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Above: The 1915 University of Texas football team poses at the north end of old Clark Field. The house behind them is now the site of the Patterson Labs Building.
For the Longhorn nation, fall brings with it the familiar sights and sounds of the stadium, from the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign to the singing of the “Texas Fight!” song. There was a time, though, when hand signals and fight songs didn’t yet exist, when Alpha Phi Omega’s giant Texas flag or the Texas Cowboys’ “Smokey the Cannon” weren’t yet a part of Longhorn football games.
What were some of the University of Texas football traditions a century ago?
Above: The old Main Building, where the UT Tower is today. A north wing in back housed a 1,700 seat auditorium, regularly used for campus football rallies.
Football rallies were regularly held on the Friday evenings before games in the auditorium of the old Main Building. Following the social mores of the time, only the men were allowed to yell, and found seats on the main floor. It was considered “un-ladylike” for co-eds to get too rowdy; they watched from the second-floor balcony.
The program included rousing speeches by the head coach and team captains, UT president, and several deans. Students performed skits that often poked a little fun at the faculty, and the yell leaders directed the group (sorry, ladies – men only!) in cheers. “Texas Fight!” and “Go, Horns, Go!” were not among them. Instead, one of the most popular was the Rattle-de-Thrat Yell:
Listen to some of the old UT cheers recorded at the 2007 Big Yell.
To make sure everyone knew the words, pocket-size yell books were printed and distributed, especially to new students, at the start of the fall term.
Because much of the original Forty Acres was on a hillside, space was limited for outdoor sports. In the 1880s, baseball games were played on the relatively flat northwest corner, where the Texas Union stands today, and students waiting to bat rested under the trees now called the Battle Oaks.
By the 1890s, students were using a 3 ½ acre vacant lot just east of campus along 24th Street, but in 1899, the owner, a Mr. de Cordova, asked that the University either purchase the field or it would be divided and sold for private residences. A $3,000 price was negotiated. Students collected $1,300 among themselves, faculty donated $1,000, and the alumni contributed the rest. Intercollegiate football and baseball games were played there, along with informal intramural contests.
In 1906, at the students’ request, the Athletics Council formally named the field after the beloved James Clark (photo at right), who initially served as the University’s proctor, librarian, registrar, bursar, academic counselor, and groundskeeper, all at once. A friend to everyone, Clark was known to bring soup to students who were ill at home, and personally funded an annual Christmas banquet for those who were stuck in Austin for the holidays. A Clark Field still exists on the campus, just south of the San Jacinto Residence Hall.
The following year, 1907, students raised funds and constructed wooden bleachers in time for the annual football game with Texas A&M (see The One Week Stadium), then continued to add seats, roofing, and a press box over the next decade. By the late 1910s, Clark Field could accommodate about 20,000 fans, the largest in the South.
Above: A view of Clark Field from the east stands, with the Forty Acres across Speedway Street and up on the hill. Buildings from left: Law Building, B. Hall (men’s dorm), Old Main, the smokestack of the old power station, and the Engineering Building on the right (today’s Gebauer Building).
Above: A sunny kick-off for the Texas vs. Rice University game in 1916. Looking south across Clark Field, with the Texas Capitol in the distance.
“A custom which is never forgotten is cheering in the bleachers,” wrote UT student Rupert Robertson, who was a UT track letterman in the 1910s. “When the teams trot out upon the field, the rooters give ‘Rattle-de-Thrat,’ and as soon as the game begins, they sing ‘The Eyes of Texas are Upon You.’ So much noise is going on all through the game, you can hardly hear your ears.” As with the football rallies, yelling was generally limited to the men until the mid-1920s. Women were permitted to applaud, sing, and wave Texas pennants, but anything too raucous would bring a stern warning from the Dean of Women. Before the addition of a public address system, UT yell leaders, dressed in white to be easily seen, coordinated the cheering through hand signals that had been explained and rehearsed at the Friday evening football rally.
“Now and then a man on the opposing team gets through Varsity’s line for a few yards,” Robertson continued. “He generally receives applause, because we know that it takes a good man to break through Texas’ mighty wall of defense.”
Above right: The October 1916 cover of the student-published Longhorn Magazine displayed the latest in co-ed football fashion.
Above: The 1916 version of the University of Texas Band (with a junior mascot).
While today’s halftime tradition is to enjoy a performance by the Longhorn Band, the custom a century ago was the reverse. The band, usually under thirty-members strong, remained in the stands and provided musical accompaniment as fans left their seats for a “snake dance,” and ran single file in a tortured course up, down, and the length of the field. It was meant to show enthusiasm and support for the team, and was a great source of amusement for the ladies who watched from their seats.
Above: A 1923 version of the halftime snake dance. Modern halftime performances of the Longhorn Band began soon after the opening of Texas Memorial Stadium in 1924.
The Longhorn Pen
The first concession stand at Clark Field opened in 1916 as the “Longhorn Pen,” just past the main entrance to the field near Speedway Street. Managed by six UT students hired by the Athletics Council, lemonade, soft drinks, candy, peanuts, popcorn, and cigars were sold, and the profits helped pay the students’ college costs. “The addition of this feature will remove the objections many have found with the concession holders of the past, “reported the Austin Statesman, “and will at the same time enable six worthy boys to pay their expenses at the University.”
Rupert Robertson’s favorite football tradition was at the end of the day. “When the game is over, the rooters tumble over the fence below the bleachers, grab the heros of the game, and carry them from the field upon their shoulders. They portray true Texas spirit here, because this is done whether we win or lose.”
“Of the customs this last one is best,” Robertson explained, “because the act within itself drives away all ill feeling that might have existed during the game.”
Above: The main gate to Clark Field, near the corner of Speedway and 23rd Streets.
The Perry-Castaneda Library turns 40 years old.
Aside from the football stadium on game day, the library is the loudest place on the campus. No, seriously. Meander up and down the aisles of books, and if you listen closely, you’ll hear thousands of authors calling, demanding, and pleading that you read their works. (All right, that’s metaphorical, but you get the idea.)
For the Perry-Castaneda Library, or “PCL,” the authors number in the millions. And this month, the PCL celebrates its fortieth anniversary as UT’s first open-stack main library.
The Perry-Castaneda Library is the fourth main library on the campus. The first was in the old Main Building (photo at left), poorly placed on the first floor of the north wing, where it was just below a two-story, 1,500 seat auditorium. When the auditorium was being used for a concert, play, or football rally, studying in the library was difficult at best. It was better used during quieter times, though men and women were required to sit at separate tables.
In 1911, the library moved into what today is Battle Hall (right), and was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who was also responsible for the Woolworth Tower in New York and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. The Mediterranean Renaissance style, with its limestone walls, red-tile roof, and broadly-arched windows, set the architectural style for much of the campus. Meanwhile, the space vacated in Old Main was renovated for the English Department. A new north hallway was created, with classrooms on one side and faculty offices on the other. The hallway itself was dubbed the “English Channel.”
By the 1930s, Battle Hall was overcrowded, and Old Main was razed to make room for a new Main Building that served as the central library. Grand reading rooms were installed on the lower levels, while the book stacks were housed in a 27-story Tower.
The Main Building, though, was a closed-stack library. Students weren’t allowed into the Tower to peruse the book shelves. Instead, they had to search a massive card catalog, fill out request slips with book titles and call numbers, and then present the slips to a librarian at the reference desk. The librarian sent the requests via pneumatic tube up to the correct floors of the Tower, where additional library staff – some of them in roller skates – pulled the books from the shelves and sent them down to the reference desk on a special elevator where the books could be checked out. As the library and UT’s enrollment grew, so did the time needed to fulfill requests. (And it’s worth noting that for its first eighteen years, the Main Building wasn’t air conditioned.)
Some relief was achieved in 1963 with the opening of the Undergraduate Library and Academic Center, today known as the Flawn Academic Center, where students had direct access to some books helpful for UT undergraduate courses. But the bulk of the library was still in the Tower, and the grumbling of long lines and slow service grew to a full-throated yell by 1970.
