in nuclear physics or some other branch of physics—however, the extraordinary difficulty of the curriculum soon gave me serious doubts, certainly by my junior year.

Social and Intellectual Scene 1961 – 1962

I was grateful that Rice did not have fraternities or sororities—assignment to one of the four men's residential colleges on campus was randomly done, so that no one felt blackballed and there was no hazing.  I was assigned to Hanszen College, the "Gentlemen's College", for which the Master was none other than Prof. William H. Masterson.  The atmosphere was indeed collegial, and I admired greatly some of the better older students such as Dave Tilson, Griffin Smith, Bob Clark, Brooke Hamilton, and Jerry Hanson, most of whom lived overhead or nearby (when I was in Hanszen's Suite 129) and showed some interest and kindness toward us freshman.  I can recall several stimulating discussions with the more humanities-oriented of this group, and with other students on campus, as to what constituted authentically intellectual content.  Did an intellectual have to be a philosopher, ethicist, classicist, political scientist, or other thinker or truth seeker as traditionally construed, or could he/she be from the burgeoning realm of modern science and even technology?  Were thoughtful scientists Thinkers?  Was not particle physics and cosmology the logical offspring of the natural sciences formerly pursued by philosophers?  If scientists were not intellectuals, the thinkers in the humanities were positioned higher on the hierarchical order of human existence (or so they seemed to suggest).  This was a time when C. P. Snow's 1959 The Two Cultures was helping to point out this false and ultimately counterproductive dichotomy, one which E. O. Wilson further explores in his 1998 Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (which I have not yet read).  I remember making the somewhat facetious argument that the world was really divided into a dichotomy of matter and energy, not into science versus the more putatively intellectual humanities.  (In fact, I've been amused over the years to think that persons tend to be divided into two types, those that are basically dichotomists and like to see things divided into two types, and those that see things in more complex terms and find dichotomies generally too simplistic).  It was all great but serious fun, and contributed to the expansion of concepts about my life's goals, though I was still left unsure whether scientists and country doctors can be termed intellectuals.  I take note with satisfaction that the term is considered by some authoritative sources (such as the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology) to be increasingly hard to define. 

Our duties as freshmen in Hanszen College included wearing our beanies at times, waiting on tables in the Commons, and occasionally making late night "shack runs" to the nearby Dutch Kettle diner to fetch food for the upperclassmen—this was all pretty harmless fun and helped to give us some contact with non-freshmen, which I appreciated.  The men's colleges were not air-conditioned, and I recall sitting at my desk in the stifling Houston September heat with sweat rolling down, trying to keep my books and notes dry and struggling to concentrate.  In contrast, the women had newer air-conditioned colleges: Jones College (the "Jones Hilton") and, beginning in 1965, the newly constructed Brown College.  

The suites in which we stayed while living in Hanszen College presented a nested arrangement: 2 persons shared a very small bedroom, two of these bedrooms joined onto a living room forming a half-suite, and two of these half-suites were joined across a common bathroom to make a full suite—thus a full suite held eight men.  It was a nice arrangement, in that it gave us an opportunity to get to know seven nearby persons fairly well while being forced to endure the habits up close and personal of only one person.  The roommates I shared the small bedroom with evolved during my first  two years.  I started with Robert S., who was from my own high school, a kind and brainy person who loved observing meteor showers late at night.  Next, I roomed with Mike M., a fun loving son of a Baptist minister, who told great tales of his idyllic summer days working northward across the Great Plains, riding wheat harvesting combines (such a lifestyle was beautifully depicted in Malick's film Days of Heaven).  Mike went on to become a respected endocrinologist.  Then came James Clark "Jim" Crawford, who was a thoughtful philosophy major and a good friend whom I have missed having contact with.  As a true liberal, he went on to work for the feisty congresswoman Bella Abzug, and eventually took up farming back east.  My final bedroom mate for the balance of my Rice years was Dave Wilhelmsen, who was a great jokester and tease, became an accountant and devoted family man, and sadly died at a terribly young age of pulmonary embolism.  (My wife and I have enjoyed staying in touch via Christmas letters with his widowed wife Donna, now remarried.)  My suite mates also included James "Jim" Weiant, who switched from majoring in science to philosophy, and William D. Broyles, Jr., who was an outstanding student and constant inspiration to me at Rice, and who went on to an illustrious career as a writer (including the very moving book Brothers in Arms, about his personal experiences as a Marine in Vietnam), a magazine editor, and a screenwriter for many fine movies (Cast Away, Apollo 13, Unfaithful) and TV shows (China Beach).

I enjoyed the meals in the Commons, where I could often hear enlightened conversation from enthusiastic students.  I soon learned to be careful making dogmatic assertions about things for which I was less than certain, as there was invariably someone present who knew much more than I did about the subject.  Although the academic demands of the curriculum made for hard going, I was truly overjoyed to at last be in a school environment where intellectual and academic achievement were clearly valued more than football, etc.  I was also relieved to be away from home.  (After starting college, I never again lived for very long in my parent's home.)   I maintained somewhat invisible ways as a student at Rice while trying to grow in my quiet manner intellectually, and did not appear in a single photo in the school annuals (Campaniles) until my senior year.  I had little participation in campus organizations and did not seek or receive leadership roles—the rigorous academic program was all that I could handle.

I initially drove the family's aging 1949 Chevrolet, but by the following spring or summer was given a used Volkswagen Beetle, allowing me to sell the old Chevy for $100 to a friend visiting from Europe.  The Bug had been repainted a bright metallic green and was a lot of fun to drive, but not very useful for moving furniture.  Family friends Richard and Loraine Gonzalez treated me very kindly while I was at Rice (see music).  As a lowly freshman, I had few if any dates.

Recreations 1961 – 1962

After only dabbling at tennis in high school, I took it up enthusiastically as a freshman, and it became one of the passions in my life.  (I also tried handball and squash from time to time when the weather was bad, but had less interest in these.)  There were nice nearby courts on campus, and it was easy to find a partner among the many students who enjoyed the sport.  My tennis buddies included one hard-hitting physics instructor and future Rice professor, Dr. Ian Duck.  Indeed, one of my fondest memories from the difficult initial Rice years is going out on crisp and crystal-clear afternoons in the late fall or early spring to play tennis, including—shame on my lack of team spirit—during the football games.  It was very therapeutic (perhaps in part from the endorphin high it generated) and it marked the beginning of a greater athleticism in my life.  I must confess I even skipped a few afternoon Physics labs to play tennis when I really felt the need to escape to the outdoors.  Aside from the benefits of exercise, tennis also allowed me to acquire a greater physical assertiveness, at least in this societally approved context, and probably improved my stamina.  It is one of the few competitive sports I have engaged in, though I never played on a team.  Tennis remained a favorite pastime through my adult years (though my medical situation since about 1988 forced me to limit participation).

This was also a time to experiment a little, and I recall going a few times with the boys to drink beer and listen to the likes of Hank Williams at the local beer joint called Kay's Lounge.  We did not do wine in those days, and only rarely would we splurge on anything as expensive as scotch whiskey.  The beers to choose among were Lone Star or Pearl (if you were a true Texan and could stomach them), Miller's (if you were feeling more on the wimpy side), or Michelob, Tuborg, or Heineken (if you were trying to appear more sophisticated).  I must confess also to the first and only time I got seriously drunk, also while out with the boys (walking, not driving), regretting it the next day with a hefty hangover, and thereby learning a valuable lesson regarding moderation that I have fortunately never had to re-learn.  As I recall, no one I knew was trying other drugs quite yet, and I managed to avoid trying drugs or taking up smoking as well.

Favorite nearby dining spots while I was at Rice included Alfred's delicatessen in the Rice Village (where they served tall roast beef and pastrami sandwiches, cheese blintzes, and beet borscht) and the Western Kitchen (good barbecue).  When we wanted a nice dinner (preferably with a more prosperous family member picking up the tab), we might go to Pier 21 where excellent seafood could be had, also to Kaphan's, to Bertha's or maybe Felix's for Mexican food, or to the Ming Palace for Chinese.  By that point, the San Jacinto Inn was well past its days of glory as a prime destination for a memorable dinner and had become quite run down.

English language movies I especially enjoyed during 1961 – 1965 included the very first of the Bond flicks, Dr. No (1962), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Tom Jones (released 1963, but seen with Becky on Valentines Day 1964), Dr. Strangelove... (seen with Becky in March 1964, followed by a visit to the Mark 5 night club), and The Sound of Music (1965). 

