1954: The Cactus in Sound


Above: The Cactus in Sound for 1953 – 1954. Listen here.

In 1953, the Cactus yearbook staff decided to try an experiment. Instead of documenting the academic year only through photographs, what if the Cactus created a sound archive as well? The staff recruited Richard “Cactus” Pryor, then a UT alumnus and well-known humorist and radio personality, to serve as narrator, and promptly set out to record some of the highlights of the school year.

A formal album – an “audio yearbook” –  was produced and sold for $6.00, but the recording wasn’t as popular as the staff had hoped. The 1954 edition was the only one. Today, though, it provides us with a few precious glimpses of campus life at UT over sixty years ago.


Above: An unofficial football rally staged at Martin’s “Kumback” burger restaurant.

Included on the recording:

  • The first football rally of the 1953-54 school year, held in Gregory Gym. Some of the yells here are no longer heard on the campus.
  • The inauguration speech of Logan Wilson, installed as President of the University of Texas on October 29, 1953.
  • Selections from “Time Staggers On,” an annual musical spoof on campus life that was a popular 25-year UT tradition.
  • Highlights from the annual Round Up weekend, originally a spring homecoming with parties, dances, performances, an elaborate parade through downtown Austin, and the announcement of the UT Sweetheart.
  • The UT Tower chimes play “Home on the Range” and “The Eyes of Texas” before marking the hour at 1 p.m.

Listen to the 1954 Cactus in Sound here!

You can also find it under the “Audio” menu on the UT History Corner.

Happy listening!



Above: The Main Building and Tower in 1954 as viewed from Mary Gearing Hall. 

Race for the Turkey


For Berry Whitaker, the new Director of Intramural Sports for Men, it was to be the start of a new University tradition. A century ago, November 28, 1916, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Whitaker organized a special cross-country style two-mile race that started at the men’s gymnasium, went north of campus for a mile along Speedway Street, then doubled back to the finish. The race was open to any boarding house or fraternity that could muster a four-man team, though only the top three finishers would be counted in the overall results.

Instead of medals or trophies, though, the prizes awarded were appropriate for the upcoming holiday. The first place team would receive a Thanksgiving turkey, second place finishers given a chicken, and the third place team was to be awarded a duck. And just to clarify, the prizes weren’t coupons to be redeemed at the local grocery store for pre-processed, smartly packaged frozen fowl. The winning teams would receive live animals to take home and do with as they wished.

berry-whitakerWhitaker was hired the previous June to be an Instructor of Physical Training and to launch an Intramural Sports program, the third – behind Ohio State and Michigan – on a university campus. For a starting salary of $1,500, he was charged with providing a formal organization and direction to the recreation activities that were mushrooming on the Forty Acres. The inaugural meeting of the student-led Intramural Council on October 6, 1916 is considered the birth of the program, and this year, the Division of Recreational Sports celebrates the centennial.

Above right; Berry Whitaker, the founder of UT’s Intramural Sports program for men. The Whitaker Sports Complex – the intramural fields and tennis courts about 2 1/2 miles north of campus – is named for him.

While the fledgling intramural program included the traditional sports of football, basketball, tennis, and baseball, Whitaker looked for opportunities to involve more students. A turkey race just before Thanksgiving provided something novel, and he hoped it would become an annual event.

dt-1916-11-28-turkeyrace-headlineThe race was announced in The Daily Texan and entries were taken through the Saturday beforehand. In all, eight teams vied for the prized gobbler, including the boarding houses of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Walker, and Mrs. Hopkins, along with the Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi, Acacia, and Delta Tau Delta fraternities.

On Tuesday afternoon, under partly cloudy skies and with light northern breezes, Whitaker started the race with a starters pistol. University student Roy Henderson volunteered to drive his Model T Ford in front of the runners to clear any traffic. In less than 15 minutes, the heavily favored Mrs. Walker’s boarding house claimed first place, as half of its runners were also on the UT Track Team. Who won the duck and the chicken wasn’t mentioned in the Texan, which by Wednesday was full of stories about the Thanksgiving Homecoming celebrations, the football game against the A&M College, and the upcoming presentation of a steer that would later be named Bevo.

As for the turkey race, the 1916 version was the only one. The United States entered the First World War the following April, and most campus activities were directed toward the war effort. Whitaker, along with UT Athletic Director Theo Bellmont, enlisted in the U. S. Army. When peace was achieved in November 1918, Whitaker returned to Austin only to be drafted as an assistant football coach in 1919, and then promoted to UT head football coach the following year, all while still managing the Intramural Sports program. Whitaker retired from coaching in 1922 (with an admirable three-year 22-3-1 record), but never tried to revive the Thanksgiving turkey race.


Above: The UT campus in 1916, with the old Main Building, as seen from the Texas Capitol dome. 

Garrison Hall is 90!


Above: Garrison Hall, just before it was opened in 1926.

This year, Garrison Hall is 90 years old. Nestled in the southeast corner of the Main Mall, peeking out from behind a canopy of live oaks, the building is often overlooked in favor of its better-known neighbors, Battle Hall and the UT Tower. But Garrison Hall is an architectural gem with a distinctive history, a treasure on the campus for those who take the time to explore it.



Above: The University of Texas campus from University Avenue, circa 1920. 

In 1921, a crowded and growing University of Texas first acquired land beyond its original forty acres. A bill passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Pat Neff purchased property to the east and southeast. The campus tripled in size, and extended past Waller Creek.

The following year, the Board of Regents appointed Herbert Greene of Dallas as the University Architect. Greene succeeded Cass Gilbert, who had designed Battle and Sutton Halls, but because he was based in New York City, was a victim of mounting political pressure to have an in-state architect for the University. Greene was highly respected as a building designer, but his experience in campus planning was limited. In 1923, the regents recruited James White, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois, as the consulting architect who would provide an overall campus master plan.

White submitted his first campus scheme in fall of 1924. Eager to take advantage of the long, gently sloping hill that extended east into the new portion of the campus, White proposed a significant re-orientation of the campus, to face east instead of south toward downtown Austin, and designed a single mall, 175 feet wide, that connected the crest of the hill at the center of the Forty Acres – where the old Main Building stood and where the Tower is today – with Waller Creek at the bottom of the slope. Campus structures were arranged in a series of concentric rings that spread outward from the hilltop.


Above: John White’s 1924 campus master plan, which would have emphasized an east-west orientation. On the left, Battle Hall would have been enlarged and become the focus of a large square, while a broad East Mall would have continued down the hill to the right toward Waller Creek. The football stadium is at the bottom right. Below: The future position of Garrison Hall is circled. It was changed to an L-shaped building to help define the edge of the central square and the East Mall. Click on an image for a larger version.