“When I stand at the desk of the Main Library and have to wait 25 minutes for one book,” wrote Sue deNim in a 1971 op-ed for The Daily Texan, “when I am told that I can borrow only two or three books, when I am told that, although the catalogue doesn’t list a book, it is somewhere in the half-a-year list of books to be processed: on all of these occasions I am being deprived of needed resource material. No one is doing it deliberately, but it is being done.
“To recognize other projects as having higher priority than the library is to be misguided. No department of the University can function without the corresponding section of the library. Cripple the library and you have crippled education to a commensurate degree.”
With complaints mounting from both students and faculty, University President Bryce Jordan appointed a library planning committee, and by April 1972, the Board of Regents approved the committee’s recommendation of a new facility. The building was to serve three functions: to house the humanities and social science collections, along with business, education, and psychology; provide additional reader and study areas for campus users; and be the centralized acquisition and processing facility for all UT libraries. Head Librarian Fred Folmer was assigned the herculean task of overseeing the project, while Associate Head Librarian Harold Billings stepped up to run the current library’s daily operations.
Six possible sites were studied, including the northeast corner of 26th Street, two locations along Speedway now occupied by the newer portion of Welch Hall and the Gates-Dell Computer Science Complex, the position of today’s Student Activity Center, a parking lot at the southwest corner of 21st Street and Speedway, and Clark Field. Suitability was based on the proximity to central campus, enough space for 100,000 square foot floors, potential for future expansion, and minimal destruction of existing buildings.
Clark Field was ruled out early as being too far out of the way, and as part of the field would remain for football and Longhorn Band practice – which would likely disturb library users – the UT administration was anxious not to repeat the mistake of the library location in Old Main.
In the end, the southwest corner of 21st and Speedway seemed best. The recently completed Jester Center Residence Hall to the east, a new Graduate School of Business Building across the street to the north, and a planned Education Building (today’s Sanchez Building) to the south, along with the proximity of the business school and Gregory Gym, meant the area would be a high traffic zone for students. There was ample room for five, expansive, 100,000 square foot floors, which Board of Regents chair Frank Erwin bragged was “bigger than five K-Marts,” and space to the west of the proposed library was reserved for expansion.
The San Antonio architecture firm Bartlett Cocke and Associates, Inc. was appointed to design the building. Though a campus myth persists that the library’s shape is an abstract form of the state of Texas, the building was actually planned to ease pedestrian traffic around it. Instead of a traditional square or rectangular footprint, corners were trimmed to allow for diagonal pathways in front of and behind the building. Other parts were extended to make the best use of available area. The end result was actually meant to better resemble a pinwheel, not the Lone Star State. The Board of Regents approved the plans in March 1974, along with $17 million for construction.
Above: An architectural model of the PCL, illuminated from within. The diagonal shape allowed pedestrian traffic around the building to flow easier, and provided room for a plaza in front of the main entry.
Above: The west side of the PCL architectural model. The corner in the lower right has been trimmed to provide a shorter pathway between the PCL and the Education Building (now the Sanchez Building) just to the right. The footprint of the library is a bit like a distorted pinwheel.
Through initial discussions between President Stephen Spurr and the UT System, and continued by Spurr’s successor, President Lorene Rogers, all agreed that naming the library was an opportunity to “express the University’s lasting commitment to educational opportunities for all Texans.” In 1975, Rogers formally asked the Board of Regents to name the building in honor of Ervin Perry, the first African American to be promoted to the academic rank of professor on the Forty Acres. Perry had earned masters and doctorate degrees in civil engineering at the University and had served as chair of the department before his untimely death in 1970.
Along with Perry, Rogers also requested the library be named for Carlos Castaneda. Having earned three degrees at UT, Castaneda began his career as the Latin American librarian in 1927, then rose through the academic ranks to be a famed professor of Latin American and Texas history, and author of a dozen books. The regents nuanimously approved the idea at their September 12th meeting, and the facility was officially called the Perry-Castaneda Library.
Above: At the dedication ceremony, UT President Lorene Rogers unveiled portraits of Dr. Ervin Perry (left) and Dr. Carlos Castaneda, for whom the library is named.
Above: The library under construction early in 1976, as viewed from the Tower.
Construction of the PCL began in the summer of 1974 and required three full years. Over nine acres of carpeting were installed. Because the twelve-foot long, eight hundred pound rolls of carpet were too heavy for the elevators, a temporary hoist was mounted in the south stairwell and the rolls pulled up to each floor. Set on top of the carpet were seventy miles of shelves, about a third of which would initially be unused. When opened, the library would have two million volumes, but was designed to accommodate three-and-a-quarter million.
By late spring of 1977, the building was nearing completion, and it was time to move both books and the card catalog. The process was long and tedious. Each of the million-and-a-half books from the Main Building needed to be inspected, cleaned with a special vacuum (left), and placed on book mover dollies for transport. Damaged volumes were set aside for repair. The dollies were then loaded on to trucks and driven to the PCL loading dock where the books were re-cataloged, placed on the service elevator, and re-shelved on the appropriate floors.
At the height of summer, crews worked six days a week to transport more than 7,200 dolly loads of books across the campus. The humanities and social science collections came from the Main Building, the business library from the Business-Economics Building (which opened space for a growing business school), and the education and psychology collections from Battle Hall, which would be transformed into today’s architecture and planning library. With classes in session through the summer, the library still had to be operational. Requests from students who needed books that had already been moved were accommodated within a day.
The Perry-Castaneda Library opened August 29, 1977 to rave reviews. “This magnificent structure is one of the largest and finest academic library buildings in North America,” President Rogers boasted at the dedication ceremonies. Regent (and future Texas governor) Allan Shivers called it “a warm and inviting place.” Its walls were built from textured Indiana limestone, and its large windows purposely inlaid to be well-shaded from the hot Texas sun. The live oak trees desired for landscaping were too large to be found at a traditional nursery, and were instead purchased and transplanted from ranches around Austin.
Inside was the University’s first open-stack main library, with seating for 3,200 patrons. Students still had to search through a card catalog (above left) – an online version wouldn’t be available until 1990 – and the low tech security at the entrance required the physical inspection of backpacks. Before the campus became smoke-free, designated smoking rooms were available on each floor.
Above: With more than nine acres of carpeting and seventy miles of shelves, the PCL provided spacious accommodations for a growing University.
Above: As part of the dedication ceremonies, the Longhorn Band spelled “PCL” at halftime of the Texas vs. Baylor game.
Special thanks to Travis Willmann and use of the PCL archives.
The fall Moonlight Prowl season begins Friday, September 1st at 8 p.m.
The Moonlight Prowl is a nighttime walking tour packed with anecdotes of student life, campus architecture, traditions, and UT history. With content drawn from newspaper accounts, professors’ memoirs, and the UT archives, the Prowl is intended to help personalize the University, explore its history, and have some fun.
How much does it cost? The Moonlight Prowl is free, though the charge is doubled for Oklahoma Sooners. 🙂
Where do we meet? We’ll gather on the Main Mall in front of the UT Tower.
When does the tour begin? Traditionally, the Prowl begins at 8 p.m., when the UT Tower chimes have sounded their last for the day.
Can anyone attend? Everyone is welcome. But parents who want to bring small children are cautioned that the wee ones generally get bored quickly, and want to either race down the South Mall or jump into Littlefield Fountain.
Is there a prerequisite? Lots of UT courses have prerequisites – why not the Prowl? To attend the tour, all Moonlight Prowlers must be able to point to the UT Tower and say, “That’s the UT Tower.”
What if it rains? If at all possible, the Prowl will go on rain or (moon)shine. Some of the best Prowls have taken place under a steady sprinkle. If it’s raining, bring umbrellas and we’ll adjust the tour stops to be mostly indoors. If there’s a severe storm at Prowltime, or one is imminent, we’ll look at rescheduling.
Do I need to bring a flashlight? Nope. I’ll bring the Official Prowl Flashlight, known around NASA as the “OPF.”
