Anyone who has ever wrestled with a distillation apparatus or an experiment that went awry has only to look at the whimsical architectural details on Howard Keck Hall to see that academic struggles at Rice — and a lighthearted take on them — date back at least to 1925, the year that the building is completed. Originally known as the Chemistry Building, Keck Hall's decorative touches include a freshman fighting a dragon labeled "100" (a reference to Chemistry 100); students prostrating themselves before William Ward Watkin, the 1st chair of the architecture department; and chemistry professor Harry Boyer Weiser, in the guise of a winged monster, crushing a student. The arch facing the street is meant to feature the "three fates" — philosophy professor and chair of the examinations and standings committee Radoslav Tsanoff, registrar S. G. McCann and dean of students Robert G. Caldwell — deciding students' fates, but ultimately Dr. Tsanoff is omitted because of a construction mistake.

When constructed in 1925 the Chemistry Building provides state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms. In 1989 the updated building is renamed Dell Butcher Hall. In 1998 the new chemistry building for chemistry and nanoscale science and technology becomes Dell Butcher Hall, while the 1925 Chemistry Building, completely revamped for molecular biophysics, biochemistry and cell biology and bioengineering is rededicated as Howard Keck Hall on September 21, 2000.

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