At 5:45 a.m. on April 12, 11 students sneak onto the main quad to carry out the biggest prank in student history, 3 years in the making. At 6:25 a.m., using a hand-built A-frame, students rotate the 1-ton statue of William Marsh Rice 180 degrees to face the library. Campus police descend upon the students as they finish disassembling the wooden framing. Only 1 student is caught — and threatened with a large fine and possibly a felony prosecution.
After the Thresher covers the story, it reaches a worldwide audience, rallying support from alumni, including a city councilman and members of Rice’s board. Students print and sell T-shirts that read, "Where There's a Willy, There's a Way” and reimburse the university. What had taken the Rice students 1 hour and $400 to do, takes professionals 3 hours and a rumored $1,500– $2,000 to undo.
Twenty years later, the pranksters collectively donate more than $138,000 to establish the Willy Revolution Engineering Undergraduate Innovation and Excellence Fund at Rice.