Is this an “official” UT program? No, the Moonlight Prowl is not sponsored by the University of Texas. Think of it as a hobby that’s gotten out of control. I enjoy learning about the University’s history and sharing what I’ve discovered, and conduct the tour as a volunteer.
This will be Moonlight Prowl number 662. A little history about the first tour in 1988 is here.
The Daily Texan covered the 500th Prowl here.
In 2000, the Moonlight Prowl was a “Best of Austin” choice in the Austin Chronicle here.
See you on September 1st!
1. Know Your Forty Acres
Above: The UT campus at 21st Street and Guadalupe in 1899.
The city of Austin was founded in 1839 as the capital of the Republic of Texas. Surveyors laid out a series of city blocks between Waller and Shoal Creeks, set aside land at the top of a hill for a “Capitol Square,” named east-west streets for Texas trees, and north-south roads for Texas rivers.
A year later, in 1840, additional land was surveyed to the north, and a square, forty-acre plot was informally labeled “College Hill,” (photo at left) bounded today by 21st and 24th Streets, Speedway to the east, and Guadalupe on the west. At the time, there were no firm plans to establish a university, and the people of Austin made no claims to the land. They built their homes and businesses around College Hill, and used the area as a favorite spot for weekend picnics. There is, in fact, no legal deed to the plot.
The Texas Legislature created the University in 1881 and Austin, by way of a controversial state-wide vote, won the main campus. Having waited decades, College Hill was at last put to use when UT was formally opened on September 15, 1883. Though the University grounds have expanded ten-fold, the campus is still known as the Forty Acres.
Above right: The Victorian-Gothic old Main Building, UT’s first campus structure, where the Tower stands today. (Explore the early UT campus here.)
2. Know Your Colors
It was a gloomy Tuesday morning, April 21, 1885, when UT’s first baseball team, along with most of the student body, arrived at the downtown Austin train station at Third Street and Congress Avenue. The group had chartered passenger cars bound for Georgetown, thirty miles north, where UT was to play its first-ever intercollegiate baseball game against Southwestern University. Just as the train was ready to depart, Miss Gussie Brown from (of all places) Orange, Texas, urgently announced the need for some ribbon to identify everyone as from the University of Texas.
Today, college fans show support for their teams by donning t-shirts, jackets, and caps. But in the 1880s, colored ribbons were worn on lapels. An enterprising male student often sported longer ribbons so he’d have extra to share with a pretty girl who had none.
Gussie’s two friends – Venable Proctor and Clarence Miller – always eager to impress the ladies, jumped off the train and sprinted north along Congress Avenue to the nearest general store. They asked the shopkeeper for three bolts of two colors of ribbon. “Which colors?” the merchant inquired. “Anything,” the students replied. After all, the train was leaving the station, and there was no time to be particular.
The shopkeeper gave them the colors he had the most in stock: white ribbon, which was popular for weddings and parties and was always in demand, and bright orange ribbon, because few bought the color, and the store had plenty to spare.
Right: The Austin railroad station at Third Street and Congress Avenue.
Loaded with supplies, Proctor and Miller ran back and boarded the moving train as it left for Georgetown. Along the way, the ribbon was divided and distributed to everyone except for a law student named Yancey Lewis, “who had evolved a barbaric scheme of individual adornment by utilizing the remnants.”
Unfortunately, it rained in the afternoon, the pitcher’s curve ball curved not, and Texas outfielders ran weary miles in a lost cause as they fell to an experienced Southwestern squad 21–6. The colors, though, had made their debut. There would be challengers, including gold and white, royal blue, and (most popular) orange and maroon, but a 1900 vote by students, faculty, and alumni settled the matter for orange and white.
Read the full story here: Orange and White
3. Know Your Mascot
University of Texas athletic teams have been known as the “Longhorns” since 1904, but in the mid-1910s, a growing number of UT alumni wanted to see if a live longhorn mascot might be able to attend football games. In the fall of 1916, Texas law grad Stephen Pinckney, working for the U.S. Attorney General’s office, discovered what he thought would be the perfect candidate in West Texas. With $1.00 donations from 125 alumni, Pinckney arranged to purchase the steer and have it transported to Austin in time for the Thanksgiving Day football game between the University and Texas A&M.
The longhorn made its debut at halftime and was presented to the students (photo above left), then taken to a South Austin stockyard for safe keeping and a formal portrait. He was named “Bevo,” thought to be derived from the word “beeve,” the plural for beef, and a slang term for a cow or steer. (Think of the name as “Beef-o.”)
The University community, though, wasn’t entirely sure what to do with their new addition. The gift had been made, but without any formal plans for feeding, caring, or transporting the steer. Besides, UT students already claimed to have a live mascot in Pig Bellmont, (right) a dog owned by Athletic Director Theo Bellmont. Pig lived on the Forty Acres, had a daily routine of greeting students in classrooms and in the library, and went to home and away football, baseball, and basketball games.
Texas had won the football game 21-7, and some students pushed to have the steer branded with the score. Others thought it was cruel. As the campus community debated, a group of Aggie pranksters visited Austin in the wee hours of Sunday, February 12, 1917, broke in to the South Austin stockyard and branded the steer “13-0,” the score of the 1915 football bout A&M had won in College Station the year before.
Above: Bevo was branded “13-0” in February 1917.
A few days later, amid rumors that the Aggies planned to kidnap the animal outright, Bevo was safely transported to the Tom Iglehart ranch west of Austin. Six weeks later, the United States entered World War I, and the University transformed itself to support the war effort. Out of sight and off campus, the branded steer was all but forgotten until the end of the war in November 1918.
Since Bevo’s food and care cost the University sixty cents a day, and as the steer wasn’t believed to be tame enough to remain in the football stadium, it was fattened up and became the barbecued main course for the January 1920 football banquet. A delegation from A&M was invited to attend, “and the branding iron was buried and the resumption of athletic relations, after an unhappy period… duly celebrated.”
For the full story and more photos, see Bevo.
4. Know Your Hand Sign
Harley Clark was a head cheerleader in search of an idea. It was the second week of November, 1955, and the Texas Longhorn football team was getting ready to host sixth-ranked TCU in an important contest at Memorial Stadium. A torchlight parade across the Forty Acres and football rally in Gregory Gym had been scheduled for Friday night, November 11th, but Harley was looking for something to make it extra special and rouse a little more of the University of Texas spirit.
A few days before the rally, Harley was in the Texas Union (photo at right) when he saw fellow classmate Henry “HK” Pitts, who suggested that a hand sign with the index and little fingers extended looked a bit like a longhorn, and might be fun to do at rallies and football games. The Texas Aggies had their “Gig ‘em” thumbs-up sign, inspired while playing the TCU Horned Frogs. (“Gigging” is a term used to hunt small game – including frogs – with a muti-pronged spear.) With the TCU game coming up on Saturday, why can’t Texas fans have their own hand signal?
Harley liked the idea, and decided to introduce it at the Gregory Gym rally. He demonstrated the sign to the crowd and promptly declared, “This is the official hand sign of the University of Texas, to be used whenever and wherever Longhorns gather.” The students and cheerleaders tried it out, and Harley led a simple yell, “Hook ‘em Horns!” with hands raised. (In this case, a tradition has two founders. HK Pitts was in charge of “research and development,” and Harley Clark took on “marketing and sales.”)
Above: A tradition is born. The moment in Gregory Gym when the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign was first introduced to UT students. Click on an image for a larger view.
Immediately after the rally, Harley was confronted by a furious Arno Nowotny, the Dean of Students. “How could you say the hand sign was official?” the dean wanted to know. “Has this been approved by the University administration?” Harley admitted that the idea hadn’t been approved first, but the cat was already out of the bag – or the longhorn was already loose in the pasture. At the football game, the student section practiced what they’d learned the night before, and the alumni were quick to follow. By the end of the game, the stadium was full of “Hook ‘em Horns” hand signs.
