John Andrew Rice


John Andrew Rice

John A. Rice is the founder and first rector of Black Mountain College. He experimented and made progress with higher education. Rice was a major factor in debates during the 1930's and early 1940's among educators concerning the appropriate means and methods of a liberal education. He became known as a harsh critic during his time.

Rice was born in Lynchburg, South Carolina. He was the son of a Methodist minister and his mother was a home maker. Rice attended The Webb School, a highly regarded boarding school located in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. He encountered the teacher he would revere all his life, John Webb. Rice then attended Tulane University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. After Rice graduated from Oxford he began teaching at Webb School, but left after a year to pursue doctoral studies at the University of Chicago. John never completed his doctoral studies; he secured a faculty position at the University of Nebraska. He proved himself brilliant in the classroom and in counseling students. His teaching methods were aimed at the student's emotional and intellectual maturity, rather than their store of subject knowledge. Rice's stay at Nebraska ended when the president who hired him and protected him fell ill. Rice took his unique teaching strategies to the New Jersey College for Women. He was forced to resign after two years after he disrupted Dean Mabel Smith Douglass' teaching faculty. He then landed a faculty position at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He was asked to resign from Rollins because of the nationally reported American Association of University Professors (AAUP) investigation.

Rice then began planning for the learning community that became Black Mountain College. The college opened in 1933 with twenty-one students and eventually grew to nearly one-hundred students. Rice brought a number of new innovative ideas. He brought with him the values of experimental learning and the contribution of social and cultural endeavors outside the classroom among other ideas. Rice enjoyed incorporating visitors into his classrooms and community work projects. Rice was known for his new ideas and his open mind to teaching. Black Mountain College was recognized nationally and Rice's name lives on in the halls of Black Mountain.

Rice was later forced to give up his profession as a teacher due to charges of child molestation and several failed drug tests.

Adamic, Louis. 1936. "Education on a Mountain." Harper's 172:516 - 530.

Duberman, Martin. 1972. Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community. New York: Dutton.

Harris, Mary Emma. 1987. The Arts at Black Mountain College. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lane, Mervin, ed. 1990. Black Mountain College, Sprouted Seeds: An Anthology of Personal Accounts. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Reynolds, Katherine Chaddock. 1998. Visions and Vanities: John Andrew Rice of Black Mountain College. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.


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