In 1957 William V. Houston, Rice's second President, initiated the college system, making Hanszen College one of the four original colleges. The college took the name Hanszen in honor of Harry Clay Hanszen, a member of the Rice University Board of Governors from 1946-1950, and whose wealth came from his ventures in the oil industry.
Hanszen was once known as the "Gentleman's College," because members, then all-male, were required to wear neckties to dinner. However, by the 1960's most students met this rule by wearing a piece of string around their necks. The tradition was stopped when a student protested by wearing only a necktie to dinner. Hanszen was first on campus (along with Baker College) to open to both genders in 1973. Hanszen males took advantage of the change in the early 1980's to develop the men's drill team, the Hanszenettes, which performed at powderpuff football 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 some fairly important contributions to the development of Rice. 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. Our current Commons, built in 2002, is a beautiful modern space where you will experience hours of games, fun, and bonding.