1924-white-campus-plan-garrison-hall-placementWhite envisioned the University Library (today’s Battle Hall) as the focus of the campus, removed the Old Main Building entirely, and replaced it with a large square plaza, 450 feet long on each side. The library was to be enlarged so that its façade was roughly three times the length of the original building, and would be centered on the plaza’s west side. Across the plaza on the east end, two buildings were planted as part of the first concentric ring and also intended to visually define the width of the mall.

Surprisingly, the Faculty Building Committee, the University President and the Board of Regents all approved this radical new design, with a few important alterations. The two buildings immediately to the east of the central plaza, instead of being part of a circle, were retooled as L-shaped structures. One was to be placed near the southeast corner of the plaza and face the library; its north-south wing would define the limit of the plaza, while it east-west wing would define the boundary of the mall. As its counterpart, another L-shaped building was intended to be near the northeast corner of the plaza.

Once White’s campus plan was ratified, the regents declared a new classroom building (and a new home for the history department) its top priority, and directed the building planned for the southeast corner of the plaza to be constructed first.


Above: Garrison Hall seen from the UT Tower observation deck. 

Almost immediately, though, the administration began to have second thoughts. William Battle, Chair of the Faculty Building Committee, wrote to White, “The University has been facing Austin and the Capitol so long that it would not be easy to abandon this front even if it were thought desirable.” Within a year, the regents concurred, rescinded their decision, and asked White to try again. But the process for the new structure was well underway, and rather than wait for a new scheme, construction was allowed to continue. The building’s odd placement – it doesn’t line up with the entrance to Battle Hall or the flagpoles on the Main Mall – would be an issue for future campus planners.


view-from-garrison-hall-1920sOpened in 1926 at a cost of $370,000, Garrison Hall was host to a collage of academic departments; English, government, psychology, sociology, philosophy, economics and history initially shared the facility, though the building was really always intended for history, and the other departments have since found lodgings elsewhere on campus. The building’s namesake, George P. Garrison, joined the University faculty in 1884, served as the first chair of the history department, and was a founding member of the Texas State Historical Association.

Above: The 1920s view of the campus from the north side of Garrison Hall. Old Main is on the right, with the library (Battle Hall) across the mall. Click on image for a larger version.

1925-garrison-hall-cornerstone-ceremonyThe cornerstone, as with the cornerstones of most of the buildings on the Forty Acres, is hollow, something like a permanently sealed time capsule. Among the objects placed inside: a 1925 Cactus yearbook; a catalog, course schedule, and student directory for the 1925-26 academic year; an alumni directory, copies of The Daily Texan; a souvenir “Book of Views” of the University; a source book on the history of Texas; and articles and letters authored by George Garrison.

Right: Images from the cornerstone ceremony in December 1925.

Along with its unusual location, Garrison’s ornamentation also represented a departure from earlier UT buildings. Classical icons adorn architect Cass Gilbert’s Battle and Sutton Halls. Owls, an ancient symbol of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, were placed under the eaves of Battle Hall, while Sutton Hall was decorated with scallop shells, emblematic of Venus, the Goddess of Truth and Beauty.


garrison-hall-austin-windowGarrison Hall continued the same Mediterranean motif of Gilbert’s designs, constructed of Lauder limestone quarried from France, multi-colored bricks similar to Sutton Hall, and a red-tile roof imported from Spain. Its ornamentation, though, is unmistakably “Texan.” Limestone carvings of longhorn skulls, along with terra-cotta cacti and bluebonnets decorate the entrances. Imprinted below the eaves and corner windows are the names of founders of the Republic of Texas, among them: Houston, Austin, Burnet, Jones, Travis, and Lamar.

Above: The names of the founders of the Republic of Texas appear on the building, along with 32 cattle brands. Here is the “W” of the King Ranch.

Most striking are the 32 terra-cotta cattle brands, carefully chosen among hundreds of candidates, to represent various periods of the cattle industry in the State of Texas. Garrison Hall is the only college building anywhere to have cattle brands on its outer walls. The unusual choice received national press while the building was under construction.


Above: The inclusion of terra-cotta cattle brands on a college building to mark the history of the Texas cattle industry received national press. This is a clipping from the Saint Louis Times-Dispatch.

The idea came from Dr. William Battle, then chair of the Faculty Building Committee. Though he was, ironically, a professor of Greek and Classical Civilization, Battle claimed not to be “stuck on” classical icons for UT buildings, and suggested the use of images that pertained to the academic departments housed inside them.

garrison-hall-linoleum-tileInside, more than 3,500 square feet of linoleum tile was used in the extra-wide hallways. Greene advocated using “battleship green,” but Battle was concerned that the color wouldn’t hide the dirt, scuffing, and general wear as well, and preferred brown. In the end, a compromise was reached, and both colors were used. Rooms were equipped with ceiling fans, and a modern water cooling system was installed for the drinking fountains to make the un-air conditioned building bearable in the warmer months.



Once opened, the broad arched doorway on the north side of the building soon attracted a population of bats, and the attention of Goldwin Goldsmith, then the head of UT’s Department of Architecture and for whom Goldsmith Hall is named. A brief letter exchange between Goldsmith and Battle, found in the University Archives, reads:

October 28, 1931

To: Dr. William Battle, Chairman, Faculty Building Committee

Dear Dr. Battle:

I noticed that the north entrance to Garrison Hall is a harboring place for bats. It is evident to the senses of both sight and smell.

Goldwin Goldsmith


November 8, 1931

My dear Goldsmith:

Thanks for your letter about bats. I do not see how to protect entrances from these loathsome creatures, but Miss Gearing tells me that the Comptroller’s office has an excellent way of dealing with them. It is apparently by using fire extinguishing apparatus.

Yours very truly,

W.J. Battle


Paul CretPaul Cret (photo at right), appointed in 1930 to replace James White as consulting architect, developed his own campus master plan, which included the Main Building and Tower, and attempted to resolve the issue of Garrison Hall’s placement. Born in Lyon, France and trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Cret has immigrated to the United States and oversaw the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania when he was hired by UT. With an emphasis of straight lines and balanced masses, he placed the flagpoles on the Main Mall to line up with the entrance of Battle Hall.

To anticipate future growth, Cret suggested adding wings to existing structures, rather than construct new buildings in open areas that might disturb the layout of the campus. Garrison Hall was included in the idea. Though not implemented (at least, not yet), Cret envisioned a north wing to Garrison Hall that would allow its main entrance to be re-positioned where it would still be in the center of the front façade, and also line up with Battle Hall.


