Hermes in the House!

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.

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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 The houses in the upper right have been replaced by the Perry-Castaneda Library, and the field in the upper left is now the Jester Center Residence Hall.

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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.

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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 Monday, May 8, 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.

Thinking of Margaret

Margaret Catherine Berry: August 8, 1915 – April 9, 2017

To my fellow UT students, she was the “cacciatore lady.” I soon discovered why.

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 Greystone Drive 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 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 Wedgewood 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.

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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 sprite 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.

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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.

1952: A Handbook for Greenhorns

Browse the 1952 Freshman Orientation Guide

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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.

  • From Student to Student . . .

“You’re a University student now. But you’re not a University of Texas student. You haven’t got that knot inside that makes you a Longhorn. You don’t know what it is now, but you will.

“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.”

  • First Daze at U.T.

“Yes, with your first look around the Forty Acres, everything seems big – – if not a little confusing.

“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’.”

  • Gotta Place to Live? . . . Where You Hang Your Hat

“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.

  • Hard Cash . . .

“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.”

  • What Students Do

“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.”

 

  • Student Sports

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.”

  • Students’ Association

“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.

  • ‘tenshun!

“The University of Texas is one of the few colleges in the country which has ROTC units of all three branches of our Armed Services: Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and Air Force.

“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.

 

 

  • Student Life Centers . . .

“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.

  • Traffic Regulations

“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.”

 

  • There is a Place to Walk . . .

“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. “

  • And a Place to Smoke!

“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!”

  • Longhorn Yells and Songs

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.

Mud Men

pushball-1924

Above: In the 1920s, Texas Independence Day was reserved for pushball!

Texas Independence Day – March 2nd – has long been celebrated on the University of Texas campus. In 1897, a group of law students formally borrowed a cannon from the Capitol grounds and fired it repeatedly in front of the old Main Building. In recent years, the Tejas Club has annually hosted a 7 a.m. breakfast to honor seniors, faculty, and UT administrators, and toasted the state that provided for the founding of the University. Texas Exes chapters worldwide have traditionally gathered for what is often the main event of the year, and raised funds for UT scholarships.

1895-pushball-at-harvardIn 1912, the usual firing of a cannon and a formal Texas Independence Day assembly in the auditorium of Old Main was expanded to included a new activity: a pushball game. The sport was invented by the Norton, Massachusetts Athletic Association in 1895, and quickly found a following at nearby Harvard University. “It looks comic, but it has its good points as well,” declared the Austin Daily Statesman. (Image at right.) The pushball was a six-foot diameter round leather ball, often compared to an overgrown soccer ball, which weighed about 65 pounds when fully inflated. Played on a standard football field with eight men on a team, the object was to push, carry, roll, toss, or by some other means move the ball across the opponent’s goal line. Blocking and tackling were allowed, holding and fighting were illegal. At Harvard, students played pushball several afternoons a week with formal contests held during the halftime periods of football games. “It bids fair to rival football in popularity,” the Statesman claimed. Over the next several decades, the sport did receive some national attention and was played at universities as far away as Stanford, but it never seriously challenged football for recognition.

University of Texas students, though, were keenly aware of the new game and eager to give it a try. By 1909 The Texan was calling for it to be played on the Forty Acres. “Those who have watched Push Ball contests at other colleges and know of the great sport connected with these exhibitions cannot but wonder why the Push Ball has not reached Texas.” During the spring, students had initiated a movement to purchase a pushball and hold a game before the end of the term. Unfortunately, the cost was nearly $250, a monstrous sum at the time, easily more than the total expenses a UT student would incur over an academic year. Pushball was placed on hold, but not for long.

In the spring of 1912, Professor Carl Taylor took on the added responsibility as coach of the UT Track team. He’d played pushball as a student at Drake University in Iowa, knew of the interest in the sport in Austin, and convinced the Athletic Council to purchase a pushball for University use. It arrived about February 1st and was on display in the Co-op, then housed under the massive oak staircase in the rotunda of the old Main Building. The first contest was set for Saturday, March 2nd – as part of the Texas Independence Day festivities – between the freshmen and sophomores.

