At its first commencement ceremony, held June 12, 1916, the Rice Institute awarded 35 bachelor’s degrees to 20 men and 15 women. Eight earned a B.S., meaning they had majored in one of the four engineering disciplines then offered at Rice -- chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.
Among the students in that first graduating class was Carl Knapp (pictured standing, fifth from the right, wearing a bandana), a native of San Angelo, Texas, who came to Rice in its first year, 1912, to study electrical engineering.
“Knapp’s career as a Rice undergraduate is instructive. There was a lot to be done to get the apparatus of student life up and running and not very many available hands. So despite the rigorous academic demands, he plunged into leadership roles in the emerging student activities,” said Melissa Kean, who retired as the Centennial Historian of Rice in 2020.
Knapp served as chair of the Honor Council, treasurer of the Engineering Society, associate editor of the first Campanile and a member of the Riceonian Literary Society. He was an assistant in mathematics. He graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering.
“The first Rice students,” Kean said, “brought with them seriousness of purpose, but also a fun-loving spirit. Knapp did a particularly good job of keeping track of the Owls’ athletic performances, carefully recording every score in every sport for his four years on campus.”
After graduation, Knapp served in the army in World War I. He returned to Houston, started an electrical business and went to work for Houston Lighting and Power. By 1925 he found his true career in real estate.
He worked for the River Oaks Corporation, selling lots and homes in the newly opened Country Club Estates section, and became general manager of sales. In 1947 he formed his own brokerage and appraisal firm.
Knapp was an active member of the Association of Rice Alumni and served a year as its president. He lived with his family in River Oaks and was an elder at Grace Presbyterian Church. Knapp died in 1971 at age 76.