Funds for establishing a private school of higher education in Houston were bequeathed by the former Houston cotton man and entrepreneur William Marsh Rice, who died in 1900. Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, turned down the presidency of the new school, which was named Rice Institute. Wilson, however, recommended the head of the department of mathematics and astronomy at Princeton, Edgar Odell Lovett. Inaugurated in 1912, Lovett assembled an outstanding faculty for the new school (now Rice University) and devoted the rest of his life to building the school into the pre-eminent private university in Texas and one of the finest in the nation. Lovett retired in 1946.