1912-first-pushball-contest

Above: A view of the inaugural 1912 pushball contest on Clark Field, about where the O’Donnell Building and Gates-Dell Computer Science Complex stand today, with the dome of the Texas Capitol in the background. 

It had rained all morning, but a large crowd of curious onlookers gathered at Clark Field, UT’s first athletic field, on the appointed day. Just after 3 p.m., the male contingent of the freshman class arrived first and gathered at the south goal, their faces daubed with red paint to distinguish them from their opponents. The sophomore class soon followed, marched into the stadium in a double line, and took up residence on the north end of the field. Both groups heard pre-game speeches from their captains. Grady Niblo addressed the sophomores, while Louis Jordan, the only freshman selected to play on the Longhorn football team, was chosen to lead the first-years. After class yells were shouted, the pushball, accompanied by the University Band, was rolled onto the grass and ceremoniously placed on the 50-yard line. The freshmen and sophomores lined up en masse behind their respective goal lines, Coach Taylor raised his starter’s pistol, pulled the trigger, and – bang! – an estimated 370 students surged onto a thoroughly muddy field and sprinted for the ball waiting at the center.

1912-pushball-headline“A fleet sophomore hit the ball first,” reported the Statesman, but several freshmen arrived an instant later. “For a minute or two it seemed as though it was an impossibility to make the ball budge one way or another. Slowly but surely, though, the freshmen succeeded in forcing it toward the sophomore goal inch by inch.” Suddenly, the ball was raised into the air and “spectators witnesses one of the most thrilling sights that it is possible to see on an athletic field.” For the next twenty minutes, the ball was either rolling on the ground or flying through the air, prodded, pushed, and lifted by mud-caked students who were either trying to get to the ball or blocking someone from the other class. The freshman had moved the ball to within fifteen yards of the sophomore’s goal when time was called. After a short intermission, a second period was played, though limited to twenty players on a side. In the end, neither class scored and the contest was declared a tie, but all agreed that the pushball game was fun.

For the next fifteen years, pushball continued as a Texas Independence Day tradition on the campus, though the sophomores almost always won. It was discontinued in the late 1920s after the ball itself was worn out and a series of injuries to participants raised concerns.

1923-pushball

Above: The 1923 Pushball game had some students climbing the goal posts.

1925-cactus-pushball-cartoon

Above: A 1925 cartoon of the annual pushball game. Students who participated wore old or worn out clothes, as few shirts or pants escaped being muddied or torn.

“Coats on in the Library!”

battle-hall-1916-reading-room

Above: Before 1917, coats and ties were the customary dress in the University Library, regardless of the weather.

1915-university-library-battle-hall

It was a fine day for a rebellion.

Friday afternoon, May 25, 1917, was bright, sunny, warm, and humid. The kind of late spring day that usually precedes a long, steamy summer.

For University of Texas students, the academic year was coming to a close. Term projects were due, along with one last round of quizzes, before final exams and then commencement ceremonies in mid-June.

The University Library – today’s Battle Hall (photo above left) – was a popular place this time of year.  Opened in 1911 and partly inspired by the Boston Public Library, its spacious
reading room was a great improvement over the too-crowded previous quarters in the old Main Building.  At a time before the invention of air conditioning, architect Cass Gilbert 1914-university-library-entrance-screen-doorsdeliberately positioned the library just to the west of Old Main, near the top of the slope in the middle of the Forty Acres. Facing east and with the reading room on the second floor, the tall, arched windows could be opened to catch the southeastern breezes from the Gulf of Mexico, and help to mitigate the heat in the warmer months. To further help with air circulation, customized screen doors were created and fixed to the front entryway. (Photo above right.)

On this particular Friday afternoon, a small group of male UT students arrived for some late day studying, but looked decidedly different from their fellows. While there was a firm classroom dress code of suits and ties for men and dresses for women, the library wasn’t a classroom, and on this warm day, the students decided to leave their jackets at their west campus boarding house and visit the library in shirt sleeves.