Summer 1962

At the beginning of the summer of 1962, after my freshman year, I joined my friend Tom Duncan on a trip to the Gulf coast at Port Aransas Texas.  My former girlfriend Jane was also there, but it quickly became apparent that our relationship had unmistakably come to an end.  With this summer, my family began an especially difficult year or so, particularly my mother, who required surgery.  I took a job in Denver where I worked for 6 weeks or so as a busboy, cleanup man, and grill cook at the G and M Steak House.  The place was owned by my father's friend and business associate, George Nicolopoulos.  I lived for a while with the family of George F., another business associate of my father.  Working in this restaurant gave me an important opportunity to see what life could be like if I did not continue with a higher education—for example, I recall being admonished by the boss not to whistle to myself as I worked alone in the back room peeling garlic.  There were some interesting and sad employees, including a gay man who came to work one day with black eyes and lots of bruises—he had been "rolled" apparently by some homophobic thugs.  The food for the help was good, however: steak every day and when we were lucky we were treated to the grilled chicken, which was prepared in only limited amounts.  The living arrangement lasted only until I ran into trouble with the parents because of the objectionable effects of my religious views on their son.

Sophomore Year in College 1962 – 1963

This year was getting if anything even harder but still not altogether impossible academically.  As they said, trying to get an education at Rice was like trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant. 

Sophomore Curriculum and Courses 1962 – 1963

My sophomore courses included Biology, English, German, Calculus, Philosophy, and Physics:

Biology:  My Biology 100 course, "General Biology", proved to be one of my most enjoyable at Rice.  It was taught by the aging but witty and energetic Dr. Joseph Ilott Davies (1896 – 1966).  He was silver-haired, spoke with a pronounced British accent, had known and trained under Thomas Huxley ("Darwin's Bulldog"), was exuberant in manner, and had a great flair for the theatrical and dramatic gesture.  He would frequent command, "Write it down! Write it down!", and liked to quote Tennyson and Shakespeare, including Hamlet's famous contemplation with Yorick's skull on the impermanence of life—"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest..."  In his class, I recall admiring from afar the divine freshman Rebecca Cardiff as she came beaming and bouncing into the lecture hall each day, wondering if someday I would be able to know her better.  I was happy to earn a B in this class.

English:  The English 240 class, "Modern and Ancient Narrative in Prose, Verse & Drama", again taught by Dr. John Edward Parish, included several plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and Shakespeare, Virgil's Aeneid, Melville's Moby Dick (which made a deep impression on me and helped to awaken a greater urge to venture forth and experience the wider world), Orwell's 1984, and other notable works.  By this second time around, and prodded by a dismal D earned for the first semester, I eventually learned better how to write a paper that would satisfy this demanding English professor.  To this end, I developed a set of somewhat distasteful but pragmatic empirical rules regarding how to title the paper and how to elaborate at greater length and embellish on what could actually be stated in just a few sentences.  It was unappealing to the scientist in me, admiring as I did the elegant compactness of the great physics distillations of knowledge such as the Maxwell's equations and Einstein's formula relating energy and mass.  In any event, I somehow made an A in the second semester and a C for the year.

German:  Bowing to the language requirement, and the understandable recommendation that future physicists needed to be able to read the great papers of Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, etc. in their original language, I began German 100 "Elementary German", my first of two years.  It was tough schussing for me, and I did considerably less well than an earlier student, Mark Twain, who complained, "Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp.  One is washed about in it, hither and thither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page and reads, 'Let the pupil make careful note of the following EXCEPTIONS....' "  It was taught by Getrud H. Pickar or possibly Günther Schutz.  I scraped by with a gentleman's C for this year, and have always regretted I did not learn this language better.

Math:  The Math 210 course, "Differential and Integral Calculus", was taught by the elderly Dr. Hubert E. Bray.  It included advanced calculus topics such as line and surface integrals, partial derivatives, conformal mapping, etc.  It was very rigorous and delved into new and more difficult math territory for me, and for the first time I dropped disappointingly to a grade of C for the year in math.

Philosophy:  My Philosophy 220 course, " Introduction to Philosophy", was taught by the brilliant Dr. Louis H. Mackey (1926 – 2004).  He was the first professor I had who rode a bicycle, and when I stupidly asked him once what he did when it rained, he gave me a disdainful look and replied that he got wet.  This was the first real course I had on some of the great landmark writings in the history of Western thought.  We started with Plato, who proved to be my favorite, and quite honestly I could have stopped there (having become a dedicated Platonist, and considering Whitehead's comment that "All of Western philosophy is but a footnote to Plato").  However, we went on to study Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas (probably because Mackey was Catholic), Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and others.  I was not very well suited for this esoteric and abstract material, though I ended up with a B for the year, but it was an extremely well taught course which challenged me, gave me a good grounding in philosophy (much of which has been forgotten), and left me with a conviction that I would like to learn more someday about the history of philosophical beliefs when I was better able to assimilate it.

Physics:  The Physics 210 course, "Electricity, Magnetism, and Atomic Physics" included a lengthy lab and was probably taught by Dr. Ben Josephson, Jr.  We used the 1960 text by Pugh and Pugh, Principles of Electricity and Magnetism, and in this or the next year, Wangsness's Introduction to Theoretical Physics: Classical Mechanics and Electrodynamics and Leighton's Principles of Modern Physics.  I made a C for the first semester but somehow a B for the year.  Physics was getting pretty tough by then, and I recall the fierce competitiveness of the environment was such that one acquaintance who lived near me would cover up his homework when I walked by so that I could not see or benefit from what he had accomplished.  Needless to say, this was well before the era my children grew up in when students were encouraged to study together and learn from each other.

Becky in Rice Campanile Spring 1963
Becky Cardiff in 1963 Rice Campanile
 Spring 1963

Social and Family Life 1962 – 1963

The male to female ratio at Rice, something like 4:1, made for really tough competition compared to high school days for us male Rice "weenies" (sometimes spelled "weanies").  A classmate named Catherine C. that I had a few dates with was a nice and thoughtful person, but sadly killed herself a summer or two later.  I had a few other dates, including with a Carolyn C., but found myself in a personality clash and, at least by her assessment, outgunned in sheer brainpower.  In contrast to my sparse dating situation, Becky Cardiff enjoyed an exciting year as a freshman, swept up in the parties and social life, frequently dating, in particular my suite mate William 'Bill' Broyles, Jr., but also four or five other young men.  I knew her only indirectly through Bill during my sophomore year.  (I have already mentioned her high school career.)  She was named to the Rondelet Court as Duchess of her class in spring 1963, and was escorted by Bill to these festivities, and she appeared in the Campanile (the Rice annual) for 1963 as the winning "Campanile Beauty" out of ten candidates, chosen by TV personality Bob Cummings from their photos.

Despite her difficult summer, my mother decided to resume teaching high school in the fall of 1962.  My father's key business patron Tom Slick was killed in a crash of his private plane near Dell, Montana while returning from Canada on October 6, 1962. This was a severe loss to my father and had major consequences for his subsequent job success.

At Christmas break 1962, I made my first trip to the east coast, flying on Eastern Airlines to New York City, and visiting Boston and Cape Cod with my roommate, Jim Crawford.  We stayed part of the time with his parents in Norwood, Massachusetts (see also music).  I was unaccustomed to the bland style of New England cooking, but appreciated their kind hospitality.  We drove down to Cape Cod and also went to a lake near Norwood at night where folks were ice-skating (the first time I had seen this traditional northern winter outdoor activity).  We visited New York City and stayed with his smart, sweet, and kind older sister Sue, who was a college student studying Russian at the New School for Social Research.  We toured around Greenwich Village and Washington Square in what for me were magically snowy winter conditions.  I felt very grown up in making this scene, going to a coffee house with Sue and Jim, trying on the urban sophistication of New York life for fit—this was a thoroughly enjoyable trip for me.

Summer 1963

In the summer of 1963, after my sophomore year, I received one of the truly lucky breaks of my professional career.  I began working for the first of three summers in the Physics department under Dr. Robert J. Shalek at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston (now called The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center).  This job was arranged through an epidemiologist named Dr. Eleanor McDonald, a friend of our family friend, Loraine Gonzalez.  It paid well enough to get by, $292 per full month gross that first summer, $300 the following, and $400 in 1965.  (I'll occasionally include a few early financial details along the way in these memoirs to provide a better picture of the economics of the time.)  This was a great job at an outstanding institution, one which provided me with the opportunity to meet not just the excellent physicists in the Physics department (Dr. Shalek and Ralph Worsnop especially impressed me), but also world class medical researchers including several fine physicians.  The Physics department provided radiation dosimetry and other types of support for the various radiation therapy activities and machines, including two large betatrons.  (A medical betatron is an electron accelerator intended for radiotherapy which uses magnetic induction to accelerate electrons to energies of typically 13 – 45 MeV.)  The physicists measured radiation dosage distributions using "phantoms" that simulated the shape and absorption characteristics of the human head or torso.  The measured phantom dosage distributions allowed us to predict radiation dosages that would result in living humans being treated for cancer, thus helping the radiation therapists determine how to direct the beams in radiating tumors in order to cause the most tumor injury while at the same time the least injury to surrounding tissues.  I worked with state-of-the-art technology, including the newly developed lithium fluoride thermoluminescence dosimeter (LiF TLD) method of determining radiation dosages.  In one of the summers I worked there, I wrote a paper on this subject, and was acknowledged along with Ralph Worsnop in a published paper for "their early work in perfecting the technical approach to lithium fluoride dosimetry".  I was also named as a co-author on a presentation on the same subject given in June 1965 at a symposium on LiF TLD (published later in a monograph by the US Atomic Energy Commission).  Working in this superb environment certainly was one of the major influences in my career, the first time I worked for pay in a physics environment, and the opportunity that started me down the path of going into radiology (diagnostic radiology though, not therapeutic radiology).