Above: A bird’s eye view of Paul Cret’s campus plan, with a close-up of the Main Mall. To plan ahead for growth, Cret advocated adding wings to the W.C. Hogg Building and Garrison Hall. This wouldn’t disturb the overall plan – actually, it better defined the start of the East Mall – but the wing to Garrison would also allow the front door to be moved to the north and centered with Battle Hall and the flag poles.

Below: A closer look at the W. C. Hogg Building on the left with a wing extending south, and Garrison Hall on the right with an addition to the north and its front entrance relocated.


Source: Detail from 1933 University of Texas Perspective of Future Development, The University of Texas Buildings Collection, The Alexander Architectural Archive, The University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin


Moonlight Prowl on October 14th


It’s been a busy fall semester for the Moonlight Prowl. Eight tours were held in September, including a group of 130 students and parents who gathered for a Prowl during UT’s Family Weekend. Several more are set for October.

The next “all-comers” Prowl – open to anyone interested – is scheduled for this Friday, October 14th, the night before the Texas vs. Iowa State football game. We’ll gather on the Main Mall in front of the Tower at 8 p.m.

For all the particulars, see the Moonlight Prowl information page.

RSVPs are appreciated, but not required. You can send me a quick note here, or RSVP via a Facebook event.

The weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies, and it’ll only be two days before the full moon. A great night to wander the campus and discuss some UT history!

Hope to see you October 14th,



Old Main.1910s.Postcard.2.

Above: The University’s old Main Building, where the Tower stands today.

The Inscription


Above: Perhaps the most-read inscription on the University of Texas campus, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” above the entrance to the Main Building.

“After much rumination,” wrote Dr. William Battle on April 10, 1935, “I suggest the following as an appropriate inscription for the front of New Library.” Battle chaired the Faculty Building Committee, and as the construction of the Main Building and Tower – which would serve as the University Library – was well underway, the committee needed to make decisions about some of the ornamentation. Specifically, the text for the signature engraving that would adorn the south façade of the building.

The choice was overdue. “I wrote you some time ago about the inscriptions for the Administration-Library building,” prodded architect Paul Cret the previous December, “and to determine the size of the letters, joining of the stones, etc., we need the ne varietur text of the frieze inscription of the south elevation.” The ne varietur, or “not to be altered” script could be up to 108 letters and spaces in length, either one sentence or two, though as the design called for the inscription to be divided by a rendering of the University seal in the middle, Cret advised that it would be “difficult to find two suitable sentences of the same length. We feel that a single sentence gives more leeway.”


Above: The south elevation of the Main Building, designed by architect Paul Cret. Click on the image for a larger version. Source is listed below.

william-battleBattle, who had joined the faculty as a professor of Greek and classical studies in 1893, was highly respected on the Forty Acres. He’d served as Dean of the University (today’s Office of the Provost) and Acting President, created the UT seal, founded the University Co-op, and initiated a campus directory. His greatest contribution, though, was to chair the Faculty Building Committee from 1920 – 1948. Battle’s lifelong interest in architecture was almost as great as his fascination with Ancient Greece and Rome, and he took great care to ensure that the design of the campus and its buildings were both appropriate to their setting in Texas, and reflected the high aspirations of the University. When considering the text of the primary inscription on what was intended to be the iconic building of the University of Texas, Battle was not to be rushed.

His suggestion was:

“The records of the past shall give light and courage to them that come after.”

As Battle explained, “This seems to me to really convey the purpose of the Library and what should be its result. The words carry a formal, rather stately manner suggested obviously in the King James version of the Bible.” The sentence was Battle’s own creation, not a biblical quote, and he hoped it would evoke a similar gravitas. “The locution ‘them that come after’ by its ancient flavor ought to stick in the memory,” Battle explained.

The proposal garnered a less-than-enthusiastic response from the committee, but Battle had such stature and influence on the campus that many on the committee were reluctant to voice their opinions directly. Instead, they asked fellow committee member John Calhoun for help.
john-calhounA longtime friend and trusted colleague, Calhoun was a UT graduate who joined the mathematics faculty in 1909, was appointed the University’s comptroller in 1925, and later served as president ad interim. Passionate about the oak tree, Calhoun was primarily responsible for the planting of live oaks around the perimeter of the Forty Acres, along the South Mall, and elsewhere on the campus. In the 1950s, he created a valuable detailed map of every tree and its history, still used by UT’s Office of Landscape Services. Calhoun Hall on the South Mall is named for him.

Calhoun penned a tactful letter to Battle. “After pondering for some little time over your suggested inscription,” he wrote, “I have tried my hand a little to see whether or not there might be some slight change made, keeping the idea, which I think excellent, intact. The reason that I think some change might be considered is the fact that in your inscription you say that ‘records’ shall give ‘light’, and while records are frequently enlightening it seemed to me that the metaphor is a little strained.”

Calhoun offered a few variations:

  • “The light of the past shall guide the feet and strengthen the hearts of them that come after.”
  • “The light from the past shall guide and hearten them that come after.”
  • “The light of experience is the guide and inspiration of the future.”
  • “Light of past ages shall illuminate the paths of the future.”

Battle appreciated the feedback, but was rather attached to his initial idea. He acquiesced a little and changed the phrase “shall give light and courage” to “shall bring light and courage,” but that was as much as he was willing to concede. In an effort to bring Battle around, Calhoun provided an alternative, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” found in the Book of John in the Bible.

A month passed before Battle returned to the topic. “Had we not better be reaching some conclusion as to the inscription on the front of the Library?” he wrote the committee on May 14th. “It seems highly appropriate for the inscription to indicate the character of the building as a library.”

ut-seal-main-building-south-facadeBattle repeated his initial submission, but partially conceded,” I still think my first suggestion good, but I am not sure if the second is not after all preferable: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free, or, Cognoscetis Veritatem et veritas liberabit vos.” The last was a Latin translation.

Battle continued, “Truth and freedom are so essentially the foundation of education, character, and progress that the injunction to seek truth as a means to freedom is as splendid a call to youth as we can make. Its form is perfect, its source is not a drawback, and it has the weight of nearly two thousand years acceptation.”

The biblical quote was brief, inspiring, and easily understood. And from a practical angle, it was composed of two clauses and twelve words, which fit well for the elevation design.

The committee met May 20, 1935 to make a decision. Battle handed each member a sheet of paper with three choices, though from the wording he seemed to still be encouraging his initial creation. The page read:

“W. J. Battle’s suggestion for the Library front inscription:

The records of the past shall bring light and courage to them that come after

Another suggestion:

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free

Or better:

Cognoscetis Veritatem et veritas liberabit vos”

In the end, the committee favored the English version from the Book of John. With UT President Harry Benedict’s support, the Board of Regents gave its official approval on September 28th.