The full story is here: Hook ’em Horns
5. Know Your Tower
The Main Building, with its 307-foot Tower, is the definitive landmark of the University. For eighty years, it’s quietly watched over the campus bustle, breaking its silence every quarter hour to remind everyone of the passing of the day. Bathed in warm orange lights to announce honors and victories, crowned in fireworks at the climax of spring commencement ceremonies, it’s been a backdrop for freshman convocations, football rallies, concerts, and demonstrations. Architect Paul Cret intended it to be the “image carried in our memory when we think of the place,” though author and UT English instructor J. Frank Dobie, incensed that a state so rich in land would build something better suited to New York City, branded it a “toothpick in a pie.”
Opened in 1937, the Main Building was created to house the University’s central library. Along the east and west sides of the building, a pair of spacious reading rooms, labeled the “Hall of Texas” and the “Hall of Noble Words,” were connected to a great central reference room. Made with liberal use of oak and marble, the room was decorated with the six seals of Texas. (A life sciences library is still housed in the Main Building, and a visit to see these great halls is highly recommended. The Hall of Noble Words is a popular study place for students.)
Above: The ceiling of the Hall of Noble Words.
Rising twenty-seven floors above the reading rooms, the Tower contained the library’s book stacks. Made of Indiana limestone, it was financed through a grant from the Progress Works Administration, a New Deal program created during the Great Depression. As a closed-stack library, its patrons searched an immense card catalog to identify their selections, and then requested books at the front desk. Orders were forwarded upstairs to one of the Tower librarians, who sometimes wore roller skates to better navigate the rows of bookshelves. Once found, books were sent downstairs in a special elevator to be checked out.
As both enrollment and the library’s holdings grew, the waiting time for a book extended to more than half an hour. The need for an open-stack library led to the construction of the Undergraduate Library and Academic Center in 1963 (now the Flawn Academic Center), and the Perry-Castaneda Library in 1977.
Symbolically, architect Paul Cret intended the Tower to be the University’s iconic building, and sought to give it an “appropriate architectural treatment for a depository of human knowledge.” The ornamentation on the building was meant to convey its purpose as a library as well as to the mission and aspirations of the University. Names of literary giants – Plato, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain, among them – were carved in limestone under the tall windows along the east and west sides. Displayed in gold leaf on the north side of the Tower were letters (or cartouches) from five dialects that contributed to the development of English language: Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The biblical quote inscribed above the south entrance, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” was selected by the Faculty Building Committee as suitable for those who came to use the library. “The injunction to seek truth as a means to freedom is as splendid a call to youth as we can make,” explained committee chair William Battle. (See: The Inscription.)
Placed alongside the literary images were familiar Classical symbols. The lamp of learning, the face of Athena as the goddess of wisdom, and rows of scallop shells – associated with Venus as the goddess of truth and beauty – were all added to the south façade, carved in place by Italian stone masons. Learning, wisdom, truth, and beauty: values long associated with the purpose of higher education.
The most colorful decorations were hung along the east and west sides of the building, just below the broad eaves, where artful representations of a dozen university seals (above right) were meant to convey a history of higher education, as well as proclaim UT’s own aspirations to be a “University of the first class.”
At night, the Tower takes on a different symbolic meaning when it glows orange to announce an athletic victory or an academic achievement. In the case of a national championship, a number “1” is displayed in the windows – a favorite sight for every Longhorn fan. (See: Tower Light, Tower Bright: How the Orange Tower Tradition Began.)
Above: An orange Tower with a “1” on all four sides for a national championship.
Also see: Advice for UT Freshmen
For the University of Texas, it’s the most important event of the year, the signature public affirmation of the University’s academic enterprise. Greater than any other college tradition, spring commencement is more than simply a rite. As is so often said about Texas, commencement is a state of mind. For two days in May, it casts a wide spell and seems to have a hold on everyone.
Right: Steven Hardt, a 2007 communication graduate, arrives on the Main Mall with an orange Tower perched on his mortar board.
Above: The Academic class of 1894.
First held in June, 1884, the University’s earliest graduation ceremonies were modest affairs, staged in the un-air conditioned Millett Opera House downtown. They were scheduled either in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the early summer heat. Gentlemen arrived in three-piece suits, Ascot ties, and bowlers, while the ladies sported colorful bustle dresses and fashionable bonnets. Graduates were identified by the black-tasseled mortar boards on their heads.
Along with the presentation of diplomas, the ceremony was augmented by a pair of speeches delivered by members of UT’s two literary societies, the Rusk and Athenaeum. In 1885, Thomas Watt Gregory’s (left, and later namesake for Gregory Gym) half hour address made quite an impression as he optimistically described the march of social and scientific progress through the nineteenth century. “His speech from the beginning to the close was a grand and masterly one,” reported the Austin Statesman, “eschewing from his discourse the tinseled vaporings which generally characterize commencement efforts.”
When the auditorium in the old Main Building was completed in 1890, commencement moved to campus, and over the next decade grew into a week long celebration. Parties, dances, picnics, luncheons, and, occasionally, a symbolic textbook burning in front of Old Main all preceded the diploma ceremony. The alumni association held its annual meeting at the same time, elected officers for the next year, and organized class reunions.
In 1901, the senior Academic students – what today might be considered arts and sciences – voted to wear traditional caps and gowns to commencement for the first time. The law students, though, had been left out of the discussion, and, unhappy that they weren’t consulted, refused to conform to the new dress code. After UT President William Prather insisted that the law graduates wear some type of distinctive insignia, they opted to don light-colored suits with wild Texas sunflowers pinned to their lapels. Plentiful in the open fields around Austin, the sunflowers were at their peak in mid-June. A Daily Texan editor added some meaning to the choice: “As the sunflower always keeps its face to the sun, the lawyer turns to the light of justice.” A tradition was born. Today, UT law graduates still wear sunflowers.
Commencement moved outdoors in 1917. The state’s fire codes had recently been upgraded, and the auditorium was unexpectedly forced to close because of too few proper exits. Held on the warm and humid Tuesday morning of June 12th, just over 350 degree recipients – UT’s largest graduating class to date – gathered in front of the ivy-draped, Victorian Gothic old Main Building. The ceremony started bright and early at 8:30 a.m., before the Texas sun became unbearable.
Among the graduates were UT’s first nine recipients of the Bachelor of Business Administration degree. As with their law school counterparts, the business students decided to shun the cap and gown, and instead sported white linen suits with sweet peas as lapel flowers.
Above: 1937 Spring Commencement in Gregory Gym.
Over the next few decades, commencement roamed about the Forty Acres. It was held in the Texas Memorial Stadium from 1925 – 1929, moved to Gregory Gym when that facility opened in 1930, and then returned to the front of the new Main Building and Tower in 1938.
In 1995, UT President Bob Berdahl asked that the University-wide commencement ceremony be re-invented. While participation was still strong for the college and school events, attendance for the Main Mall graduation had suffered, in part, because the emphasis on hooding the Ph.D. candidates seemed to leave out the undergraduates. A separate ceremony was created for the Graduate School, and the University-wide event was refashioned to better include everyone, with more pomp and pageantry, and with the notable addition of fireworks. Within a few years, more than twenty thousand graduates and spectators annually converged on the South Mall.
Above left: The 1980 Spring Commencement.
To the undergraduates, for whom their own commencement is often the first one to be witnessed, the modern ritual can pass as a blur of color, music, oratory, and pyrotechnics. The tops of mortar boards are decorated with UT icons, messages of future aspirations, and heartfelt thanks to parents. Deans brag with abandon about their schools and colleges. “If you have to go to a hospital,” chides the Dean of the School of Nursing, “you should hope that you’re being treated by a UT nurse!” The business school dean boasts, “Our degree programs are ranked in the top ten in the country!” All of it is loudly approved by the graduates. Throughout the night, the Main Building and Tower is bathed in a variety of special lighting effects until it bursts with color in the long-anticipated fireworks finale.