Being at M. D. Anderson also provided me with my first opportunities to have some meaningful encounters with smart physicians in training.  I recall sharing a lunch table with some of the very intelligent radiation therapy fellows I met there, including one who, as I recall, was named Dr. Hightower.  He was the first to tip me off that some of the symptoms I had frequently experienced sounded like reactive (postprandial) hypoglycemia (further discussed here).  He also correctly diagnosed the visual disturbance that I sometimes experienced (including an attack which disrupted my taking a major physics exam) and that were followed by headache.  Of course these were the scintillating scotomas or auras preceding migraine headaches, a syndrome then called "classic scotomatous migraine" and now called "migraine with aura".  I had had both of these syndromes since junior high days, but considered them mostly minor annoyances and regarded myself in good health in college.  (The headaches have long been uncomfortable but are not incapacitating.  The scotomas have resulted in some delays in my performance of visual tasks in school and at work, and would effectively prevent me from piloting airplanes if I were otherwise so inclined.)

That summer I lived in the El Rancho Apartments where some of my other Rice classmates also lived.  I recall a pair of wealthy and probably gay men, who lived there and befriended me.  They offered to secure for me a job that would pay much better than my M. D. Anderson job.  I considered their offer, and even discussed it with Loraine Gonzalez, who took a neutral stance.  Finally I decided that the hospital job was more tangible and more likely to advance my career goals than the nebulous job offer that was being made, an offer which might have had unspecified strings attached.  It was an adult lesson in the quandaries a young man faces, one which drove home to me just how much I was now on my own, needing to exercise sound judgment in such important decisions.  I'm very glad I opted to stay at M. D. Anderson.

In July 1963, my family hit another nadir: our San Antonio home on Estes Avenue had to be sold precipitously to pay debts (as was our 1957 Chevrolet, for the same reason).  The family moved to 118 Vanderheck in the Sunset Ridge Apartments in Alamo Heights—see parents.  The sale of the house was a bitter blow to us all but particularly to my mother.  During the remarkably abrupt move, I was working in Houston, and may not have even known it was occurring.  Virtually all of my childhood treasures, collections, memorabilia, a thousand books, photos and prints, trip notes, scientific gadgets, etc. were apparently thrown out and never seen again.  Perhaps this was my mother's way to help me follow the precept of I Corinthians 13, "When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."  Russ recalls that he also did not know the move had taken place.  When he later returned to our recent home from out of town, he found another family living in the house, and went to the police.  According to Scott, my father was working at the time on the Legend City theme park in Maricopa county (Phoenix – Tempe) Arizona, and Scott was staying with him.  Scott experienced a similar shock when learning apparently after the fact of the move, and it is likely that my father was not present when the move took place.

My father was finding it harder to secure work, and began to work on another development, Lafitte's Alley in Galveston, with Senator A. R. "Babe" Schwartz and developer Welcome W. Wilson, Sr.  He periodically returned to San Antonio and wanted Tina to move with him to Houston, as she was still in San Antonio.  I recall his friend and associate Don West, who was a hearty and affable fellow.  One day in 1965, he took Jim and me on a sightseeing flight around Houston in a small plane.

Becky spent a full and fun summer attending summer school at University of Colorado in Boulder, living at Phi Delta Theta and retaking calculus after flunking this subject at Rice.  She enjoyed the party atmosphere there, and had some dates with a summer school student from Chicago named Clay.  (Would she have been better off having me around during her freshman year at Rice to help tutor her in calculus?  It's hard to say, but she might thereby have missed out on all the fun in Colorado.)  For what remained of the summer, she lived at home in Katy.  

Junior Year in College 1963 - 1964

Junior Curriculum and Courses 1963 - 1964

In the fall of 1963, I began my junior year at Rice.  My courses consisted of Intermediate German, Math, Philosophy, two Physics courses plus Physics Lab, and Psychology.

German:  The German 205 course, "Intermediate German: Literature and Science", included extensive reading of Goethe's Faust plus science readings.  The course nearly killed me—I made an F the first semester (the only one I ever made as far as I recall), a C the second semester, and a D for the year.  I really wish I had been able to do better at German.  My wife and I later went to Germany and Austria (where I muddled along trying to communicate with the locals), plus I came to love many operas and choral works in German.  I would like to have been able to read Faust with greater enjoyment, as well as some of the great papers by Einstein from his 1905 "annus mirabilis".

Math:  This was also the year of my most difficult math course, Math 300 "Differential Equations", taught by Dr. Benjamin Franklin ("Frank") Jones.  I made a D the first semester and a C+ for the year.  Dr. Jones, who joined the Rice faculty in 1962, was a good teacher, and won many honors in his subsequent teaching career, but this course nearly did me in.  The switching of majors to humanities or even dropping out of school entirely by many of my fellow science majors was, remarkably, continuing even in my junior year, and I recall that this course contributed substantially to this astounding attrition, and to my deep concern about my own academic direction.

Logic:  In Philosophy 321, "Logic", I studied the arcane world of formal logic as taught by Dr. John Alan Robinson using Patrick Suppes's Introduction to Logic and a second logic textbook by W. V. Quine.  This one semester course (taken in the first semester) was a little disappointing in that I thought it would offer practical tools to assist in reasoning through formal logical methods, but though I made a B, it proved to be too abstruse to have much application in my world (or perhaps I was just too shell-shocked by the rest of my curriculum to be able to give it its due).  

Physics:  This was also my toughest year for physics.  I took Physics 310, "Atomic & Nuclear Physics", (possibly taught by Dr. Calvin M. Class); Physics 400 "Intro. to Mathematical Physics" (taught by Dr. Anthony C. L. Barnard), and Physics 330 "Junior Physics Lab".  In the first course, we used Schiff's Quantum Mechanics and other texts to delve into the mysteries of quantum mechanics, including the Schrödinger wave equation, eigenvalues and other approaches to solving quantum mechanical problems in atomic and nuclear reactions, etc.  (I earned a C for the first semester, a B for the year.)  In the mathematical physics course—using primarily Goldstein's Classical Mechanics plus Houston's Principles of Mathematical Physics (by former Rice professor and President, William Houston)—we studied the ultimate formulation of classical non-quantum-mechanical theories of motion in the form of Lagrange's equations, the two-body motion problem including Kepler's laws, the Hamilton equations, perturbation theory, and other mathematically elegant but remarkably difficult material.  I again made a C for the first semester, a B for the year.

Psychology:  In anticipation of medical school, I took during the second semester Psychology 300, "General Psychology: Cult and the Individual", taught by the phenomenologist Dr. Bert Kaplan.  This was an easy one semester course—the only easy course I had at Rice—and I made an A in it.  It was a course which left little impression other than it seemed like a lot of wind and nebulosity.  (I have never really enjoyed psychology as a field of study, and in all likelihood my negative impression of this course was colored by this bias, but in addition, the field of phenomenology seemed to be a strange and muddled blending of the already soft science of psychology with philosophy.  Despite the title, the course seemed to have little to do with cults.)

I also recall a brief encounter with Professor F. Loewenheim (who died in 1996), probably at the beginning of my junior year.  Though undoubtedly already overextended in my own curriculum, and certainly possessing no great historical skills, I was still interested in bettering my intellectual underpinnings.  A European immigrant, he had taught a respected history course on campus for several years, called something like The History of European Intellectual Thought.  It sounded like just what I needed.  I went in to see the great man, and asked him if he would allow me to audit his course.  I was dismayed to receive a curt brush-off—this was simply out of the question.  Why did he respond to me this way?  Was this old-world professorial behavior?  Was a science major like myself simply not deserving of such elite knowledge?  Perhaps he was just doing me a favor—I'll never know—but he was not exactly trying to bridge the Two Cultures.

Social Life and Events 1963 - 1964

Kennedy Assassination:  President John F. Kennedy (1951 – 1963) was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and was of course succeeded by President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 – 1969).  The assassination was a national tragedy that was universally and deeply felt, and that ushered in a long dark period of violence in our country in the 1960s.  We Texans felt a special shame that this had happened in our home state.  Many of us including Becky and I separately attended a moving memorial service held in the Rice Chapel on November 25.