Source for Paul Cret drawing: Main Building and Library extension, Comm. 282, sk. no. 36, Paul Philippe Cret Drawings – Copyright held by H2L2 Architects/Planners, The Alexander Architectural Archives, The University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.


A century ago, the University went all out to celebrate William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Tercentery.The Winters Tale

Above: UT students portray characters from The Winters Tale for a campus-wide Shakespeare pageant.

 Shakespeare.1623 Folio.Harry Ransom CenterForsooth! This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. For the occasion, the University’s Harry Ransom Center presented a special exhibit of its extensive Shakespeare collection, including three copies of the 1623 First Folio (left), considered by many to be the most important collection of English literature ever published.

On the anniversary date – Saturday, April 23rd – the UT campus was relatively quiet. There were no ceremonies to honor William Shakespeare. No speeches, parades, songs, dances, revels, or plays performed to remember the Bard from Stratford. That might sound a little over the top, but a century ago, the entire University community turned the 300th anniversary, the Shakespeare Tercentenary, into a five day Shakespeare-palooza.


Shakespeare at WinedaleMention Shakespeare and the University of Texas in the same sentence and the conversation inevitably turns to the Shakespeare at Winedale program. Begun in 1970 as a summer class by English professor James Ayers on the premise that the best way to explore Shakespeare’s plays is to perform them, the program has grown into a year-round effort that reaches students from elementary school through college. Most performances still take place in a now iconic nineteenth-century barn at the Winedale Historical Complex east of Austin, in the tiny town of Round Top. Though it’s an unlikely setting, both students and audiences alike swelter through the Texas summer heat to immerse themselves in Shakespeare’s works.

Leslie WaggenerThe Bard, though, has long been a welcome figure on the Forty Acres. Leslie Waggener (photo at left), one of the University’s original eight professors and a longtime Chair of the Faculty, inspired students in his English classes to organize a Shakespearean Club in 1885, during UT’s third academic year. When time allowed, he often presented lectures about Shakespeare to appreciative audiences across the state. “People who went to the opera house last night were entertained far beyond their most sanguine hopes,” gushed the Fort Worth Gazette about a talk Waggener delivered in 1887. AAS.1905 headlineInternationally known Shakespeare scholar Mark Liddell taught at UT in the late 1890s and mesmerized students with his occasional in-class performances. Liddell published an essay titled “Botching Shakespeare” in the October, 1898 Atlantic Monthly that’s still referenced in the current debate over whether to translate Shakespeare’s plays into modern English. In 1905, the Ashbel Literary Society, a ladies-only student organization, surprised everyone with a performance of A Curtain Club Logo.1909Mid-Summer Night’s Dream that featured an all-female cast, a reversal from Shakespeare’s time when women were prevented from appearing on stage and all of the roles were played by men. The show was such a hit, the Ashbel staged As You Like It the following year. In 1909, the Curtain Club was founded as the University’s first formal dramatic association. It was named for the Curtain Theater, one of several commercial stages – along with the Globe – that were operating in London during Shakespeare’s career.

Shakespeare on Main Building

Today, “Shakespeare” adorns the University’s Main Building. Constructed in the 1930s to serve as the central library, the names of fourteen literary giants – Aristotle, Homer, Cervantes, Moliere, and Mark Twain, among them – were symbolically engraved in limestone along the east and west walls. Shakespeare was placed in the northeast corner. And, just in case more UT-Shakespeare connections were needed, Paul Cret, the architect of the Main Building and Tower, was also the designer of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  Cret was finishing his plans for the Shakespeare Library just as the University hired him to be its consulting architect.

Folger Shakerspeare Library

SouthMallColorAbove and left: Two buildings which share the same architect. In 1928, oil magnate Henry Folger hired Paul Cret, then head of the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania, to design a library and theater in Washington, D.C. to make Folger’s extensive collection of rare Shakespeareana available to the public. Two years later, as Cret was finishing the project and construction was about to begin, the University of Texas appointed him as its consulting architect. Cret completed his campus master plan for UT – which included the Main Building and Tower – in 1933, the same year the Folger Shakespeare Library opened. Click on an image for a larger view.


Drama League of America.PamphletIn 1914, at its annual conference in Chicago, the Drama League of America discussed the upcoming 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916 and voted to bring about   “a great national Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration.” The group didn’t have the resources to coordinate a single, coast-to-coast effort. Instead, it encouraged local events organized by communities, schools, and colleges. It held press conferences, contacted civic organizations, and published pamphlets filled with ideas for parades, day-long Shakespeare festivals, music and steps to old English dances, and ideas for easily-made Elizabethan costumes (image at right).

The Drama League’s efforts were incredibly successful. Despite the anxiety of an economic recession and a heated debate over whether the United Sates should enter the war in Europe, much of 1916 was given over to a national veneration of Shakespeare. The New York Times sponsored a weekly supplement devoted to the Bard, the city of Saint Louis Shakes Tercentenary.U Iowaboasted five performances of As You Like It with a cast of 1,000 persons, the University of Iowa organized a well-attended outdoor festival (photo at left). Commemorative parks were dedicated, schoolchildren learned Morris dances, and Shakespeare parties were a national fad.

Most organizers took their cues from the Drama League and sponsored one or two of the published suggestions: a parade and performance of a play, for example, or an academic lecture as part of a library exhibit. But Shakespeare was especially welcome in Austin. The University of Texas did them all, and more.


UT Campus.1916

Above: The University campus in 1916. “Old Main” in the center has been replaced by the current Main Building and Tower.

For UT, Shakespeare fever arrived in 1915 at a spring meeting of the faculty, when English professor Reginald Griffith proposed a campus-wide celebration. A PhD graduate of the University of Chicago, Griffith came to Austin in 1902 for what would be a fifty-year career.  Passionate about rich libraries and rare books, he initiated with UT president Robert Vinson – and enabled by a generous $200,000 gift from George Littlefield – the 1917 purchase of the John Wrenn Library in Chicago, the first step in creating a world class literary research center at the University. Just before his retirement, Griffith spearheaded the effort to found the University of Texas Press in 1950.

AAS.1915.07.15.Headline.Program AuthorizedThe faculty approved the idea unanimously. An organizing committee of five, with Griffith as chair, was appointed, including Latin professor Ed Fay, history professor Ed Barker, Aute Richards from zoology, and faculty secretary (and noted cowboy song collector) John Lomax. By mid-July, the initial plans were announced in the Austin Daily Statesman, but were decidedly tame and traditional. There would be an exhibit in the University Library, distinguished scholars would be invited for guest lectures, and a professional troupe would be hired to present several Shakespeare plays “for the delight and instruction of the students and faculty.”