After just a few minutes, Wilson Williams, officially the library’s Supervisor of Gifts and Exchanges, but better known on campus as the “silence restorer” of the reading room, swooped down upon the group with the peremptory command, “Coats on!”

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Above: Architect Cass Gilbert placed the library just west of the old Main Building.

As the students had left their jackets at home and couldn’t comply, they attempted a parley. Williams explained they had violated a well-established guideline of dress. The students asked whether the rule might be overlooked this one time, saving them the trouble of having to trudge home just to don jackets on a hot day.

Unmoved, Williams insisted, but the students persisted, and finally demanded to see the written rules that governed library dress and conduct. Williams reluctantly admitted that there was no formal regulation that required jackets be worn, but it had been a longstanding custom since the University opened in 1883.

To the students, though, practicality outweighed an unnecessary tradition. The group, confident in their victory over the library administration, remained at their seats in shirt sleeve comfort. Within a few minutes, a dozen other UT compatriots had peeled off their jackets, and before the library closed for the day, every male student had joined in the uprising. For the hapless Mr. Williams, a longstanding custom was no more. But for the students, a new tradition was born. Coats and hot days were not to meet in the library again.

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Above: After 1917, UT students in the library studied in their shirt sleeves on warm days. Click on an image for a larger view.

The Big Enormous Building

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Above: The original west entrance to the Business-Economics Building.

For the business school, it was a dream come true. On February 2, 1962, the swanky new Business-Economics Building, the largest teaching facility yet on the Forty Acres, hosted its first classes. Business Dean John White was elated with the new digs. So were the students, who promptly dubbed the edifice the “Big Enormous Building.” Though much of it has been renovated over the past half century, the original “BEB” was, in many ways, a modern marvel and campus trend-setter.

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spurgeon-bellAt the University of Texas, business classes made their debut in 1912, when UT alumnus Spurgeon Bell (photo at left) was hired to found a “business studies” department within the College of Arts and Sciences. The facilities, though, weren’t ideal. As UT’s growth outpaced its funding, resources to construct new buildings simply weren’t available. Temporary pinewood shacks were built instead. Crude and without proper foundations, UT President Sidney Mezes purposely left them unpainted in the forlorn hope that the state would be so embarrassed by their appearance and replace the shacks with adequate buildings.

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Above: In 1912,”G” Hall for business studies stood in front of today’s Gebauer Building.

The business studies department was assigned to “G” Hall, located in front of today’s Gebauer Building. Poorly heated by pot belly stoves, Bell had to arrive early on cold days to stoke the coals left by the custodian overnight, and then gather more firewood from a stack behind the building. Despite the primitive conditions, the business department grew, matured, and was made a separate school in 1922.

Waggener Hall.1930sA year later, the 1923 discovery of oil on University-owned West Texas land offered the promise of better quarters in the future, but it wasn’t until 1931 that Waggener Hall was opened along the west side of Speedway Street. Named to honor Leslie Waggener, UT’s first president, the hall was intended for business administration, a message made clear though the building’s ornamentation. Twenty-six terra-cotta medallions placed just below the eaves portrayed some of the exports of Texas at the time: cotton, oil, pecans, maize, wheat, cattle, and lumber, among others. However, with space on the campus at a premium, business initially had to share the building with the math, English, and public speaking departments, along with an anthropology museum that filled the top floor.

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Above: A typing class in the late 1930s. Ceiling fans regularly hummed in the un-air conditioned classrooms.

The new quarters were a boon for the business school, but as its classes grew more popular with UT students, Waggener Hall was short on space within a decade, and then almost unmanageable after World War II, as thousands of returning veterans enrolled in the University under the G. I. Bill. It became something of an annual tradition for the business deans to lobby the UT administration for a new facility.

ut-75th-logo-1958In  1958, the University observed its 75th anniversary. Along with the many campus celebrations, a Diamond Jubilee Commission was created to “chart the University’s next 25 years.”  Appointed by UT President Logan Wilson, the commission tackled issues ranging from academic programs, enrollment, research, and student life, and created a series of recommendations intended to bring UT up to the top tier of the nation’s universities. In response, President Wilson formally launched a “Ten Year Plan,” intended to overhaul degree programs and improve facilities. A new headquarters for the College of Business Administration was among the priorities, and the Board of Regents approved the $4 million for construction.