Becky Cardiff Enters My Life:  About the time I began writing these memoirs, Becky discovered, preserved from her sophomore, junior, and senior years at Rice, her calendars on which she recorded academic and social obligations and other miscellaneous events and appointments.  She also found some letters we exchanged during our first few years together, and these were especially helpful for reconstructing the sometimes fuzzily recalled events of our earliest dating and eventual courtship.  (Admittedly, the level of detail that follows is probably of interest only to ourselves.)  According to her calendar, Becky and I arranged to meet together probably for the first time on October 2,1963, for coffee probably during a study break in the evening at Sammy's Cafeteria in the Rice Student Center—thus early in her sophomore year and my junior year.  Also reading from this calendar, we had our first actual date on October 18 (shortly after she had stopped dating my suite mate Bill Broyles).  We probably went then or soon thereafter to the attractive European style shopping center inspired by 19th century Italian villas, Westbury Square, built a few years earlier, where we could enjoy the outdoor fountain and piazza and browse the first floor shops including Rumplemeyer's (an old-fashioned ice cream shop resembling those on Disneyland's Main Street, with wrought iron sweetheart chairs) and a candle shop (note 5).  I also took her to a Houston Symphony concert on October 21, another on November 18, and many more in the next few years.

If I speak in these memoirs with excessive uxoriousness about my beloved wife, I trust that I will be forgiven or at least indulged.  I have already mentioned some of her many fine attributes and accolades, and there will be many more comments to follow.  I soon came to understand when we began to date that she was a very accomplished and intelligent student, and that she was deeply immersed in her own difficult curriculum.  She was struggling academically just like many of the rest of us, but she showed real tenacity and determination in her study of biology and her other courses.  After a rocky time in freshman calculus and some of the other traumas almost unique to the diabolical Rice academic environment, her thinking had evolved from her high school days, and she was now envisioning a career more as a scientific researcher than as a physician. 

Becky's Curriculum: As a freshman, she took the same courses I took at some point, except that she took French instead of my German.  As a sophomore, she took organic chemistry, philosophy, and English (all of which I took), but she also studied French, anthropology, zoology, and comparative anatomy (none of which I took at Rice).  As a junior, she took English 250 (we shared this class), physics (which I of course studied in more advanced versions), but also genetics, biochemistry, and another anthropology course (none of which I took).  In her senior year, she took microbiology, endocrinology, histology, embryology, and comparative physiology.  (I wish I had taken some of these higher level biology courses along with comparative anatomy to prepare better for medical school.)  As a senior, she also took some education courses (probably history of teaching, teaching philosophy and methods, early childhood and adolescent psychology, etc.) that seemed dull at the time with her other distractions, but were required for obtaining her Texas teaching certificate. In addition, she took more French courses.

She was also as I have noted a popular campus beauty, and had many eligible men on campus to choose from.  In a front page article in the Houston Press dated November 9, 1963, her photo appeared with the three other candidates for Rice Homecoming Queen (she did not win the title however until the following year).  I took her to this 1963 Homecoming football game against Arkansas on November 9.  She appeared for a second year in the 1964 Campanile as one of five Campanile Beauties, and she was named as an Honoree, one of three in her sophomore class, selected for the Rondelet Court in spring 1964.  

During the fall of 1963, we dated off and on, and I was quickly smitten, but she continued to enjoy the best that Rice had to offer in social life, attending a wide range of parties and other campus and outside events with a distressingly long list of handsome and accomplished young men from Rice and from elsewhere.  (This listing would remind me more of the recitation in the Don Giovanni catalog aria, except that I am assured that hers merely names dates, not conquests.)  In one especially hectic week in early October 1963, before our serious dating began, we chuckle to find on her calendar that she had dates with five different young men on five separate evenings.  She was, in short, playing the field, having a great time, and keeping all her options open while she sampled much of the exhilarating though respectable college social life.  In November 1963, she attended the Will Rice Playboy formal party as a sophomore and was named as the Will Rice Playmate (for which there was no compromising requirement).  Fortunately, she was discreet or cagey enough to never let me know just how much competition I was up against during much of that year.

We attended the Katy High School Homecoming football game on October 25, 1963, where we saw her youngest brother David play a critical role as the place kicker—this was probably also the first time I met her family.  We went to the Jones College formal dance together on November 2, 1963. 

In a letter to her at 1963 Thanksgiving break, separated by the 170 miles between Katy and San Antonio, I alluded to my growing love for her (undoubtedly jumping the gun, as she was simply not ready for such a commitment), and was wondering, probably with good reason, if she were a figment of my imagination.  I also expressed the deeply felt concern that I found myself in a crisis of indecision and uncertainty about my career direction, that I felt lacking in motivation, purposeless, and plagued with self-doubt about my future.  I recall also describing my tormented and anguished state to my parents, probably also over this Thanksgiving (thus only a few days after the trauma of the Kennedy assassination).  They were quite surprised to hear such strongly expressed emotions coming from me, the putatively stoical son who indeed rarely divulged inner feelings to them.

Becky appeared as a non-singing flapper in the EBLS performance of the The Boyfriend on December 6, 1963, which I attended (note 6).  Becky's grandmother MaMa also attended and was incredulous that she was actually seen smoking a cigarette in this performance.  We also attended a moving performance of Handel's Messiah on December 15.

We had not yet become a real couple by Christmas 1963, even though I was already deeply in love.  She was still debating and weighing her options and feeling no need to make any sort of commitment (judging from her recollections and our divergent letters from that period), having too good a time with her glamorous social life. 

Over Christmas 1963, my family and I drove to Mexico City.  There, we hired a driver Jesse to get us over the treacherous road going south through truly beautiful countryside to Cuernavaca and Taxco.  Several of us including myself developed a febrile illness and were seen by a doctor who came to our lodgings.  This was otherwise a pleasant trip.  We climbed the Teotihuacan pyramids near Mexico, and Russ, who was doing a fifth year at the University of Texas working on a master's degree in business administration, displayed his developing knowledge about the pyramids and of Latin America in general.  Becky visited her friend Carol in Bloomington Illinois in late December and early January, and also took the opportunity on that same trip to visit in Chicago with the young man Clay who was her previous summer's romance.

Decision to Study Medicine:  Overall, my junior year was a very difficult academic year for me, particularly differential equations and second year German, and I felt during the first semester that I was coming close to going under academically, overstressed, and very uncertain as to what to do next.  My low morale in the first semester was compounded by emotional responses to my turbulent family life and the career indecision and romantic uncertainty I have described.  At some point—presumably early in January 1964, in time to sign up for the prerequisite psychology course that started when the second semester began on January 27—I finally made the decision to pursue a course of study leading to a career in medicine.  This effectively resolved my immediate crisis of uncertainty and indecision.  It was a multi-factorial decision not easily arrived at, so a complete answer to the seemingly simple question, "Why did I become a physician?", will probably seem long-winded:

When I discussed the possibility of continuing in a physics career with my physics departmental faculty adviser, Dr. Class, he was singularly unsympathetic and discouraging regarding the struggle I was facing, and advised me coolly something to the effect that, "you cannot help your genetic deficiencies".  In fact, I recall with some bitterness an almost complete lack of any encouraging guidance or support, at least within the physical sciences and engineering environment at Rice—this sector at Rice University practiced a sink-or-swim survival-of-the-fittest approach, and indeed many of my fellow students did not survive these rigorous trials.  Some of them could probably have been rescued and gone on to successful careers perhaps in more practical applied science fields if a more concerted effort to retain them had been made.  Dr. Class liked to compare us to his ideal student role model—a recent Rice physics graduate named James E. Gunn, a true genius who went on to a brilliant career in astrophysics.  Dr. Class seemed to have little interest in the majority of students who could not measure up to that standard.  It was also clear to me that while I might eventually be competent enough in an applied physics career, I would never be one of the world-class theoretical physicists who make the fundamental discoveries and win Nobel prizes, and this would leave me always feeling disappointed.

I had long been enthusiastic about biology and the life sciences (dating back to junior high school), and was impressed by how much Becky enjoyed and was rewarded by her experiences as a biology major.  I saw biology by then as a very attractive and frankly easier alternative to the abstruse and seemingly cold, remote, and impersonal world of physics.  In fact, I seriously considered changing my major to biology, and talked with a few biology professors, including Becky's genetics teacher Dr. Val Woodward, who was very warm and encouraging.  But physics remained very important to me, as it seemed to me to be the most fundamental and supreme of the basic sciences.  The idealistic and absolutist perfectionist in me urged me to stick it out, to make it somehow work despite the difficulties and lack of rewards I was experiencing, and to not give up on it—at least not as a college major—until I had given it my last full measure of devotion, even if it killed me.

