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In 1960 the Rice Institute becomes Rice University, reflecting Rice's evloution as an institution of higher education. President Houston suffers a heart attack that year and resigns. Provost Carey Croneis serves as acting president until the board hires Dr. Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer, a chemist from the University of California at Berkeley, who holds the post from 1961 until 1968, when Stanford University names him its president.

Encouraged by visionary Board Chairman George R. Brown, Pitzer works with faculty leaders to propel Rice into the highest ranks of American higher education. Pitzer conceives and implements a long-range plan, hires 55 new faculty members, doubles graduate student enrollment, expands offerings in the humanities and social sciences and initiates a professionally organized capital campaign. Pitzer indicates he will not accept the presidency if Rice does not diversify its student population, and the Board takes legal action to amend its charter to allow racial integration and to charge tuition.

Rice continues to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with the City of Houston. University and civic leaders cooperate to bring NASA headquarters to Houston. Rice then establishes the 1st university department in the nation wholly dedicated to Space Science. On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy, in his memorable "Moon Speech" at Rice Stadium, announces his plans for manned space flight.

 Athletes perform at high levels, and alumnus Fred Hansen '63 brings home the gold medal in the pole vault at Tokyo's Summer Olympics in 1964.

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