Much of the ceremony will seem deliberately out of touch with the twenty-first century, a purposeful nod to the medieval European ancestry of the modern university. Today’s caps and gowns are holdovers from the cappa clausa, the required academic dress centuries ago at Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. The tassels hanging from mortar boards and stoles draped over gowns are different colors, set by an agreed-upon international standard, to designate various fields of study. White is used by liberal arts, scarlet for communication, green for geosciences, citron for social work. Faculty members, most of whom earned their Ph.D. degrees from other universities, don the academic garb of their Alma Maters.
College maces, symbols of authority that were first used in the thirteenth century graduation processions of Oxford and Cambridge, are still carried at UT commencement. For each school and college, a pair of faculty marshals with maces conveys a single-file line of graduates up to the Main Mall at the start of the ceremony. Made from oak and brass, most of the University’s maces were created in the 1960s, and each bears images and emblems connected with a particular college. A mortar and pestle sits atop the College of Pharmacy mace, teaching certificates adorn the one used by the College of Education, and Alec, patron saint of the Texas Engineers, proudly stands on the mace for the Cockrell School.
Prominently hanging above the entrance to the Main Building is a large color rendition of the University of Texas seal, itself a longstanding tradition, when medieval universities needed official seals in order to conduct legal affairs. (The seals of a dozen other universities are permanently displayed on the Main Building.) Its Latin motto, Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis, comes from an 1838 speech by Mirabeau Lamar, a president of the Republic of Texas, who declared that a “cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.” The use of Latin is a reminder of when the language was studied and spoken by university students in the Middle Ages.
Why is graduation called “Commencement”? The word reflects the meaning of the Latin inceptio – a “beginning” – and was the name given to the initiation ceremony for scholars in medieval Europe. The original college degree certified that the bearer could instruct others in a given academic discipline. As part of the graduation ritual, which usually included a feast given by the graduate as a thank you to his professors and friends, the newly-minted scholar delivered his first lecture as a legitimate teacher. Commencement, then, means “commencing to teach.”
It’s a relatively straightforward task to describe the tangible features of the day: the colorful procession, the advice dispensed, and the cheers that accompany the fireworks launched from a bright orange Tower. But as mentioned before, commencement also casts a less definable spell. For the graduates, there is the excitement of a goal well-achieved, balanced with nostalgia as they become alumni. For the parents, it’s a joyous time with an undercurrent of relief. For the faculty and staff, the satisfaction of a job well-done, seen in the confident eyes of their former students who are about to go out into the world. All at once, it seems, youthful exuberance meets the sentiment of age.
And for everyone, surrounded by the symbols and traditions of ages past, there is a sense, if only fleeting, of sharing in the timeless succession of learning. From the ancient schools in China, India, and the Middle East, to the famed Library of Alexandria along the northern coast of Africa, to Plato’s Academy in Ancient Athens, and then on to the more modern progression of universities in Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, across the Atlantic to Harvard, and finally, on to Austin.
Perhaps the true meaning of commencement, so deeply rooted in history, is that it still carries with it an eternal promise of new beginnings.
Note: Some of the images from recent UT commencement ceremonies are courtesy of the UT Austin account on Flickr and were photographed by Marsha Miller.
In the 1950s, UT engineering students dug a basement for a study lounge.
Above: UT engineers gather around Patrick “Digger” O’Dell, the live mascot of Operation Gopher. Patrick was renamed Christine when the students discovered their mistake.
When Texas engineers get hungry, they go digging.
In the 1950s, the University’s College of Engineering was sprawled about the East Mall. The petroleum and chemical engineering buildings – opened in 1942 and today are the Rappaport and Schoch Buildings – were placed along either side of the mall at Speedway Street. The petroleum building (image at left) was of particular pride; UT was first in the nation to offer a petroleum engineering degree, as well as devote an entire facility to the subject.
Just to the north was Engineering Building, later named Taylor Hall for Thomas Taylor, the college’s founder and first dean. It housed the mechanical, civil, aeronautical, and architectural engineering departments, research labs, administrative offices, and a newly expanded library on the second floor.
Above: Two views of Taylor Hall. Opened in 1934 as the headquarters for the College of Engineering, it has since been replaced by the Dell-Gates Computer Sciences Complex.
While the structures were modern, they didn’t include a study lounge for students or, more important, a place to eat. The nearest dining facilities were at the Texas Union on the other side of campus. Hungry engineers, or those just looking for a cup of coffee, had to hike up the hill, go past the Tower, and then down the West Mall to the Union’s commons. When time was limited, the trek was a lengthy and inconvenient one. More than a few students opted to bring lunches and coffee from home.
Above: A 1938 image of the UT campus. Engineering students in Taylor Hall (upper right) had to walk to the Texas Union (far left) for the nearest food service.
As the fall 1952 semester began, five engineering students – Charlie Anderson, Dick Bailey, Tommy Fairey, Jerry Garrett, and Charlie Mills – approached Professors Leonardt Kreisle and Carl Eckhardt with two proposals.
The first was to establish a governing body for the engineers, one that would both represent the interests of students and bring the professional and honor societies under a single umbrella. The result was the founding of the Student Engineering Council (SEC), separately incorporated by the State of Texas. Charlie Anderson was selected as its first chair, and Kreisle and Eckhardt volunteered as faculty advisors.
The second was to create a study lounge and snack bar, which the SEC chose as its initial project. As Anderson explained to The Daily Texan, “We don’t have a place to meet. It is so bad that even our library has turned into a bull session room.”
Finding a place for a lounge was tricky, as all of the engineering buildings were well occupied. There simply wasn’t a means to shift or combine offices and classrooms to provide enough space, and there certainly weren’t funds for a separate facility. The SEC then offered a novel solution: why not create a basement underneath Taylor Hall? Kreisle and Eckhardt studied the idea and found that it was structurally possible. The support piers for the building were deep, and a basement could be safely installed with the piers left in place.
There were numerous hurdles to overcome. University monies wouldn’t be available, and the estimated cost for the project was $48,000. Alumni might help with fundraising, but what would the students contribute? Anderson suggested that the students provide the labor to excavate the basement, which would save $20,000, and that engineering alumni be asked to donate the construction cost.
Plans were drawn. Dubbed “Taylor’s T Room” in honor of the first dean, the basement would be 174 feet long by 43 feet wide, and dug to a depth of eight feet. It would include meeting spaces for student groups, a lounge and recreation area, and a small cafeteria managed by the University’s Housing and Food Service. The T Room would be available to the entire University community. “Our purpose is to bring engineering students in contact with other students,” said Anderson.
Left: Thomas Taylor, first engineering dean.
Above: The layout of Taylor’s T Room. Click on the image for a larger view. From left, meeting rooms for the SEC and other engineering groups, a study lounge with sofas, a dining area with tables, chairs, and booths (blue seats with white tables), and a kitchen (white counter tops with tan floor tile) that would provide lunches, snacks, and beverages. The black squares are support piers for the building.
With patience, the students acquired the approval of the engineering faculty building committee, Dean W. R. Woolrich, Dean of Students Arno Nowotny, the University’s Development Board, and Acting UT President James Dolley.
Initially, there was some pushback from the Texas Union, when concerns were raised over how the T Room might affect business in the Union’s commons. Director Jitter Nolan met with the SEC and was convinced that any loss of customers would be slight. He applauded the engineers for their initiative. The Union’s Board voted to support the project, and donated $75 to help with mailing costs for alumni solicitations.
Above: Dean W. R. Woolrich addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony.
G-Day, or Groundbreaking Day, or, to some, “Gopher Day,” was slated for Thursday evening, December 11, 1952. More than 500 attended the ceremony, heard talks by Dean Woolrich and Professor Emeritus Ed Bantel, saw the first shovel of dirt preserved for posterity, and sang “Hi Ho Balls”, a favorite tune among UT engineers in the 1900s . (The song’s main character, Alexander Frederic Claire, became the patron saint of College of Engineering.) “A Hole lot of time and effort went into it, but Operation Gopher is ready for groundbreaking,” announced the Texan, “Engineers won’t be able to tell their new lounge from a hole in the ground.”
