Edgar Odell Lovett


Edgar Odell Lovett
Edgar Odell Lovett.jpg
Lovett pictured in The Campanile 1917, Rice yearbook
1st President of Rice University
In office
Succeeded byWilliam V. Houston
Personal details
Born(1871-04-14)April 14, 1871
Shreve, Ohio, US
DiedAugust 13, 1957(1957-08-13) (aged 86)
Houston, Texas, US
Alma materBethany College, University of Virginia, University of Leipzig
Scientific career
ThesisThe great inequality of Jupiter and Saturn (1895)

Edgar Odell Lovett (April 14, 1871 – August 13, 1957) was an American educator and education administrator.

He was the first president of Rice Institute (now Rice University) in Houston, Texas. Lovett was recommended to the post by Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University.[1][2]


Early life and career

Lovett was born in Shreve, Ohio, to Zephania and Maria Elizabeth (née Spreng) Lovett. After graduating from Shreve High School, he earned his B.A. at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, in 1890. Lovett taught and studied at West Kentucky College, in Mayfield, Kentucky, and completed his first doctorate degree at the University of Virginia in 1895.[2][3] He completed his second doctorate in mathematics under the instruction of Sophus Lie at the University of Leipzig.[4] In 1897, Lovett lectured at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Chicago.[5] In September 1897 he became an instructor at Princeton University, and in December he married Mary Ellen Hale. Mary Ellen was the daughter of the founder and head of West Kentucky College and the two met while he was there from 1890 to 1892 (Mary Ellen graduated from West Kentucky in 1892). He worked his way from instructor to assistant professor of mathematics (1898), professor (1900), and finally the head of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at Princeton (1908).[2] He was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1904.[6]

When planning Rice Institute, the Board of Trustees sought recommendations for the role of president from the presidents of other universities. Lovett was chosen on the recommendation of Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, and was invited to become Rice's first president in 1907. He accepted and was inaugurated in 1908. Following his inauguration, Lovett was deeply involved in the planning of the university. He oversaw the acquisition of a new site for the campus, the initial architectural planning, the development of the curriculum, and the recruitment of faculty and students. Additionally, Lovett went on a world tour to study the workings of universities and technological institutes in Europe and Japan.[7] Lovett announced his retirement from Rice in 1941, but stayed on through World War II, finally resigning on March 1, 1946.[8] He was succeeded by William Vermillion Houston.[9]


Lovett and his wife had two daughters and two sons.[10]

Mary Ellen became homebound with severe arthritis and rarely left their residence at the Plaza Hotel in Houston from 1929 until her death in 1952.[8] Lovett died in 1957 at Houston hospital after a two-week illness,[11] and is buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas.[2]

Adelaide Lovett graduated from Rice Institute, then went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her mother stayed in Paris with her. In 1922, Adelaide earned her diplome de la Sorbonne, and returned to Houston. Later that year she married Walter Browne "W." Baker (son of James A. Baker and brother of James A. Baker, Jr.), a prominent Houston banker who was awarded the Department of the Navy's Distinguished Civilian Service for his service during World War II in managing the purchasing of equipment for the Navy. Adelaide was a co-founder and first president of the Houston Junior League in 1924.[12][13]

Henry Malcolm Lovett graduated from Rice and then obtained a law degree from Harvard University. After returning to Houston he joined the law firm of Baker & Botts (Baker, Botts, Parker & Garwood, now Baker Botts) in 1924 (with James A. Baker, Jr., father of James Addison Baker, III), and served as chairman of the Rice University board of trustees 1967 to 1973. He served on the Board of Advisors of Harvard Law School from 1965 to 1971. Henry and his wife Martha Wicks set up the Henry Malcolm Lovett Endowment Fund for the Fondren Library and the Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Distinguished Service Professor of Musicology at Rice University.[12][14]


  • Lovett Boulevard in southwest Houston, which runs from Taft Street west to just south of Westheimer Road, was named in his honor.[15]
  • The administration building was renamed Lovett Hall on December 4, 1947 to honor then-President Emeritus Lovett.[16]
  • Lovett College, a residential college at Rice University, was named after him.[17]
  • As part of Rice University's centennial celebrations in 2012, an 8-foot bronze sculpture of Lovett was erected .[18]
  • Edgar Odell Lovett Elementary School was named for him.[19]


  1. ^ Boles, p. 39.
  2. ^ a b c d Edgar Odell Lovett. – Handbook of Texas Online. – Texas State Historical Association. – Retrieved: 2007-12-26
  3. ^ Lovett, Edgar Odell (1895). The great inequality of Jupiter and Saturn (Ph.D.). University of Virginia. doi:10.18130/V3H28P. OCLC 987876764.
  4. ^ Boles, p.13.
  5. ^ Boles, pp.19–21.
  6. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  7. ^ Stephen Fox (February 1, 2001). The Campus Guides: Rice University. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-1-56898-246-5.
  8. ^ a b Rogers, Karen and John Boles (lecture). – "Lovett Family Archives Arrive at Rice, Part II: A Talk by John Boles to the Rice Historical Society" Archived July 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. – Rice Cornerstone. – Rice Historical Society. – Summer 2005 – Volume 10, Number 2. – (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  9. ^ "Houston to Houston". – TIME. – January 14, 1946. – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  10. ^ Rogers, Karen and John Boles (lecture). – "Lovett Family Archives Arrive at Rice: A Talk by John Boles to the Rice Historical Society". – Rice Cornerstone. – Rice Historical Society. – Spring 2005 – Volume 10, Number 1. – (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  11. ^ "Dr. Edgar Lovett of Rice Institute; President of Houston School From Its Inception in 1907 Until 1941 Dies at '86". – The New York Times. – August 14, 1957. – p.25. – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  12. ^ a b City of Houston: Procedures for Historic District Designation Archived June 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. – City of Houston. – (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document). – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  13. ^ "Memorial-area woman honored for volunteerism – Junior League of Houston awards Adelaide Lovett Baker Award". – Houston Chronicle.  – March 29, 2007. – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  14. ^ "Houston attorney and son of first Rice president dies at 95". – Houston Chronicle. – June 12, 1997. – Retrieved: 2008-07-11
  15. ^ http://www.english.paris-sorbonne.fr/spip.php?lang=en
  16. ^ "Centennial Timeline". Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  17. ^ Fox 2001, pp. 147
  18. ^ "Lovett family unveils first president's statue". Rice University News & Media. October 15, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  19. ^ "E. O. Lovett Elementary Fine Arts Magnet: History". Retrieved July 13, 2015.

External links

  • Works by or about Edgar Odell Lovett at Internet Archive
  • Edgar Odell Lovett at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • Guide to the Rice Institute President Edgar Odell Lovett papers, 1907-1954 (Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA)
  • Guide to the Edgar Odell Lovett and Mary Ellen Hale Lovett Family papers, 1849-1979 (Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA)

Further reading

  • Boles, John B., (2007). – University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute. – Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. – ISBN 0-8071-3275-6
Academic offices
Preceded by
New position
President of Rice University
Succeeded by