Griffith, though, wasn’t satisfied. Just as the future Shakespeare at Winedale program was built upon the tenet of understanding Shakespeare through performance, Griffith sought to involve as much of the University community as possible, and not as mere spectators. He prodded the committee for more ideas and sought advice from friends and colleagues. By the end of the 1915 fall term, plans for a far more ambitious Shakespeare Tercentenary had emerged.


Eunice AdenFor several years, Eunice Aden, as Director of Physical Training for Women (photo at right), had organized an annual spring exhibition of games, exercises, and dances by hundreds of participating co-eds. Held at the University’s athletic field  (old Clark Field, about where the O’Donnell Building and the Gates-Dell Computer Science complex are today), it was meant, in part, to promote the still not-completely-accepted idea of women in sports. Griffith approached Aden about substituting a nighttime Shakespeare commemoration for her usual program, making it instead an evening of old English folk dances, along with an original artistic tribute to the Bard. Aden, who as a UT student had starred as Orlando in the 1906 Ashbel Society production of As You Like It, readily agreed. A dozen sections of the men’s gym classes were recruited to be partners with the girls.

A performance of sixteenth century English dances, though, needed a proper setting. Phi Alpha Tau, a professional fraternity whose membership then drew from the campus literary, debate, and dramatic clubs, volunteered to design and build a replica of an English village that would stretch across the far side of the football field as a backdrop. The idea quickly expanded into a full Bartholomew Fair, what amounted to the first Renaissance Fair in Texas. Spectators would watch the dance performance seated in the stands, and then be invited on to the field to join in the fair afterward.

Clark Field.West Stands

Above: Clark Field, looking toward the covered west stands. A Bartholomew Fair was constructed along the east half of the field.

As Clark Field wasn’t lighted, physics professor LeRoy Brown offered to supervise a group of science and engineering students that would install spotlights as temporary illumination, along with special lighting effects for the fair. Music professor Frank Reed took on the responsibility for the live music needs for the evening, found the scores to English folk dances and other appropriate tunes, and recruited the University band and singing groups.


Thus far, more than a thousand of the University’s 2,600 enrolled students were involved.  What about the rest? Inspiration came from home front, as Griffith’s wife, Alice, had been researching previous Shakespeare celebrations, particularly the first Shakespeare Jubilee that took place in Stratford in 1769. Among the many scheduled events was a pageant, a parade of costumed characters from Shakespeare’s plays. Though rainy weather had cancelled the 1769 pageant, it was included in future Shakespeare celebrations and had long been popular. Why not stage a pageant on the campus?

Before long, a pageant committee had organized, chaired by home economics professor Mary Gearing and composed of faculty, wives of professors, and friends of the University. The committee created a dozen parade units, depicting either scenes from plays or snapshots of Shakespeare’s life, and assigned each to an academic department or student organization. To visually distinguish each group, the committee went so far as to select “color schemes” for the costumes.


With the inclusion of a procession, plans for the University’s Shakespeare Tercentenary were at last complete. A five-day celebration, from April 22 – 26, would include a library exhibit, lectures by visiting academics, performances of Shakespeare plays by a professional troupe from New York City, an Elizabethan Revel with folk dances, a Bartholomew Fair, and, to start off the festivities, a great Shakespeare Pageant. For UT, it was the most ambitious project yet attempted.

Theo BellmontFunding all of this, of course, quickly became an issue. The University could afford to bring visiting scholars and hire a professional troupe, but had limited resources to provide the lumber, nails, and paint for the Bartholomew Fair, or the materials and labor needed to create thousands of Elizabethan costumes. Concessions were to be sold at the pageant and the fair, and a planned twenty-five cent admission to Clark Field would all help cover the costs, but the money was needed beforehand. To the rescue again came Dr. Griffith, who fronted the needed funds, a sizeable risk for an associate professor earning a $2,200 salary. So that Griffith could concentrate on the tercentenary program, UT athletic director Theo Bellmont (image, above right) volunteered for business manager duties.


UT Library.Battle Hall

Above: The University of Texas Library, currently the Architecture and Planning Library in Battle Hall, site of the 1916 Shakespeare exhibit.

By February 1916, much of the campus community was actively preparing for the tercentenary. Massive rehearsals for folk dances took place in the women’s gym, then housed in a temporary wooden structure about where the Texas Union stands today. University Librarian John Goodwin assembled an exhibit in a room on the first floor of the library (Battle Hall), with books, maps, photographs, and other materials about Shakespeare and Elizabethan England.

The exhibit, though, quickly became a critical resource, heavily consulted by the members and friends of Phi Alpha Tau as they designed and built their English hamlet for the Bartholomew Fair. Home economics students, under the advice of Professor Mary Gearing, used the exhibit to study Elizabethan textiles and fashion, and sketched dozens of historically accurate costumes that were posted on bulletin boards all over campus.

DT.1916.03.22.Note from Mrs Schoch

Left: Throughout the spring, notices about meetings and rehearsals for the Shakespeare Tercentenary regularly appeared in The Daily Texan student newspaper.


The costumes were, by far, the most time consuming. Thousands were needed. Materials for hats and suits were purchased at wholesale prices. Along with student volunteers, every tailor and dressmaker in Austin was employed. Even the sinks in the chemistry lab building were commandeered to dye endless pairs of stockings just the right shade.

In the meantime, the University advertised the upcoming celebration in newspapers throughout the state. Many of the hotels in Austin were filled.


Shakespeare Tercentery.Merry Wives of Windsor

Above: Pat Holmes (in the wheelbarrow) stars as Falstaff as fellow social science students recreate a scene from The Merry Wives of Windsor in the Shakespeare pageant.

At precisely 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 22nd, a trumpet fanfare, played in front of the Victorian-Gothic old Main Building, heralded the start of the Shakespeare Pageant. The mile-long parade route started on the east side and moved counter-clockwise along the walkway that enclosed the square, forty acre campus. Twelve flags were spaced evenly on the course to mark the stops where the pageant groups would perform.

According to the Austin American, “The last rays of a brilliant sunset, reluctant to retire beyond vision of such a resplendent scene, shed multi-colored rays over the rollicking actors in the pageant. On every hand minstrels darted, jesters chided and bantered, and apple-sellers and sandwich peddlers adjured the crowd to purchase their wares. Twelve groups of players composed the main body of the pageant, portraying some dramatic moment of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Minstrels preceded each group, joyously rendering ballads and accompanying themselves with mandolins and guitars.”