The students boasted they would have the basement completed by the end of the academic year, in June 1953, but soon discovered that removing almost 60,000 cubic feet of soil, rocks, and solid Austin chalk – an estimated 600 truck loads – would require significantly more time.
Shovels, pick axes, jackhammers, wheelbarrows, and a conveyor belt were all loaned by local construction companies, while students organized themselves into work crews of 25 volunteers each. In order not to disturb classes, digging was scheduled from 7 – 10 p.m. in the evenings on weekdays, and at various times on weekends. To remove the material, an access tunnel – the “gopher hole” – was dug just outside Taylor Hall and then sideways into the basement. At least once a week, a dump truck and a loader, also donated for the cause, dropped by to pick up what the students had excavated.
To help pass the time, a transistor radio was employed to play the latest tunes by Dean Martin, Patti Page, Perry Como, and a popular new song by Hank Williams: “My Cheatin’ Heart.” The Engineering Wives Club (yes, there was one, but that’s a different story), along with UT sororities, often dropped by to boost morale with coffee and soft drinks.
Right: Members of the Chi Omega sorority bring cold drinks to engineers working on Operation Gopher.
A live gopher mascot was obtained from the zoology department. Named Patrick “Digger” O’Dell, engineers had to change the name to Christine when they discovered their error. Kept in a cage, Digger was present for every work session until she was gopher-napped in early March 1953. Law students, longtime campus rivals of the engineers, claimed responsibility, but the real culprits turned out to be some prankster zoology students. A rescue party was quickly organized, and Digger soon resumed her duties
For the next two years, until January 1955, the SEC continued to organize volunteers and slowly dig out the basement. The effort required nearly 3,000 students and faculty.
In the meantime, the UT Development Board took on the task of soliciting engineering alumni for the estimated $28,000 needed to install the floor, walls, utilities, kitchen, and furniture. The alumni responded generously, and the fundraising campaign was completed ahead of schedule. Once the basement was ready, construction began immediately.
On Monday evening, May 13, 1957, nearly five years after its inception, Taylor’s T Room was formally dedicated. Governor Price Daniel (photo at left) addressed an assembly of 350 persons, “As Governor of Texas, I offer my congratulations to you engineers for your valuable contribution,” and credited University of Texas engineering alumni for much of the technical development of the state. “Taylor’s T Room will ever have a great claim to permanence for its dedicated use as envisioned by the Student Engineering Council in 1952,” Dean Woolrich wrote later. Most of the volunteers graduated before they were able to use the lounge. “It was a gift to engineering posterity, to the student generations to come.”
Above: The image of Hermes, patron saint of the business school, is displayed on the west side of the Texas Union building, along with the patron saints of law and engineering.
Choosing a patron saint can be complicated. Just ask the business school.
Business classes were first offered on the Forty Acres in 1912, initially organized as a department under what was then the College of Arts and Sciences. But after a decade of rapid and prosperous growth, it was time for the department to leave the nest and fly on its own. In early April 1922, department chair Spurgeon Bell learned that UT President Robert Vinson planned to recommend a separate School of Business Administration to the Board of Regents. The regents’ approval was assured at their upcoming July meeting, and Bell would be named the school’s first dean.
Bell shared the exciting news with his students, who quickly set about planning a celebration. With Bell’s encouragement, the business students met Friday, April 7th in the auditorium of the old Law Building (where, perhaps appropriately, the Graduate School of Business Building stands today). A committee was appointed to organize the first annual business administration banquet, to be held in early May. A second committee addressed the issue of a business school identity.
Above right: The old Law Building, near the corner of 21st and Speedway Streets, where the Graduate School of Business Building stands today. The houses in the upper right have been replaced by the Perry-Castaneda Library, and the field in the upper left is now the Jester Center Residence Hall.
By 1922, the University’s engineering and law schools had mascots – “patron saints” – around whom their respective students and alumni had developed a healthy espirit de corps. The law school’s Peregrinus, or “Perry,” (image at left) was invented on a chilly afternoon in December 1900, during a class in equity. The professor was lecturing on Ancient Rome and the praetor peregrinus, a traveling magistrate who administered justice in the less populated regions of the Roman Empire. An unprepared student in the class was quizzed on the subject. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “The peregrinus was probably some kind of animal.” The class burst out in laughter, but fellow student Russell Savage, sitting in the back of the room next to a chalk board, doodled a likeness of the imaginary creature that was later adopted as the law school mascot.
With four legs, a bushy tail, and a long beak, “Perry” was meant to symbolize the prowess of lawyers in their chosen profession. A wooden likeness of the Peregrinus was commissioned, and fashioned by local woodcarving master Peter Mansbendel. Kept secure, it made special appearances and attended the law banquets where it was ceremoniously passed from the graduating seniors to the juniors.
Above: Senior law students carry the Peregrinus at spring commencement.
Meanwhile, the engineers have claimed Alexander Frederick Claire, or simply “Alec”. Once a character in a popular song, Alec took on physical form in 1908. A group of engineering students visited a local beer garden, discovered a five-foot tall wooden statue of a medieval Falstaff, and decided to permanently “borrow” him. (See: The Thrilling Adventures of Alec!)
The patron saints of engineering and law had storied histories, helped to fuel an ongoing campus rivalry between the two schools – both mascots had been kidnapped by the “enemy” – but most important, they provided a symbol of pride and common loyalty. The business students wanted to join the fun, and sought an icon they could call their own.
Initially, the mascot committee considered using the shark. “Because of the prevalence of calling students in the [business] department sharks,” explained The Daily Texan, “it was suggested that an insignia of a shark be used to denote the department.” It was an obvious choice, as much of the campus had nicknamed business students “sharks” for years. But it provided no central character around which the school could rally, and, quite frankly, the label wasn’t always a positive one. Professor Bell urged his students to try again, and look for a mascot that represented the best in business endeavors. For the next several weeks, the committee agonized over the decision.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 10, 1922, business students and faculty gathered at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel for their first annual banquet. As part of the proceedings, the mascot committee revealed their final recommendation: Hermes, the Ancient Greek god of commerce, who was noted for his eloquence, speed, shrewdness, and wisdom. The idea met with the instant approval of everyone, and a framed “rough copy” of the new patron saint was placed on the head table.
Over the summer, as expected, the Board of Regents officially created the School of Business Administration. “Mr. and Mrs. Texas University announce the arrival of a new son, B. A. School,” reported the Texan. “The rapid development of the business training classes has been phenomenal. With the creation of a separate school, this division of the University will have greater opportunities for growth and improvement.”
In October, as the academic year began, business students pursued a better representation of their new patron saint. They contacted Peter Mansbendel, the same master woodworker who had helped the law school with the Peregrinus.
Several designs were considered, including one of Hermes sitting on a pot of gold, but the most popular was a standing Hermes with an American Bald Eagle at his feet. Mansbendel fashioned a miniature prototype out of clay that was officially approved and accepted at a business school assembly on November 28th. Fundraising for the final version began in earnest with the spring, but the needed monies weren’t acquired in time for Mansbendel to complete the project for the 1923 banquet. Instead, Hermes was readied over the summer, and then spent many months safely locked in a vault owned by the American National Bank in the Littlefield Building downtown. He finally made his debut at the May 12, 1924 business banquet, and was the star of the show.
Above right: The original clay rendering of Hermes.
Thirty-eight inches tall and made from pine, Mansbendel’s Hermes wears winged sandals as a symbol of his swiftness. With his left hand near his heart he holds a caduceus, a staff with two entwined snakes that was a symbol of commerce to the Ancient Greeks, and declares Hermes the authority of strategic negotiations. In his right hand he carries a bag of gold, a trophy of his successful commercial transactions. An eagle sits at his feet, evidence that the business school’s Hermes is “one hundred percent American” despite his distant origins. For UT business students, their patron saint is a symbol of strength, success, innovation, and efficiency in the commercial enterprise.
Above: Peter Mansbendel’s rendering of Hermes.