By then, I was very much in love with Becky, while she was not remotely ready to commit to me.  I knew that a career path that offered a higher probability of conventional success would be more likely to appeal to her and to her parents, and might help me to win her over against the very tough competition I faced.  It was not at all obvious to me that I had the qualities that she was looking for in an eventual mate, and my introspective, brooding, generally non-sports-minded, and rather non-outgoing nature seemed to not match up well with her sunny nature, yet I believed I had certain solid traits and values I could offer that might overcome these possible deficiencies in her eyes.  To make the major long-range and difficult commitment to a career in medicine without knowing for sure it would have the intended effect on my beloved seemed in some ways to me to be a fairly high-stakes gamble.  After all, if I had not focused on winning her as my goal and wanted simply to make my life easier, I could quite possibly have drifted into a less ambitious and less arduous track, perhaps heading for some basic form of applied physics (like the physicist work I performed in the M. D. Anderson Physics Department) or biology, aiming ultimately for a modest teaching or research position.  This was one of several times in my life, however, that I decided I just had to take such a chance and set my sights high.  Essentially, I entered unilaterally into a long-term contract before knowing if the contracting party would also consent.  How badly I wanted this of her!—but she was not to be rushed.  In all likelihood, we did not discuss any of these pressing and pragmatic issues openly, certainly not in such explicit terms—after all, this was a passionate romance for me above all else, and I wanted it to be one for her as well.  But I imagine she could see that I was hoping to win her affections in part by demonstrating my willingness to invest in our relationship even to such an extent.  Would I actually win her over, or would she ultimately pass me by, and serve at best only as an unattainable but inspirational muse (like Dante's Beatrice or Petrarch's Laura)?  How could I know?

In addition to my romantic desire to win Becky over, if somehow that could be done, I wanted to have a career path that would allow me to achieve great things professionally, thus fulfilling my sense of destiny.  Medicine was an honorable and obvious choice which provided an extremely wide range of time-honored possible career tracks that were often achievable (though by no means absolutely guaranteed).  In some branches of medicine at least, I had the added potential benefit that my physics background could be put to good use—as I had seen, for instance, in the radiation therapy department at M. D. Anderson Hospital—and this would probably be a good selling point toward gaining admission to medical school.  It is not merely a footnote to this discussion that I very much wanted to make a significant contribution for the betterment of humanity, if possible.  Furthermore, in fully considering this complex decision, I imagine I also hoped someday to enjoy some degree of economic security, comfort, social respectability, and even prestige.  These goals had eluded my parents to varying degrees, and consequently their irresolvable conflicts were substantially magnified.  A successful career in medicine could quite possibly fulfill most all of my desires and aspirations (though it would add greatly to the complexity and difficulty of my career trajectory).  And I could not wait any longer to make this decision, in order to sign up in time to take (1) the prerequisite courses I lacked (psychology beginning in the second semester of my junior year, only a month away, and eventually more biology and organic chemistry to be taken as a senior), and also (2) the MedCAT test necessary for getting into medical school upon college graduation.  (The Medical College Admissions Test, or MedCAT, is now abbreviated MCAT.)  

Thus, for all these good reasons, I concluded that I would continue with physics as a college major, but aim for a career in medicine to follow immediately upon graduation.  (After resolving the crisis of academic direction I had struggled with, I went on to make outstanding grades at least during my senior year, even in physics and math.)

In late 1963 or early 1964, I was given a spiffy new stick-shift powder blue Chevrolet Corvair coupe by my parents (probably a 1964 or less likely a 1963 Club Coupe or Monza Club Coupe model), despite my mother's legitimate concerns regarding their precarious finances.  This sweet little un-air conditioned car carried me on through medical school and was a lot of fun to drive.  I cannot recall exactly why my father decided to give me this generous gift—perhaps he intuitively sensed I needed all the help I could get to meet the struggles and competition I was facing that year, or perhaps he was trying to compensate for the turbulent times and losses our family had experienced in the past year or two.

Becky in 1964 Campanile Spring 1964
Becky in 1964  Rice Campanile
Spring 1964

Becky continued to date many different young men in January, February, and March 1964, including some very bright and promising future physicians, but by April (judging again from her social calendar), I seemed to be inexplicably pulling ahead of the pack.  We attended the formal dance put on by the EBLS on March 13, 1964, she attended the performance of The Mikado on March 20, 1964 in which I played trumpet, and I began joining in her family's activities in Katy Texas, such as their Easter celebrations March 28 – 30.  We went to a play at Houston's Alley Theater in March, an opera (Verdi's Otello or Mozart's Don Giovanni) on April 2, 1964, a Hanszen College picnic April 4, the Hanszen Dance April 18, and the play Elektra on April 24.  By May, the names of other young men disappear completely from her social calendar, and at last we seem to have become a steady couple (undoubtedly to my intense relief—how this turn of events took place, so fortunate for me, I'll never fully understand).   On May 2, 1964, Becky attended Rice President Pitzer's luncheon/open house, that afternoon we were in the Rice Rondelet Pageant (for which she was named one of the royals in the Rondelet Court), and that evening we attended the Rondelet formal dinner/dance.  (Photos from that afternoon are shown at the top of this page, along with here and here.)

In those days, the house mother of Jones College and subsequently of Brown College still faithfully served in loco parentis for the respectable young Rice women, in order to protect their honor and reputations—a practice undoubtedly long since relaxed for obvious reasons.  Women who planned to be out after 7 PM had to sign out indicating where they would be and when they expected to be back.  The Rice men, who had no curfew of their own, were well aware of the curfew imposed on the women: they had to get back through the college doors before the magic hours of 11 PM on weeknights and 2 AM on Saturday nights, after which the doors were closed and locked, and violators could incur penalties.  (How warming and satisfying it is to recall an era mostly free of hard drugs, a time when there was a more protective social order, when the lights flashed by the House Mother outside the college dorm signaled the immediate end to a date.  Becky has preserved for our amusement an impressively formal letter informing her of a violation of the curfew April 18, 1964, at which time I managed to get her through the doors 4 minutes past the 2 AM deadline.  This letter of chastisement was also sent to her parents, and to Dr. Class, who in addition to being my physics faculty adviser was Master of Jones College.  The house mother of Jones College ran a tight ship, and there were only a few afternoon open houses when men were allowed to enter the inner chambers of the residence areas where the objects of our affection actually lived.)

Summer 1964

Michael with Physics Department at M. D. Anderson Hospital July 1964
Michael with Physics Department at
M. D. Anderson Hospital
July 1964

I worked a second summer in 1964 at M. D. Anderson Hospital, living in the Westchester House apartments.  In July, Becky's family included me on a pleasant vacation of water-skiing—we stayed at the rustic Rock N' Wood cabins on Lake Buchanan, a resort they had enjoyed returning to for many years.  

Becky that summer worked with her genetics professor Dr. Val Woodward, having applied for a small grant to participate for part of that summer in his research, working 8 to 5 with free weekends.  As best as she can recall, she worked with DNA chromatography.  She felt initially she was still interested in becoming a biology researcher.  However, she began to see how open-ended and demanding it was to pursue this career, how much one's success depended on his/her creativity in new scientific ideas, on working very long hours, and on getting grants funded, and these hard realizations tended to discourage her from seeking a career as a lead scientific researcher.  Dr. Woodward was great to work with, and he had amassed a fine staff including some good research technologists, but a subordinate role as a technologist was not attractive to her as an ultimate goal.  Becky, who may not have explicitly verbalized this dilemma in any great depth at the time, was implicitly wondering, what should she be shooting for in biology if she was not going to become a brilliant scientific researcher.  This quandary dovetailed with Becky's developing interest in my own career, and her continued interest in going into medicine.  But if we were to become a committed couple, would we both be able to pursue careers in medicine?  It was not as easy at that time to consider this option as it may have become in later decades, and dual physician marriages are always a tough row to hoe, though marriage per se was probably not uppermost in her mind at the time.  During this summer, she lived off-campus for the first time, in a Houston apartment shared with at least two other women.  One of her roommates, Ann, presented a challenge by dating a black man (interracial dating was quite rare at the time).  We passed this test of our evolving social liberalism and tolerance by hospitably accepting this young man.

My mother moved from San Antonio this summer to rejoin my father in Houston for a while—they lived in an apartment on Voss Road.  However, she objected to the disorder she found at home and returned to San Antonio probably in the fall to live alone in earnest for the first time since she married, leaving Scott in Houston with my father.  Looking for work in mid-year, she took a job teaching 12 – 15 year old deaf children in the San Antonio School District.

In early September 1964, Russ and I took one of the few trips we made as a duo, driving my new blue Corvair on a 5,000 mile Western states tour.  In Colorado, we visited and stayed with one of my high school classmates, Tom McKelvey, who was studying geology at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.  I was very impressed with the rugged glamour of the Colorado mountain lifestyle (Jeeps, flannel shirts, boots, hiking, etc.)   We drove over Trail Ridge Road and camped alongside the road near Fraser, Colorado (north of Winter Park), looking up at the remarkably clear sky ablaze with stars and meteors.  We also drove along the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  We stopped in Reno, Nevada, where I almost got conned by a fast-talking service station attendant who was pushing shock absorbers.  We visited San Francisco, California, and the Golden Gate Park, and returned via Gallup, New Mexico.  This was just before the sixties got into full swing during the latter half of the decade, so as I recall we did not encounter Hippies, Flower Power, Free Love, drugs, or angry protests, etc.  