Shakespeare Tercentery.As You Like It

Above: With Grace Denny as Rosalind (far left), natural sciences students portray As You Like It. All are holding young corn stalks, meant to depict the trees in the forest of Arden.

The Department of Social Sciences took on The Merry Wives of Windsor, decked out in “biscuit colored outfits in red trim,” while natural science students chose As You Like It in costumes of “forest green and brown.”  Appropriately, the law department reenacted the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice. Ancient languages claimed Julius Caesar. Modern languages went with Taming of the Shrew, education students opted for King Richard III, home economics selected The Winter’s Tale, and the engineers boldly chose Hamlet.  The remaining groups depicted scenes from Shakespeare’s life. At the end of the procession was the Bard himself, played by Dr. Tyler Mather, chair of the physics department.

Shakespeare and Mather

Above: Good casting? Dr. Tyler Mather (right), chair of the physics department, played Shakespeare in the tercentenary pageant.

An estimated 10,000 spectators gathered to see the parade, more than half of them sporting their own, homemade Elizabethan costumes. They stayed well after sunset and watched the parade by the light of electric lamps only recently installed along the walk.

Program Cover.Shakespeare TercentaryThe pageant concluded, the crowd hurried to fill the west stands of Clark Field for the 8 p.m. Elizabethan Revel. Under the gaze of special lighting and accompanied by the twenty-piece University band, hundreds of UT students performed a series of English folk dances: Morris dances, the Sailor’s Hornpipe, and others. Next, the all-girl advanced modern dance class presented an interpretive, original piece which depicted an aging Shakespeare, retired from the stage, returning his literary gifts to each of the Nine Muses. “The various young ladies and their attendants captivated the audience by the gracefulness and beauty with which they danced their respective parts,” reported the Cactus yearbook.

After the dance program, the audience was invited on to the field for the Bartholomew Fair. The Boar’s Head “Tavern” served shepherd’s pie and family-friendly libations. Puppet shows, mock sword fights, wrestling matches, and fortune telling provided entertainment, and fairgoers could try their own hand at archery, lawn bowling, and folk dancing. The Austin Daily Statesman called it a “gorgeous jollification,” and the party continued well into the night.

Sunday, April 23rd, was the anniversary date of Shakespeare’s passing, but also turned out to be Easter Sunday. The University, along with most of Austin, was closed for the day.  No matter. Caught up in the spirit of the weekend, most of the city’s clergy found a way to weave Shakespeare into their Easter sermons.

Dr Wendell LectureThe tercentenary continued through the following Wednesday, as UT president William Battle suspended classes each day at noon so as many students as possible could attend lectures by visiting scholars in the Old Main auditorium.  Addresses were delivered by John Manly of the University of Chicago, Barrett Wendell of Harvard, and former UT law professor and regent Robert Batts. In the evenings, the Cliff Deveraux troupe from New York performed Shakespeare plays outdoors in the southeastern corner of the campus, the audience sitting on the hillside where the Graduate School of Business building now stands. Wednesday afternoon, the campus was given over to the children of the Baker, Winn, and Wooldridge elementary schools who held their own Shakespeare pageant and a Maypole dance.

DT.1916.04.22.Shakespeare ArtworkOne last fling was held Thursday evening. An all-University dance in the women’s gym provided an excuse to don those Elizabethan costumes a final time. Class attendance Friday morning was reportedly a bit sparse.

“Never before has a single activity been more enthusiastically participated in by a larger number of our student body than the Shakespeare Tercentenary,” reported The Daily Texan student newspaper. “Its influence educationally was great. The institution was imbued with a new sense of the artistic and cultural. It has done a lasting good.” Professor Griffith, who was fully reimbursed from the earnings of the Bartholomew Fair, was praised from all corners of the campus. “He shouldered the whole responsibility, financial and otherwise,” lauded the Texan. “Such loyal public service cannot be commended too highly.”


A Flag Full of Stars

The story of the University’s World War I Service Flag

World War One Service Flag.March 2 1918

Above: With more than 1,500 stars, a hand-sewn, 10 x 16 foot service flag was presented to the University on March 2, 1918.

World War I was a defining moment for American higher education. Before 1917, colleges and universities were still viewed by many to be frivolous or elitist, not as opportunities for social and economic mobility. Professors were rarely asked for advice on issues or problems of the day. Despite curriculum reforms to include more “practical” courses in modern languages, science and engineering — along with the more traditional Greek, Latin, and the classics — colleges in the early 20th century had failed to win widespread support from government, business, and the public. The world war changed everything.

World War I.Recruitment.Uncle SamCaught up in the patriotic fervor that pervaded the nation, male students rushed to enlist in the armed forces, which decimated college enrollments. At co-ed institutions like the University of Texas, women assumed leadership roles that had traditionally been denied to them. Professors who specialized in subjects useful for war were recruited for their expertise.

To avoid the closure of hundreds of male-only colleges, a national Student Army Training Corps was created, which allowed students to both remain in school and receive military instruction. Because the corps was open to any high school graduate, legions of young men who might otherwise have joined the work force found themselves on a college campus, and returned after the war to finish their degrees.

By the end of the war, universities had firmly established themselves in the public eye as a national resource. The college campus became a place where American youth could be transformed into broadly-educated and valued citizens.


In Austin, the U.S. declaration of war on April 6, 1917, transformed university life almost immediately. The faculty organized into a military company. Led by philosophy professor Al Brogan as honorary captain, eighty-four professors agreed to participate in one hour of drill three days a week. The group included honorary Private and UT President Robert Vinson. Senior members who were a little too old for active military training assisted Dr. Eugene Barker from the history department in planting a war garden on a section of vacant land near the campus.

Women War College

The faculty, of course, did much more than drill. Almost forty professors were granted leaves of absence to engage in government service, often in officers’ training camps, hospitals, or intelligence. On campus, research in psychology, biology, and chemistry was directed toward the war effort.  Home economics professor Mary Gearing organized a widely-touted war college for Texas women that focused on food production and conservation, as well as women in wartime industrial roles. With funding from the Department of Agriculture, Gearing dispatched groups of UT co-eds to rural areas across the state to instruct farmers and their spouses on the best methods for food preservation.

UT Professor James BaileyMost notable, perhaps, was chemistry professor James Bailey (photo at left). As a UT undergraduate, Bailey was better known as one of the authors of the University’s first yell, but after completing his PhD at the University of Munich, he returned to Austin as a professor of organic chemistry. In 1915, when war broke out in Europe, medical supplies of the anesthetic drug Novocaine quickly ran short. The drug had been discovered in Germany, which wasn’t going to share the formula with its wartime enemies. Bailey volunteered to help, worked with Alcan Hirsch in New York, and “rediscovered” both Novocaine and synthetic Adrenalin, a significant contribution to the war effort for all of the Allies.

