Coffee v. Rice University

408 S.W.2d 269 (1966)

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Coffee v. Rice University

Texas Court of Civil Appeals
408 S.W.2d 269 (1966)

Facts

In 1891, William Marsh Rice gave $200,000 to the founding trustees of what has become Rice University (plaintiff) to be used as an endowment fund for the establishment and maintenance of a Public Library and Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science, and Art. The written instrument accompanying the gift provided that the money be used for the instruction of “white inhabitants” in the city of Houston and state of Texas. The instrument further provided for the establishment and maintenance of a polytechnic school designed to give instruction in science and art, and stated that the instruction, benefits, and enjoyment to be derived from the Public Library, Institute, and Polytechnic School should be “free and open to all.” Rice University filed a lawsuit seeking an interpretation of the instrument that would allow the university to accept students without regard to race and to charge tuition. The trial court submitted questions to the jury, and the jury found (1) that the instrument intended that the Institute admit white students only, but that it would be impossible or impracticable to carry out such intent; and (2) that the instrument intended that the Institute be free of tuition, but again that it would be impossible or impracticable to carry out such intent.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Coleman, J.)

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