Senior Year in College 1964 - 1965

Becky and Mike at Rice Homecoming game Novermber 14, 1964, photo in Houston Post 11/15/1964
Becky and Mike at
the Rice Homecoming football game
November 1964

Social Life and Events 1964

Becky and Me:  In the fall of 1964, I began my senior year at Rice, and Becky was a junior. This was a great year for me, surely one of the best and most idyllic years of my life.  We were very much in love and saw each other often.  She continued to live in Jones College and I in Hanszen College.  Reviewing her social calendar, it no longer appears necessary for her to name me explicitly as the participant for events, or to even state every event we attended—these were simply now integrated into the normal course of her life, and there was no need to juggle a horde of contenders.

What did Becky see in me?  She is a pragmatic person, and verbalizing such things is not something she freely gravitates to after all our years of marriage.  However, when pressed she tells me that I was attractive to her physically, that I was kind, sweet, gentlemanly, courteous, and attentive to her, eager to please her, intelligent, even funny (in my quiet sort of way).  She was also aware that I was very much in love with her, and felt that I had made a good choice in deciding to go to medical school, that I had interests such as music that complemented her own interests, and that she liked my sharing musical events with her.  She liked that I had such a strong interest in her own chosen field, biology, and that we could therefore share greatly in this broad interest.  She was also aware that, in contrast to some of the more self-assured young men that she had encountered and dated, she knew she would make a huge difference in my life by inspiring me through her love to achieve my own greatest possible successes, and she in return might gain deeper satisfaction and rewards by making this gift of love to me.

Becky traveled to Wilmington, Delaware in September 1964 to visit her friend Dorna.  We went to several Rice football games together early in the season, October 3 against West Virginia and October 24 against the University of Texas.  We attended the Jones College formal dance at the River Oaks Country Club on November 7, 1964, and the annual Hanszen College Minstrel and Hanszen All-School Party November 13, 1964.  I also escorted her onto the football field at the half-time of the Rice versus Texas A&M game (November 14, 1964), where she was crowned as Rice Homecoming Queen.  (We have a front-page article from the Houston Chronicle Sunday November 15, 1964 showing Rice Chancellor Carey Croneis kissing her on the cheek as she holds her bouquet and wears her tiara, and another article from page 10 of the Houston Post showing her next to me holding her bouquet and being crowned with her tiara by Rice President Kenneth S. Pitzer.  These photos also made it into the school annual (the Campanile), breaking the streak of invisible anonymity previously mentioned that I had unintentionally maintained at Rice.)  It is probably the largest crowd I have ever appeared before in such a public though purely accessory role (and one of the few times I actually attended a Rice football game!—Rice won 19 to 8.)   We also attended the Student Association dance the night of the Homecoming football game.  On November 20, 1964, Becky appeared in a minor non-singing role in the EBLS musical melodrama Bells are Ringing—she played an answering service girl, and of course I attended.  We attended the Hanszen Fall dance December 5, 1964.  I visited for several days with her family at Christmas 1964.  We went to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas at the end of December for her to be in the Cotton Bowl Festival.  She rode a float in the Cotton Bowl parade on January 1, 1965 as Rice's Beauty Queen, and we attended the football game the same day (the Arkansas Razorbacks won over the Nebraska Huskers 10 – 7).  We stayed at the Adolphus Hotel (separate rooms, of course).  We saw the new 1960 musical Oliver! there on December 30, attended the Texas Sports Hall of Fame luncheon and the Cotton Bowl Student New Year's Eve Dance on Dec. 31.  This was probably the last football game I ever attended.  (I did not completely hide my dislike of football from Becky, but tried to be fair about our disparate tastes, especially as the social events surrounding football had been so much a part of her own life.)  Later in this school  year, Becky was named again as a University Favorite for the Campanile as well as an Honoree.

Acceptance to Medical School:  In addition to Becky's now radiant presence in my life, what made my senior year especially sweet was that I received early acceptance to Baylor University College of Medicine, and this act of mercy essentially relieved me of serious academic pressure and of most of my uncertainty about the near-term future.  Apparently Baylor found my unusual major and strong science background appealing, and were willing to overlook the erratic grades I had made up to that point at Rice.  I had taken the Medical College Admission Test in the spring or summer of 1964 with no special preparation, and don't recall making any other special effort when applying to medical school, other than taking added prerequisite courses.  (This contrasts with the currently elaborate gauntlet and numerous hurdles that aspirants feel they must now negotiate.)  Because of the early acceptance, I did not apply to any other medical school.

Family Events:  My brother Russ earned his BBA degree in Industrial Engineering at The University of Texas in January 1964.  He was commissioned on graduation as a 2nd Lieutenant USAR (US Army Reserve).

Senior Curriculum and Courses 1964 - 1965

Paradoxically, I did better academically as a senior than I ever had before at Rice, earning all A's and B's in physics and math as well as in my other courses, and made the President's Honor Roll both semesters for the first time, miraculously overcoming the "genetic deficiencies" I had been given by Dr. Class.  My courses were Biology, Organic Chemistry, English, Math, and two Physics courses plus a physics lab:

Biology:  The Biology 300 course, a one semester course called "Quantitative Biology" in which I made an A, was taught probably by Dr. Clark Phares Read, and presumably served as a prerequisite for medical school, though I do not recall much about it.

Chemistry:  The Chemistry 200 course, Organic Chemistry, was also needed as a medical school prerequisite, and was taught by Prof. George Holmes Richter.  This was one of my first exposures to the type of course work I would encounter in medical school, incorporating a huge body of straightforward factual knowledge (as opposed to abstruse conceptual knowledge), and requiring brute memorization.  Becky had taken the same course from Prof. Richter the previous year.  Inspired by her better honed study skills and her constructive influence in general, I finally and at last began to learn how to be a more organized and systematic student: for example, I began making written outlines and summaries to learn and memorize copious amounts of factual material.  She was my muse—an inspiring influence who lifted me out of my state of uncertainty, brought joy to my life, and motivated me to do my very best.  The always smiling Dr. Richter was famous for the Grinch-like delight he took in giving a major test on the Monday his students returned from the Christmas holidays.  However, his course was solidly packed with useful information, and I generally enjoyed it and made an A.

English:  The English 250 course, "Masters of English Literature", was taught by the excellent Dr. Alan Grob (1932 – 2007).  Becky and I took it together, the first of many credit and noncredit classes we have shared together over the years since.  We both greatly enjoyed this year-long course, in which I made an A, thanks again to improved study techniques acquired from or inspired by Becky.  We read white and almost exclusively male British authors including Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Pope, Jane Austen, Wordsworth, Keats, Browning, Byron, Arnold, Yeats, Joyce, and Eliot.  This course solidified the interest I have carried through my adult years in great authors of English literature—it, along with Biology 100, are probably my most fondly remembered courses from my Rice days.  I took the opportunity to write Dr. Grob as he neared his retirement in 2002 to thank him again for the fine course he taught and to ask him about King Lear.  He informed me that he had loved teaching the course, though he was no longer teaching it, and that in a couple of years it would be eliminated from the curriculum.  Such is the diminished stature in contemporary academic circles of the formerly much celebrated dead white European literary giants.

Math:  Math 400, "Functions of a Complex Variable", was taught by the young, dynamic, energetic, and always entertaining if academically demanding Dr. Frank B. Ryan (born 1936).  He was even then a star NFL quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, and also very smart.  This was a hard course which used a text written by Fuchs and Levin called Functions of a Complex Variable.  I made a B for the year but felt quite satisfied with my performance.  (In the year 2000, I took the opportunity to revisit topics in complex numbers with a course, Math 497, which I audited at the University of Washington.)

Physics:  My physics courses included Physics 425, "Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics", taught by Dr. James A. Jordan, Jr.  We used Morse's Thermal Physics and Huang's Statistical Mechanics.  It was a tough but fascinating course in which I made an A.  I recall fondly that this kind young assistant professor expressed genuine disappointment with me that I had elected to go into medicine when I was, at that point and at least in his eyes, showing real promise as a physicist.  He was one of the few Rice physics professors who took time to relate to me in such a warm, human, and encouraging manner.  I also took Physics 415 "Introduction to Optics" (a satisfyingly practical one semester course possibly taught by Dr. Class), Physics 415b "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" (also possibly Dr. Class), and the Senior Physics Lab (possibly taught by Dr. Paul Leighton Donoho), all of which yielded B's.

