In the late 1800s, an enterprising merchant named William Marsh Rice was asked to invest in the city where he had made his fortune, a city that was booming but lacked any significant educational infrastructure. Eventually, an idea would take root in the unlikeliest of places — an expansive plot of farmland on the outskirts of the city, prone to flooding and a thousand miles from the nearest major university. It was here, incredibly, that a promise was made: to build an internationally renowned university, one that would help define Houston and its place in the world.
One hundred years after its founding, Rice University has distinguished itself as one of the smallest and youngest institutions in the top tier of American universities. Both within and beyond its hedges are stories of Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, mind-bending research and unconventional wisdom. Meanwhile, Houston has become a leader in energy and medicine, a source of technology entrepreneurship and one of the most demographically diverse cities in the nation. The collaborations between the city and its school have inspired everything from the first space science program, to the artificial heart, to cancer-fighting nanobots … and the best is yet to come.
Beyond the Hedges asks: How can a great city and a great university inspire and support each other? The answer takes us on a journey that spans energy, architecture, the arts and more — while unraveling what such partnerships mean to the future of our nation and the world.
The film aired on PBS in October 2013 and was nominated for a Lone Star Emmy for Best Feature Documentary. MWM also designed and built the film’s website.