GREAT CITIZENS - DR. EDGAR ODELL LOVETT
Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett was the first president of the institute established by William Marsh Rice. Lovett was born in Shreve, Wayne County, Ohio on April 14, 1871, to Maria Elizabeth (Sprent) and Zephania Lovett. In 1890 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College in West Virginia, where he became an instructor in mathematics and astronomy. In 1895, he received both Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from that university.
In 1897, Dr. Lovett married Mary Ellen Hale of Kentucky, and the Lovett's soon thereafter departed for a tour of the leading European educational institutions. He received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Universities of Christiana, Norway, and Leipzig, Germany. Upon his return to the United States, Dr. Lovett joined the faculty of Princeton University as an instructor in mathematics. In 1907, while teaching at Princeton and serving as chairman of that institution's Department of Astronomy, Dr. Lovett was unanimously selected to be the as-yet-to-be established Rice Institute.
Dr. Lovett and his wife arrived in Houston in 1909. His first task was to organize the faculty of the institute, which opened in 1912 with an enrollment of 77 students. Dr. Lovett served as president of Rice for some 34 years, from the time of its opening until he retired on March 1, 1946. He was largely responsible, through his selection and recruitment of the institution's facility, for Rice's record of achievement and for the maintenance of its high scholastic standards. Under his direction Rice became known as the "Harvard of the South."
In 1946, Dr. Lovett was given the title of President Emeritus. The following year, the administration building was named Lovett Hall in his honor. He continued to serve on the board of trustees in an advisory capacity. Before he died on August 13, 1957, at the age of 86, Dr. Lovett received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from three universities including Drake in Des Moines, Tulane in New Orleans, and Baylor in Waco. He also a member and commander of the French Legion of Honor.