The Labor of Learning:  Certainly by my senior year, I was forced to give up any residual illusion that I had the makings of a science whiz to whom the acquisition of scientific or medical knowledge would be an effortless process.  Although some types of concept-predominant science and math had come to me fairly easily in earlier years—or at least I had gotten by adequately by reading over the materials without making demeaning efforts to memorize them—by mid-college, I had to concede that I was no genius.  I did not have a photographic memory or rapid learning skills, so that learning for me of the kind required in the advanced sciences (particularly in biomedical sciences and medicine) was always thereafter going to come only with very hard work, including exhaustive efforts devoted to memorization.  This was like the realization that a young parent quickly comes to, that raising children may have its pleasures but nevertheless is going to be an intensely demanding job.  Like Adam, I was going to have to earn my daily bread by the sweat of my brow.

Social Life and Family Events 1965

Becky May 31, 1965 as a 1965 Campanile "Beauty"
Becky in 1965 Rice Campanile
 Spring 1965

Recreation with Becky:  Becky and I drove to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in February 27 - March 3, 1965 (Fat Tuesday was March 2, always the day before Ash Wednesday).  We joined up there with my old friend Tom Duncan, now at Tulane, and his girlfriend Mary Nell, and we all had a great time.  (Tom later married another Mary, and we have enjoyed keeping in touch at Christmas.)  On the way back from watching the parade, the crowds were so great that we could not catch a taxi, so we took a chance on hitchhiking.  But the driver appeared deranged, rambling in his speech and seemingly suicidal, and erratic in his driving—we got out of the car as soon as we could.  Becky and I also attended the Hanszen Spring dance March 6, and the formal dinner dance put on by the Elizabeth Baldwin Literary Society (EBLS) on March 12, 1965  at the Warwick Hotel.  She appeared again in the 1965 Campanile as one of five Campanile Beauties or Favorites.  This may have been about the last season that we attended dances.  The need to do this kind of thing gradually seemed to fade away for both of us, it was never my favorite kind of activity, and we evolved to a different kind of relationship that emphasized other types of social events.

She reminds me that in her junior year (my senior year 1964 – 1965), I played a useful role in her academic life by tutoring her and thus helping her to survive "physics for poets"—not her best subject.  This mirrored how she had inspired me to improve my study habits when I learned from her how to study for organic chemistry, which she took the previous year as a sophomore (1963 – 1964).  She took (or at least audited for a while) an art history course probably as a junior, using the fine fourth edition of Gardner's Art Through the Ages, and I probably participated indirectly as we spent time together sharing in what she was learning.  We started going to so-called art house movies in 1964 and subsequent years, especially, while we were in Houston, at the Alray Theater, where we enjoyed (or at least tried to enjoy) many foreign language films. These included Black Orpheus (released 1959); many of the Fellini films—La Dolce Vita (released 1960), 8 1/2 (seen with Becky October 1964); several Bergman films—Wild Strawberries (released 1957), The Seventh Seal (released 1957), The Devil's Eye (released 1960), The Virgin Spring (released 1960), and Through a Glass Darkly (released 1961); and other films such as the impossibly obscure Last Year At Marienbad (released 1961), and Jules et Jim (released 1962).  Aside from the genuine potential entertainment value of art house films, we were working on increasing our Eurocentric sophistication and acculturation, a process we have never ceased to pursue and enjoy (though we have expanded our horizons to other continents in more recent decades and have come to better understand the limitations of seeking to know life by studying European museums and castles).  She had turned 21 in the fall, and I followed a few months later, so at last we could legally go out for a drink following some of the movies we attended.  We also continued to attend a number of Houston Symphony concerts, and several operas: Romeo et Juliette, with our family friends the Gonzalez's on Feb. 6, 1965, and Le Coq d'Or on April 8, 1965.  On a decidedly more domestic outing, I remember escorting Becky on a visit to her dentist Dr. Humphrey, possibly March 26, and nearly passing out in the waiting room as I felt the pain he was audibly causing her with his minimalist approach to local anesthesia.  (In fact, I never developed equanimity regarding pain and suffering experienced by my own family members—but then few physicians do or should.)  Judging by her social calendar, the parties seem to fall off for us as the spring of 1965 continues, perhaps because we had less need for them and because our forms of entertainment were becoming more diverse and less pre-programmed.  A favorite recollection is strolling on spring evenings with her, enjoying the wafting scent of the cape jasmines (gardenias) in the Rice campus quadrangle.  I also remember the general pleasure of making Sunday afternoons a special time for us to enjoy particularly aesthetic events: attending organ or choral concerts, touring gardens or flower events like the Azalea Trail in Houston (c. March 1965), and visiting the Sunken Gardens in San Antonio and the nearby Edge Falls site in Kendall County (located near Guadalupe River State Park, also in spring 1965).  The ideal of reserving Sunday afternoons for aesthetic events had to give way all too soon to other scheduling demands, but nevertheless it is an ideal I have always wished to return to when possible (for example, when we later took our children to Sunday afternoon concerts of the Seattle Symphony).

My Paternal Grandmother's Death 1965:  My father's mother 'MaMaw' died in 1965 in Houston, probably in the summer.  She had been very loving to her grandchildren, the only grandparent I really had very much contact with or felt very close to, and I was saddened by her death.

My Graduation 1965:  My Baccalaureate was held June 4, 1965 outdoors next to Lovett Hall, and Becky attended this.  I graduated from Rice June 5, 1965 with a B. A. in Physics.  The ceremony, intended again to be held outdoors next to Lovett Hall, was moved due to rain into the stifling heat of Autry Court gymnasium.  Becky and her parents attended, as did mine.  (Sadly, we have no photos from these two events.)  I received my Senior Ring early in my senior year and proudly wore it until I was married.  (The school manual emphatically stated that these rings had to be returned if a student did not actually graduate from Rice!)  

Russ's Marriage and Military Service 1965 – 1966:  My older brother Russ earned his MBA in Operations Research from The University of Texas in 1965.  He reported for active Army duty in March 1965 as a 2nd Lieutenant USAR.  In July 1965, Russ and Laura Anne Moore (whom I had known in high school) were married at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Houston.  In late July, he transferred to Fort Lewis in Washington State, living in Steilacoom for six weeks, following which he was transported by ship to Vietnam.  He served his country honorably in Quinhon, Pleiku, and Saigon.  In Saigon, he served as 2nd Executive Officer to the US Provost Marshal for Saigon (i.e., the chief of US military police in Saigon).  He earned a Purple Heart from injuries sustained in an enemy car bombing of the Hotel Victoria in Saigon where he was quartered.  He held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant—a "Platoon leader"—throughout his tour in Vietnam, was promoted to 1st Lieutenant a couple of months after returning from Vietnam in 1966, and was promoted to Captain USAR ("Company Commander" rank) on release from the Army.  I felt very proud of Russ for his service, which he had performed despite initial ambivalence about the merits of the war and eventually frank opposition, and I deeply regretted the hostile and unfair reception that many Vietnam veterans received on returning home.  (Becky's brother Charles also served a tour of duty in Vietnam, in the US Air Force during 1967 – 1968.)  My own feelings toward the Vietnam war were also conflicted and ambivalent.  Although I wholeheartedly supported the American troops who were serving in Vietnam, I did not wish to serve there myself.  I never pretended to have a full command of the origins, history, and politics of this war, but I understood the Domino Theory (the ultimate justification for the war, but which proved to be only partially true), and believed that Communism (at least the Stalinist variety) was truly a menace to the world.  However, I hated to see Americans bombing the peoples of third world countries—"killing them to save them"—wreaking havoc in the beautiful landscape, and themselves dying in large numbers from what proved to be a mostly thankless involvement in what was at least partly a civil war, certainly a war that proved to be un-winnable.  The sober reflections of Robert McNamara in the 2003 film The Fog of War regarding our misjudgments in this war are instructive.

Summary and Reflections on My College Experience

I had taken 143 semester hours of coursework, averaging about 18 per semester in what was undoubtedly one of the most difficult courses of study offered at Rice.  In looking back, I still feel deep ambivalence about the design of Rice's academic program in those years and the toll it took on many of the students.  In general, the mandatory course requirements were quite high, quite possibly excessive for all but the most disciplined and accomplished of students—and many of the students struggled considerably even though they had been at the top of their high school classes and were of the highest caliber.  Despite the great knowledge of most of the professors and the high quality of the students, the extreme rigor and demands of the physics curriculum in my opinion discouraged many students from achieving all that they could have, the material was presented often in an excessively mathematically abstruse manner rather than being more practical and application-oriented, and the lack of emotional support and encouragement for students undergoing the traumas of this difficult curriculum was remarkably unenlightened.  I hope and assume that things have improved at Rice, as they have at other universities, with the advent of meaningful student feedback, the decline in the absolute power and ruthlessness without consequences of professors, the growing understanding and enlightenment regarding the emotional and psychological needs of college students, and the more widespread availability of supportive counseling, etc.  As I have mentioned, I was torn between conflicting desires and perceptions in deciding to stay with physics versus switching to what I thought would be an easier major in biology, and biology would have probably left me better prepared to continue on into the field of medicine, but idealism won out in me at the time.  If I had it to do over again, I would counsel myself to begin originally with or switch to biology as a major for pragmatic reasons, and to take some extra courses in practical physics along the way to exercise my ongoing interest in that subject.  Despite my ambivalence about Rice academics, I am grateful for the opportunity that I was given to attend a fine university at such low expense, to be exposed to many great ideas taught by some outstanding professors, to have had the opportunity to get to know some really brilliant fellow students, and last but certainly not least to be able to meet the young woman of my dreams who would become my wife.