While Hermes was kept safely out-of-sight for most of the year, other schools, perhaps jealous, schemed to capture the patron saint for themselves. At the1927 business banquet, a contingent of law and engineering students conspired together, and rushed the banquet floor with the intent to steal Hermes away for their own evil purposes. A brief but raucous wrestling match ensued, and the unified business students managed to repel the invasion force. Since then, no one has dared to attempt a patron saint-napping.
For another two decades, Hermes was a regular guest at the annual business banquet, but after World War II, when a wave of returning veterans nearly doubled UT’s enrollment in just a few years, the event became impractical. Instead, Hermes was placed on display in Dean J. Anderson Fitgerald’s office in Waggener Hall. Through the 1950s, the patron saint could be seen on the senior rings of business students (photo at left).
Today, Hermes is still a proud tradition of the McCombs School of Business. He stands in the undergraduate student office, surveying his dominion, and inspires business students to be their best in leadership, innovation, ethics, and entrepreneurship.
Above: Pals forever. Business Dean J. Anderson Fitzgerald and Hermes in 1947.
Margaret Catherine Berry: August 8, 1915 – April 9, 2017
In the 1980s, Margaret Berry, who claimed to have retired from her career at the University of Texas, was still an active volunteer advisor for several student organizations – the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and the Orange Jackets women’s service society, among them – and every semester loved to invite each group to her house for dinner. It was at one of these gatherings that I, along with so many others, fell under Margaret’s spell.
Her oak-shaded north Austin home on Greenflint Lane was immaculately tended. She personally met each student, greeted them with a genuine smile, and invited them to explore the house and backyard. “My cat, Benji, is here, somewhere. Probably hiding under the bed!” And then she hurried off to the kitchen. “Is anyone hungry?”
Margaret, as usual, served baked chicken cacciatore, deftly handling multiple casserole dishes in and out of the oven, and spooning out large portions onto orange Wedgwood plates that featured detailed images of the University campus: the old Main Building (pictured), Gregory Gym, the UT Tower, Littlefield Fountain. Only later did we learn that the plates dated from 1937 and were actually expensive collectables. “What building is this?” someone would ask. “That’s old B. Hall, Margaret explained. It’s not on campus anymore, but let me tell you about it.”
Along with endless helpings of cacciatore – “Getcha some more. There’s plenty!” – Margaret provided salad and green beans. Bottles of soft drinks, cups, and ice were lined up on the kitchen counter, “and there’s tea in the refrigerator. Remember, T-sips drink tea.”
After dinner, the group gathered in the den to hear Margaret relate a bit about her student days at the University, her time as Associate Dean of Students, and give unsolicited but well-received advice. “Get involved on campus. Take on leadership roles in your group,” she encouraged. “Get to know your professors!” she admonished. “It’s a big university; explore every part of it you can,” she counseled. To her thirty to forty student guests, she was greeter, hostess, chef, historian, advisor, and life coach all at once. And she played each role effortlessly, and with a sincerity that left her guests inspired. “Dr. Berry is quite a lady,” one of my student friends remarked on the way home.
A fourth-generation Texan, born August 8, 1915, Margaret Catherine Berry was raised in the tiny town of Dawson – about 30 miles northeast of Waco – and showed her academic prowess early by graduating from high school as co-valedictorian. Along the way, Margaret also learned well what it meant to be Texas friendly, something she shared in abundance with everyone.
Above: The UT campus in 1933, Margaret Berry’s freshman year. The old Main Building still stood on the top of hill, while the Littlefield Fountain was new.
A freshman on the University of Texas campus in 1933, some of Margaret’s first semester classes were held in the old Main Building, just before it was closed and razed. Along with her studies, she joined the Y.W.C.A., Mortar Board, and was especially active with the Orange Jackets. Four years later, in the spring of 1937, Margaret graduated with a degree in history, having witnessed the dedication of a new Main Building and Tower just months beforehand.
Above: Margaret Berry’s senior photo in the 1937 Cactus yearbook.
For a few years, Margaret taught in public schools along the Gulf coast – El Campo, Freeport, and Galveston – while spending summers at Columbia University in New York to complete her master’s degree in education. One summer she worked for Newsweek magazine and seriously considered remaining in the Big Apple, but Texas beckoned for her return.
In 1947, she was appointed Dean of Women and an instructor of history at Navarro Junior College, and then became Dean of Women at East Texas State Teachers College (now Texas A&M University – Commerce) in 1950. For the next decade, Margaret was a legendary figure on East Texas State campus, She was called the “lean dean,” or the “mean dean” – depending on the circumstances – and knew each coed’s GPA, whom they were dating, and if they’d violated any dorm curfews. At the same time, Margaret took a deep interest in the education of her students and strived to be a role model for everyone.
In 1961, Margaret finally returned to Austin and juggled three responsibilities. She’d been appointed Associate Dean of Women at the University of Texas, was caring for her aging parents, and decided to complete her doctorate degree in education at Columbia.
Above left: Margaret Berry at a 1967 Texas Union event. That’s a straw hat on her head with “Hook ’em Horns!” in large letters.
Margaret finished her dissertation in 1965, Student Life and Customs at the University of Texas: 1883-1933. It was the first survey of UT student life, required many hours of research in the University’s archives, and instilled a deep understanding and appreciation for the University of Texas. “What is a university? Like any living thing, an academic institution is comprehensible only in terms of its history,” said former Harvard president James Conant. Margaret understood this all too well. Her dissertation later became the foundation for her book, UT Austin: Traditions and Nostalgia, a staple in bookstores along the Drag for decades.
As part of the Dean of Students office, Margaret was best-known for her course “Self and the Campus Society.” It was intended to prepare UT students for leadership positions on campus and after graduation, but her infectious enthusiasm for the University, and the example she set as doing her best and always thinking of others, garnered Margaret a legion of adoring fans. “I thought you were the quintessence of a lady and a scholar,” wrote one of her students many years later. “Indeed, you have become my living definition of those two words, and my highest aspiration is to be a fraction of the example you set.”
Above right: Margaret Berry, as Associate Dean of Students and Developmental Programs Director, posed in front of Battle Hall in 1973.
In addition to her course, Margaret created the first telephone counseling service for UT students, authored the first handbook of student rights and responsibilities, was a regular speaker at the summer Honors Colloquium and freshman orientation, and volunteered as an advisor for student organizations.
In the 1970s, former UT Chancellor Harry Ransom asked Margaret to assemble an illustrated history of the University. The book, published by the UT Press, appeared in 1981. She also authored Brick by Golden Brick (a resource compilation on UT buildings), UT History 101, and The University of Texas Trivia Book, as well as histories of the Scottish Rite Dormitory and University United Methodist Church.
Though she officially “retired” in 1980, Margaret continued to be a popular personality on the Forty Acres and in Austin. She served as president of the Austin Woman’s Club and the Retired Faculty-Staff Association, was indispensable on the Texas Exes Scholarship Committee and UT Heritage Society, and was an active volunteer with the University United Methodist Church. In March 1981, the men of the Tejas Club, a student organization, asked her to be the guest speaker at the first annual Texas Independence Day Breakfast for faculty and students. The tradition continued through this year, when Margaret led the assembly in a “Toast to Texas.” (A decade ago the Club made her an honorary member.) In 1995, at the request of the provost’s office – and at the spry age of 80 – Margaret agreed to teach a freshman seminar from 1995–2002.
Above: March 2, 2017 – a 101-year old Margaret Berry is surrounded by members of the Tejas Club after the Texas Independence Day breakfast to honor UT faculty and students.
Her contributions didn’t go unnoticed. Both the Orange Jackets and Texas Exes have endowed scholarships named for her, and she was awarded the Arno Nowotny Medal, given to staff of the Division of Student Affairs “who render meritorious service.” In 1996, Margaret was a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the highest honor afforded by the Texas Exes, and in 2004 was dubbed Austin’s Most Worthy Citizen. In April 2012, the atrium in the newly-completed Student Activity Center was named in her honor, and at the dedication ceremony, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell officially declared it “Margaret Berry Day” in the city.