In 1917, over 1,000 UT students rushed off to enlist, but with the advent of the Student Army Training Corps a year later, campus enrollment again swelled to accommodate those who were concurrently students and members of the U.S. Army. The Forty Acres was converted into an armed encampment, as students in uniform woke to the sounds of “Reveille,” marched in formation to meals, and followed a strict schedule that included both academics and military training. Sentries were posted at University buildings, and professors were required to present proper identification to enter their offices and classrooms.

WWI Baracks with Pig Bellmont

Above: Members of the UT Student Army Training Corps fall in to formation in front of a row of wooden barracks along the west side of Speedway (where Waggener Hall and the McCombs School are today). On the hill to the right, Pig Bellmont, UT’s first live mascot, inspects the troops.

In late April 1917, President Vinson was appointed to the Council of National Defense and requested to attend a strategic conference in Washington, D.C. The meeting formalized an idea supported by President Woodrow Wilson to better involve universities in the war effort. In order to take advantage of existing college facilities and instructors, the U. S. government established special military schools for aviators at campuses throughout the country. Six colleges were initially chosen to host a School of Military Aeronautics (SMA), and the University of Texas was among them. The SMA was to provide basic technical instruction for beginning pilots before they moved on to flight training. An eight-week session included classes in the history and theory of flight, meteorology, astronomy, machine guns, aerial combat, and the use of signal flags in communication. Those attending the SMA were soldiers in a new branch of the Army known as the “Air Service,” later to become the Air Force, and were not considered university students. Instructors for the SMA included both army officers and UT professors.

The SMA opened in June 1917. It was first housed in B. Hall, the first men’s dorm, but the SMA quickly grew from 50 students to several hundred. It was moved to more spacious quarters in buildings once used by the state’s Blind Institute, now called the “Little Campus,” just north of the Erwin Center, where Hargis Hall and the Nowotny Building remain. When the war ended, the SMA had expanded to almost 1,200 students. The largest in the country, it was given the nickname “West Point of the Air,” and was a prototype for the U. S. Air Force Academy.

WWI Little Campus.School of Military Aeronautics.1.

Above: The School of Military Aeronautics in formation on the Little Campus. Only the building on the left remains as today’s John Hargis Hall, used for Freshman Admissions.

The success of the School for Military Aeronautics placed the university in good stead with the War Department, which assigned two additional schools to the Austin campus. The School for Automobile Mechanics opened in March 1918 at Camp Mabry in northwest Austin. Three hundred men at a time completed a six-week course before being sent overseas to the war. Like the SMA, instructors included members of the university faculty.

WWI.Radio Operator Tents on South MallA month later, the School for Radio Operators was established on the campus. It took over the B. Hall quarters vacated by the SMA, but needed more classroom space than was available. To solve the problem, several rows of large canvas army tents were pitched in front of the old Main Building, along what is now the South Mall. Once opened, radio students and their equipment were a common sight on the hilltops and in the valleys west of Austin.


Blue Star Service FlagOne of the by-products of World War I was the invention of the service flag. Designed by Robert Queissner, an Army captain from Cleveland, Ohio, the rectangular banner featured a blue star on a white background with a red border. Queissner initially created and displayed a pair of flags as a patriotic tribute to his two sons, who were in France fighting on the front line. But the idea quickly became popular nationally, and service flags were visible on front doors, in living room windows and on Main Street storefronts. Each blue star represented a son or daughter enlisted in the armed forces during wartime. If a person died in service, the blue star was covered with a gold one.

In February 1918, members of the University Ladies Club — spouses, daughters, sisters, and mothers of UT faculty and staff — decided that the University of Texas needed a service flag of its own, one large enough to display blue stars to honor all of the faculty and alumni engaged in the war effort. Spearheaded by the wife of engineering professor Ed Bantel, the Ladies Club recruited the Women’s Council, a student organization for UT co-eds, and discussed plans for an ambitious project.

WW1 Service Flag.Ladies Club Sewing

Above: The University ladies Club and the Women’s Council work on the service flag.

The flag required a full two weeks of labor, with volunteers divided into 15-person shifts. Made from “a fine grade French flannel,” the entire flag measured 10 1/2 x 16 feet. The white center was 6 1/2 x 12 feet, and was initially filled with 1,570 blue stars. Each was 1 1/2  inches tall, individually traced, cut, placed and hand sewn in meticulous straight lines. While Captain Queissner’s original service banner was intended to be hung against a wall or in a window, with the blue star visible only on one side, the ladies elected to make the university’s version a true flag, so that two star fields were created, attached back-to-back, and a two-foot wide red border sewn around it.

Ready by March 2nd, the flag was introduced at the University’s Texas Independence Day ceremonies in the old wooden gym that pre-dated Gregory Gymnasium. (See photo at the top of this post.) Following a rousing rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by the UT Band, Charlotte Spence, chair of the Women’s Council, formally presented the flag to the university. Space was left for 140 additional stars, and, instead of a gold-colored material, eight of the stars had white toppings to indicate those who had died. Before the war was over, the remaining stars would be added (more faculty and alumni served in the war than the flag could accommodate), and 85 stars would be topped in white.

Flag Hangs in Rotunda

Once completed, the service flag was a popular public symbol of the university’s commitment to the war effort, and was proudly displayed in the rotunda of the Old Main Building. On rare occasions it was attached to the outer brick walls of the old Main Building for commencement and other ceremonies.

Loayalty Day Nov 14 1919

Above: Patriotism Day on Nov. 14, 1918. The service flag is carefully lowered from the University’s flag pole. Click on an image for a larger view.

One year after the war ended, on Friday, November 14, 1919, the university held a “Patriotism Day” memorial. At noon, in accordance to “General Order No. 1 as issued by President Robert Vinson,” classes were dismissed, and all students, faculty and staff assembled in military style in front of Old Main, where, for the first and only time, the service flag had been hung on the university’s flag pole.

Engineering dean Thomas Taylor acted as commanding officer. The names of University men and women who lost their lives were read, “Taps” was heard, and as the band played “The Star Spangled Banner,” the flag was slowly lowered, folded, and solemnly carried into the Library (now Battle Hall) to be stored in the archives. Nearly a century later, the Briscoe Center for American History, which houses the UT Archives, still carefully preserves the service flag.

World War I Service Flag.Table View

Above: The University’s World War I service flag is preserved in the University Archives, it’s colors still vibrant after almost a century. As there were no tables large enough, the flag could only be safely opened half way for this viewing.

World War I Service Flag.1.

Above: Made of a “fine grade French flannel,” the flag measures 10 1/2 x 16 feet.

