In 1957, Rice's second president William V. Houston initiated the college system. Hanszen College was created the same year along with Baker, Will Rice, and Wiess, with all four being male-only. The college took its name in honor of Harry Clay Hanszen, a Houston oil magnate and member of the Rice University Board of Governors from 1946-1950. An existing dorm called South Hall, along with a new dorm completed in 1957, became Hanszen's Old Section and New Section, respectively.
Hanszen was once known as the "Gentleman's College," because members were required to wear neckties to dinner. However, by the 1960's most students attained this by wearing just a piece of string around their necks. The tradition was stopped when a student protested by wearing only a necktie to dinner. In 1973, Hanszen one of the first colleges to include both men and women. Powderpuff football became very popular, and male Hanszenites quickly formed a men's drill team, the Hanszenettes, which performed at games. In 1975, tragedy struck Hanszen College when the Commons burned to the ground. It seems a large pile of mattresses, stored in the Commons while Old Section was being renovated, was ignited, possibly by a worker's cigarette. Until a new Commons was built, Hanszen students ate their meals at the Rice Student Center. Hanszenites embraced the change, happily adopting the nickname "The Uncollege," created by other colleges.
Hanszen College has made multiple important contributions to the development of Rice as we know it. For example, Hanszen was the first college to adopt a crest. Hanszen also founded the Rice Coffeehouse in what is now the Weenie Loft. Started in the late 1960's, the "Corner of the Dreaming Monkey" would serve to satiate the Rice community's cravings for caffeine as well as for a co-ed social spot. Additionally, Rice's campus-wide radio station, KTRU, started when some students altered the room buzzer system that ran throughout Hanszen into a radio transmission network. The university would eventually recognize the presence of the radio network and reward it with the facilities and equipment that allowed it to become the area-wide station that exists today.
Though long ago Hanszen was known as the "Gentlemen's College" and "The Uncollege," we are now known as the "Family College," a reflection of the close and caring relations among its members. We are increasingly known for our Commons culture, meaning that our Commons is often a bustling, lively, and fun place to be. It also means that Hanszenites identify more with the college as a whole than a smaller unit such as their floor or region of their dorm. Our current Commons, built in 2002, is a beautiful modern space where you will experience hours of games, fun, and bonding. In 2021, Hanszen's original New Section was torn down to make way for a new dorm building that is much larger and nicer, our current New Section.
Visit our Hanszen History YouTube channel to learn more about Hanszen!
Check out the Hanszen O-Week Genealogy website! This site enables you to find the distance and path between two people through O-Week families.