A New Sense of Urgency: College gave me the opportunity to grow substantially in intellectual breadth and depth, and awakened my slumbering sense of social conscience and awareness of and empathy for the plight of those less fortunate.  It was a time when I became intensely aware—as exemplified in the phrase Ars longa vita brevis—that there was an infinite and wonderful world of knowledge awaiting me, and that I wished to explore and learn all I could, but I would never have sufficient time or ability to do so.  I therefore acquired an excited and fervent sense of urgency about learning which has stayed with me all the rest of my life.  I resolved that, given the constraints in time that I and all other mortals face, I would try to avoid wasting time, for instance by merely watching—as opposed to participating in—sporting events, a conclusion I have mostly lived by ever since.  I also chose to put aside card games, most other games (except active participatory ones like tennis), regularly appearing television entertainment programs (with rare exceptions), drinking as a primary form of entertainment, extended periods of socializing, and other self-perceived forms of idleness.  I'm not suggesting that I would avoid all leisure pursuits in the future, but I felt there was too much to be done with far too little time to do it in, and I wanted to press on vigorously and productively.  (Of course, I am aware that some persons perhaps including myself at times use busyness as a way of coping with insecurity, self-doubts, social unease, etc.)  I even once performed an experiment on myself midway through college, when the going was really getting extremely tough and I just did not seem to have enough hours in the day: I attempted to improve my productivity by forcing myself to get by on less sleep for 5 to 7 days.  Unfortunately, this failed abysmally, and I ended up sleeping through an exhausted weekend before slowly recovering.  Regrettably our physiological requirements for sleep, though clearly varying from person to person, cannot simply be wished away and ignored.

Nostalgia for College Days:  Upon graduating from Rice, I felt in some ways that I had departed or been expelled from an intellectual paradise, and would never again have such a grand opportunity for concentrated and broad learning.  I fantasized that we students and my professors had peripatetically strolled the gardens and grounds in rapt communion.  (None of this actually happened to me in physics or other courses, but might conceivably have happened to other students pursuing some of the humanities.  Although one yearbook that I have includes a photo of a Rice class meeting on the grass under a tree, life was not as laid-back on the 1960's conservative Rice campus as I might have wished it to have been.)  As I entered the decidedly pragmatic, non-idyllic, and intense world of biomedicine, I continued to look back longingly and nostalgically on my increasingly idealized college experience—a time during which I had at least been relatively free of adult responsibilities—and wished that I could be back strolling the jasmine-scented walkways, talking of philosophy and the Great Ideas again.  This feeling of deep longing and loss only slowly resolved over the next 10 to 15 years, as I came to enjoy the mature pleasures of being in medicine and the larger adult world to which I was exposed.

Staying Connected:  We would often return to the campus when visiting in Texas.  In Seattle in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, I tried to maintain a connection to Rice by performing alumnus interviewing for the benefit of students in our area who wished to apply to Rice but could not make the trip to Houston.  I gave each prospective student a balanced but generally encouraging perspective about Rice, and I gave to Rice an honest assessment of the kid's potential.  However, I was never convinced Rice admissions actually paid much attention to what I had to say (which was probably just as well, given the way people get sued these days for volunteering any kind of substantive opinion), and I finally passed this task on to another physician alumnus.  We continue to donate annually to Rice, have attended some of their local gatherings, and would recommend Rice U. to most students as a good bargain.

Summer 1965

At somewhat loose ends for the summer, I worked initially for my father in June, ostensibly doing "demographic research" and giving him some company—he paid me $375 for my labors.  We flew to New York City, meeting with his business associates including the lively "Tex" Faught, Don West and Dan Treviño; visiting the World's Fair and the ruins of the now defunct Freedomland; taking the Circle Line Tour around Manhattan; enjoying other usual tourist attractions; and eventually going to Ft. Lauderdale briefly. 

I then worked for M.D. Anderson Hospital for a third summer, by that point wishing I had figured out something new to do rather than returning to the same routine.  I also literally had my first moonlighting job, working for the evening outdoor concerts of the Houston Symphony (see music), for which I earned $1.50 an hour ($111 for the summer).  I began sharing an apartment (at the Pruwood Apartments on Selma) with Larry Thompson, an aspiring scientist of similar age who also worked at M. D. Anderson Hospital.

In the summer, my mother moved back once again to Houston, staying until 1968—my father had moved into a new three bedroom apartment in the Westchester apartments on Voss Road.  He was trying his best to provide a more stable home situation for Tina and Scott, and for Russ and me when we visited.

Becky went to Europe this summer with the Classrooms Abroad program, from June 7 to c. August 22, while I stayed behind to labor in the Houston heat.  She went first to England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and France.  She was then assigned a classroom setting in Neuchatel, Switzerland for most of her time in Europe, and made many weekend excursions.  These experiences provided her with excellent opportunities to hone her French language skills and her knowledge of French and European culture.  She needed three years of a minor subject (French) in order to qualify for a teaching certificate in Texas, and this summer gave her the additional one year's credit required when added to French courses that she had taken as a sophomore and senior.  She applied these skills teaching French just a little more than a year later.  I felt extremely sorry for myself as most of my friends (including suite mates Jim Weiant, Dave Wilhelmsen, and probably Jim Crawford) also had gone to Europe and were having a great time.  We have preserved a voluminous stack of loving daily correspondence from that period of painful separation.

Notes and References

(1) E. H. Crosby, M. L. M. Boone, P. R. Almond, B. R. Worsnop, M. C. McGoodwin, and R. J. Shalek, "Use of Lithium Fluoride Dosimeters for In Vivo Measurement of Transmission Through Bone and Lung", published in 1967 on p. 380 in AEC Symposium Series 8: Luminescence Dosimetry: Proceedings of the International Conference on Luminescence Dosimetry, a conference held at Stanford University, June 21 – 23, 1965.
(2) M. L. M. Boone, E. H. Crosby, R. I.  Shalek, "Skin Reactions and Tissue Heterogeneity in Electron Beam Therapy.  Part II: In Vivo Dosimetry", Radiology 84: 817, May 1965.
(3) Mark Twain, "The Awful German Language", Appendix D from A Tramp Abroad
From http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html, accessed 26 May 2005
(4) Rice University History
a. Early history
From http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~instresr/ricefacts1998/history.html, accessed 21 March 2009
b. Legal struggle to amend the Rice Charter to achieve integration
From http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/university-archives/charter-trial, accessed 21 March 2009
c. Controversy over William H. Masterson's appointment as Rice President: It is interesting to note that Prof. Masterson's reputation and the ill feelings he generated apparently came back to haunt him in February 1969.  He was by then president of the University of Chattanooga, and was appointed by the Rice Board as the new president of Rice after President Pitzer resigned to become president at Stanford.  The faculty and student body objected vehemently with a variety of complaints and protests, and after a five day controversy, Masterson resigned—and instead, the presidencies of Vandiver, Hackerman, Rupp, Gillis, and Leebron at Rice followed. 
From http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/university-archives/masterson-presidency-controversy/, accessed 21 March 2009
(5) Westbury Square: I recall that this commercial shopping area had a very pleasing esthetic and romantic feeling that could be otherwise hard to find in an affordable Houston setting.  A shame that it fell on hard times in competition with the entirely indoor fully air-conditioned shopping malls such as the Galleria, which opened in 1970, and is now apparently replaced by a Home Depot, etc.
(6) EBLS and Other Rice Literary Societies: Putting on dances and staging musicals, such as Sandy Wilson's 1953 musical melodrama The Boyfriend (set in the roaring 1920s), was a tradition of the Elizabeth Baldwin Literary Society, or EBLS, to which Becky belonged. The EBLS was formed in 1914, and several others followed in the absence of sororities on campus, including the Pallas Athene Literary Society and the Owen Wister Literary Society.  These societies served various cultural, community outreach, and social purposes—the EBLS was primarily social as Becky recalls—but went out of fashion in the mid to late 1960s as society changed and the dorms (colleges) went coed.  The EBLS disbanded in the early 1980s, and all the literary societies had closed by the late 1980s.
From http://www.ricehistoricalsociety.org/cornerstone/issues/RiceCornerstoneSummer2000.pdf, accessed 22 March 2009.
(7) Rice General Announcements 1965-1966, etc.:  I have found it helpful to search Google for annual Rice archives named in this manner and that provide interesting and helpful details about many aspects of Rice including professors and courses offered during my years of attendance there.