World War I Service Flag.2.

Above: With more than 1,500 hand-sewn stars – on each side – 85 of the stars are covered by smaller white stars to designate members of the University community who died in the war.


The Great Jester Center Food Fight

John Belushi.Animal House

Above: “Food Fight!” shouts John Belushi as the irascible John “Bluto” Blutarsky in the film Animal House by Universal Pictures.

It was stress time. For UT students in the spring of 1982 – as it is today – the dreaded last week of classes was about as popular as an Oklahoma Sooner at a Longhorn tailgate.  Professors smiled as they distributed yet another round of tests (Don’t forget your blue books!), semester-long projects and research papers were due, and final exams loomed just over the horizon. The harried inmates of Jester Center, the University’s largest and at the time only co-ed residence hall, were up at all hours and bleary-eyed, living off caffeine as they sprinted to the end of the academic year.

That’s when the flyers appeared.

They were everywhere. Posted along the hallways, in the elevators, on the bulletin boards, in the bathroom stalls, no one could miss them. And in those ancient and primitive times before email, the internet, and social media, flyers were one of the best ways to get the word out about something. Students took notice.

Food Fight Flyer“Don’t be left out in the cold. NOW’S THE TIME.” With great fanfare, the flyers announced the first annual John Belushi Memorial Food Fight, set for Thursday, May 6th on the second level of the Jester Cafeteria. Belushi, famous for his performance as the college degenerate John “Bluto” Blutarsky in the film Animal House, had died two months previously in early March.

A food fight?! In the Jester cafeteria? This didn’t seem like the usual program the dorm’s resident assistants (RAs) would organize. But there it was, plainly printed on the bottom right hand corner of the flyer: “Sponsored by the Jester Division of Housing and Food services.” That sounded official. And how thoughtful for the housing office to provide a way for students to let off a little steam before final exams.

Above: The infamous food fight flyer, created by cutting out words from magazines and newspapers, taping them to a sheet of paper, then running off copies at the nearest Xerox machine. Old school technology. Click on the image for a larger view.

Of course, the housing office had not organized, approved, sanctioned, endorsed, or in any way condoned a food fight in the cafeteria. Most of the flyers were removed post haste. Most, but not all. The RAs did their best to spread the word that food fights were a definite no-no. But college students, especially those cramming for tests, sometimes have selective hearing.


Jester City LimitsToday, the Jester Center eatery is divided into two facilities. Downstairs, the Jester City Limits resembles a food court at a posh shopping mall, and offers a broad selection to satisfy the choosiest of appetites. (Check out today’s menu here.) Upstairs, “J2” is an all-you-can-eat buffet style cafeteria with an expansive salad bar. As college fare goes, today’s Housing and Food Services does an outstanding job.

In the early 1980s, though, Jester’s dining options were decidedly more limited. Students trudged through one of eight cafeteria lines – four on each floor – and chose between two entrees. One line on the second floor served greasy hamburgers as the lone culinary alternative. Around campus, the Jester potato balls were the stuff of legend, and everyone was wary of the unpredictable and mysterious effects of the Jester chili-mac.


On the appointed day, a much larger crowd than usual gathered for dinner on the second floor. Some students arrived with umbrellas or in ponchos, even though it was a clear, sunny day. One couple unabashedly showed up in matching garbage bags with holes cut out for heads and arms. Everyone had an appetite, or at least their plates were full. The salad bar could barely keep up with the demand. Spectators loitered along the second floor open hallway outside the cafeteria, trying their best to look nonchalant even though they were three persons deep.

Tink! Tink! Tink! Tink! Tink! At precisely 5:30 p.m., the sound of a lone knife clinking against a glass was heard in the northwest corner, soon joined by others until a cacophony swelled through the dining hall. Heads were on swivels, eyes alert for a surprise attack. Once the first biscuit was launched, the armistice was over, and for one brief, shining moment, the Jester Center cafeteria was a scene from Animal House.

DT.1982.05.07.Jester Food Fight

Above: Headline in the Daily Texan.

Not an all-out battle, it was a quick series of skirmishes. Students dove under tables with their ammunition and then fired when they thought it safe. Chicken wings found flight one last time. A spoonful of corn became scatter shot. Garbonzo beans were surprisingly accurate. The crowd outside the dining hall roared with approval. Amidst the confusion, RAs braved the cross-fire and rushed to confiscate the student IDs of anyone doing more than just ducking for cover.

It was all over in a few minutes. Some of the participants faced stern disciplinary action with the Dean of Students, and at least one of the authors of the flyer was asked to take a semester off from the University and elected not to return. Why be in a food fight? “I couldn’t help it,” was the popular reply. “I was under the influence of Jester chili-mac.”


The First UT Senior Ring

1927 UT Senior Class Ring

Above: The design of the 1927 UT senior ring. The Bachelor of Arts degree is displayed in its Latin form as Artium Baccalaureaus, or “AB.” Click on the image for a larger view.

Rings have been a part of university culture for centuries, dating back to the 1200s when the University of Bologna presented gold rings to students who had completed their doctor’s degrees and earned their licentia docendi, or “licenses to teach.” The practice continues at a few universities in Europe. The idea of a class ring began with the United States Military Academy, when the Senior Cadets of 1835 designed and wore a common ring as a show of class unity and to remind them of their West Point days after graduation.

At the University of Texas, the senior ring tradition arrived early in the spring of 1927, when the senior class voted to have one and solicited designs from fellow students. By mid-February, the class had chosen the entry from Amy Jackson, a student who worked part-time as a technician in the zoology department.  Made of 10-carat gold and with a red garnet stone, orders could be placed at the  University Co-op; men’s rings cost $13 each, co-ed rings were $10.50. Sales were sluggish at first. By mid-March, only 26 rings had been purchased. But when the UT Students’ Assembly (today’s Student Government) approved the design as the “official” senior ring of the University for future years, interest grew swiftly. Rings ordered by April 20th were ready in time for spring commencement in early June.

1927 Senior Ring Headline

Teeming with Texas and University symbols, the Daily Texan described it:

“One one shank appears a Longhorn head with a lariat draped from one horn around under the nose and up to the other horn. The number ’27’ is just above the head, and a lone star is just below the nose. In a semi-circled wreath below the star is a group of Texas cacti.

“On the other shank is the degree and crest with a scroll bearing the words Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis. [The Latin motto on the University seal, translated as ‘Education is the safeguard of democracy.’] Corresponding to the cacti on the first shank is a wreath of bluebonnets.”

Commencement Seal and Banners

Above: The University of Texas Seal, with its Latin motto, is prominent at Spring Commencement and an important symbol on the senior ring.