In April 2012, the Longhorn Band, UT cheerleaders, and an overflow crowd attended the dedication ceremony of the Margaret Berry Atrium in the Student Activities Center. Margaret is seated with UT President Bill Powers on the left, and Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on the right.
On August 8, 2015, Margaret Berry marked her 100th lap around the sun. Hundreds of former students, University colleagues, and Austin friends gathered at the alumni center to help her celebrate. Like a Christmas Santa at a shopping mall, everyone waited in line to take a turn, sit with Margaret for a photograph, and tell her how much they loved her and the positive impact she’d had on their lives. As part of the formal program, UT President Greg Fenves arrived with a surprise. Margaret had planned to leave the University a $50,000 bequest to endow a scholarship in religious studies named in honor of her parents, but her friends had been busy and raised more than twice that amount. President Fenves officially announced the creation of the Lillian and Winfred Berry Endowed Presidential Scholarship.
Above: Margaret Berry at her 100th birthday party, August 8, 2015.
Margaret approached the podium and, with tear-filled eyes, said “thank you,” but, truly, it was the University community and her many friends, generations of UT students touched by her spell, who, collectively, were trying to express their gratitude to her.
Yes. Dr. Berry was indeed quite a lady.
Browse the 1952 Freshman Orientation Guide
April has arrived, and the University’s Office of New Student Services is busy finalizing plans for this summer’s orientation program for incoming freshmen and transfer students. Each of the six, three-day sessions will be packed with information about life on the UT campus, Longhorn traditions, academic advising, registration for classes, and plenty of advice for new students. (My own advice for freshmen is here.)
Recently, I acquired a copy of the 1952 freshman orientation booklet: A Handbook for Greenhorns. Authored and illustrated by a student committee, its pages provide an interesting glimpse of campus life more than six decades ago. Below are just a few excerpts, including registration in the un-air conditioned Gregory Gym, 8:30 p.m. curfews for freshmen women, a free “charm school” in the Texas Union, and a new “no smoking” rule in classrooms.
“Maybe it’ll come to you when you’re strolling across the campus under a star-laden sky; or maybe in the evening when you short-cut across the southwest corner and hear the crickets; or maybe at a football game; or maybe it’ll just grow on you.”
“Try to keep two things in mind.
“First, be aware. Aware of the way you feel the minute you feel that way – -of the kicks at the game, the laughs at a student comedy, the inner passion inspired by a symphony, the warmth of a friendship, the simple pleasures of living a college life.
“Other thing is, cash in while you can. The best you can hope for at any college is to continue learning – – not to conclude your learning, but to continue it. If you cash in now – – cash in on the knowledge that’s here for you – – then later on, you’ll have the knack of knowledge and go right on getting it; and maybe, still later, wisdom.”
“Everybody has a tough time getting through first registration. . . . The simplest way to get out of a jam is the best way. Just walk up to somebody and ask them what to do, where you should go, or whom you should see. Folks are naturally friendly at the University, like everywhere else in Texas. Collar somebody and start talkin’.”
“All undergraduates will live in University approved residences unless special permission is granted to live elsewhere.
“You women will have certain housing rules which must be followed –
“First-term freshman women may have 3 nights out a week after 8:30. Any evening spent out after 8:30, even though you were studying in the library or attending a club meeting, is counted as a night out. Your residences will be closed at 11 o’clock every night except Saturday when 12:45 is the deadline.
“You men should be familiar with these rules, too, because it will be part of your responsibility to get your date in on time.”
Above: Mezes, Batts, and Benedict Halls – along the east side of the South Mall – were constructed as a single project and opened in 1952.
“In order to give you an idea of the probable expense of going to the University, let us assume that you are a Texas resident, taking one lab course. You live in a rooming house, and eat your meals at the Commons [the Texas Union]:
“You must remember that this is a minimum, and does not include money for clothes, dating, cigarettes, cokes, and other ‘necessary’ expenses.”
“It is important to be a member of some groups, meet new people, and go to their social function – – but, take it from an old hand, choose your clubs carefully and only join those in which you have time to participate actively and which interest you most. There are more than 250 clubs of every description on campus.”
For men –
“The boys puff out their manly chests when they say the University is generally recognized as having one of the best all-round intramural programs for men in the entire country. The latest addition is lights for the Intramural Field. And to brag some more: These are the only ones of their type in this section of the country. Spectators who shout loudly and clap obnoxiously are welcome at all games.”
And for women –
“Besides regular gym classes, any girl with the required health grade can try out and perhaps become a member of a UTSA (University of Texas Sports Association) club.
“What’s your choice? There’s Bow and Arrow (archery), Canter Club (riding), Orchesis (modern dance), Poona (badminton), Racket Club (tennis), Strike and Spare (bowling), Tee Club (golf), Touche (fencing), Tumbling, and Turtle Club (swimming). UTSA is under guidance of Miss Anna Hiss, Director of Women’s Physical Training.”
“The Students’ Association elects representatives for its student government both in the fall and in the spring. Assemblymen are elected in the fall, whereas the most colorful election is the one in the spring, when the president and other student body executive and judicial officers are decided. Colorful campaigning, with signs, stunts, and serenading add to the spirit of elections.”
Above: For several weeks each semester, the all-grass West Mall was filled with enormous – and creative – campaign signs for student government. Click on an image for a larger view.
“The objective of the ROTC programs is to develop the attributes of character, personality, and leadership which are indispensable to every college graduate, whether he remains a civilian upon graduation, or makes a career of the service.”
Left: The cartoon scene in this section of the freshman handbook wasn’t entirely fictional. From World War II until the 1957 completion of the ROTC Building on the East Mall (later named Russell Steindam Hall and now replaced by the Liberal Arts Building), the Naval ROTC was headquartered in the Littlefield Home, with a pair of anti-aircraft guns placed on each side of the front entrance. And in full view of the Tower.
“You will find a ‘home away from home’ here at the center of student activities. Just a few of the conveniences offered a Lost and Found department, free dance classes, ping pong, chess, card playing, checking service, and television. In addition Pep rally dances, Friday Frolics, Talent Nights, and weekly movies are given free throughout the school year. Your Union offers bridge lessons, pop lectures, student-faculty discussions called Coffeorums, and frequent appearances of nationally known speakers.
“Students plan all activities through the work of ten committees. The Charm Committee offers a co-ed charm school and style show each semester. The Free Dance Committee handles the dances. The Talent Committee keeps a file of campus talent and provides programs for various groups.
“Besides offering numerous activities, you can find popular magazines, soft drinks, candy, cigarettes, and newspapers from all over the state. You paid your dollar Union fee this semester for the use of all of these facilities.”
Above: Opened in 1933, the Texas Union was the original campus center of student activities. Much of the first floor housed the “Commons,” a large University-wide cafeteria.
“Since the 40 acres small parking on the campus is limited to those holding permits. These parking privileges are restricted are restricted to the faculty, staff and disabled students. Parking after 4:30 Friday, after 1:30 Saturday, all day Sunday is open to anyone who can find a place to park.”
“This last year, many feet of side walk were put down so that you would be able to walk from place to place without getting your feet muddy (or ruining the grass). These walks were planned so that you will be able to get from one place to another without crossing any shrubs, flowerbeds or the like. In many cases they were laid over paths that students had worn through finding the shortest distance between two points. So as you establish your paths from building to building, conform to the walks and help keep our campus beautiful. “
“You may be one of those students who feel uncomfortable without a smoke in your hand. If so, start curbin’ that desire as a rule was passed this last year prohibiting smoking (or beverage drinking) in the class rooms and other specified areas. So look before you smoke!”
Above: As lights weren’t installed at the football stadium until 1956, home games were usually held at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. From the right seat, a Longhorn fan watched the game framed between two Austin landmarks: The UT Tower and the Texas Capitol.
Along with “The Eyes of Texas” and “Texas Fight,” UT students in 1952 had several favorite college yells. A pair of them – the Tex Fight Chant and Color Yell – were later incorporated into the Texas Fight song.