Ground was broken in July 1959 and the building was ready for use by spring 1962. At the time, UT’s academic year opened in late September, with fall semester finals scheduled in January, just after the holiday break. With a brief, ten-day intersession, the spring semester began in February. For the business school, the 1962 intersession was a great scramble, as all of the filing cabinets, office desks, teaching materials, and library books had to be moved from Waggener Hall to the new building in time for the spring semester start on February 2nd. A winter ice storm that pelted Austin mid-week only added to the chaos.

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Above: The invitation to the Business-Economics Building dedication.

Formally dedicated at the end of March, the Business-Economics Building – the “BEB” – was touted by some as the largest business learning facility in the Southwest. The faculty initially requested a contemporary structure, both in appearance and design, but the University administration felt that some adherence to the Mediterranean Renaissance style found on the rest of the Forty Acres was preferable. While the building was definitely modern, its limestone, brick, and use of Spanish red tile still identified it as part of the campus.

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Above: The main entrance to the BEB faced west, toward the Forty Acres.

The BEB was organized into three distinct components, each designed around specific functions. On the south end was a five-story, rectangular classroom building constructed 1968-class-in-beb-room-150around a central court from the second to fifth levels; the first level of the court was occupied by a 400-seat auditorium (photo at left). Functionally, the court provided a light well for the classrooms along the inside, but also boasted two fountains with reflecting pools, landscaping, and benches.

Along with the main auditorium, the first floor held four other theater-style classrooms for 100 to 150 students each. All were outfitted with modern sound and projection equipment, and some had mounted television monitors, a medium that had become popular less than a decade before.

beb-libraryElsewhere in the building were circular seminar rooms with tiered seating – the first on the campus – along with accounting, statistics, management, and marketing labs, study halls, interview practice rooms, and a 10,000 volume business library (right) with room for 270 students.  A series of large exhibit cases fronted with plate glass simulated store front windows to show off retail marketing class projects.

Extensive use of mosaic tile was used as wainscoting along the hallways of the classroom building, with different geometric patterns – diamonds, stars, and cubes –  in blue, brown, and yellow hues on each floor.  A solar screen of  Spanish red tile in a quatrefoil design covered the outside windows along the top floor, and while the roof was flat, its broad eaves with coffered soffits were similar to those found elsewhere on campus.

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The basement of the classroom building was reserved for student recreation, with lounges, games, student organization offices, and a myriad of vending machines (photo above) that served coffee, candy, ice cream, pastries, sandwiches, cold drinks, warm soups, and cigarettes. “It’s not that the soup and coffee served by electronic magic and a few well-placed nickels and quarters taste much different from a meal at home,” explained Anita Brewer from the Austin Statesman, “It’s just the nerve-wracking uncertainty of a machine trying to be smart.” When ordering coffee, “A cup appears first. Then the coffee starts filling the cup, and for an agonizing moment, you wonder if it will shut off in time and what you will do if it doesn’t.” Along with the vending curiosities, The Daily Texan took great interest in the new automatic bill-changer that “scans paper currency and issues coins when the proffered bill passes its critical-eye examination.”

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The north end of the BEB was a seven-story office building which housed the faculty and dean, and at the time was the second tallest structure on the campus, next to the Tower. Each level was reserved for a specific department. Starting from the first floor: finance, dean and career placement offices, accounting, economics, management, business services, and marketing. For a short time, the Institute of Latin American Studies shared the seventh floor until more appropriate quarters could be found.

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In a nod to the medallions on Waggener Hall, UT art professor Paul Hatgil designed a series of fifty ceramic panels (image above) that were placed above the top row of windows around the office unit. Their blues, browns, and yellows echoed the colors used for the mosaic tiles in the classroom building. His whimsical creations not only added color to an otherwise all-brick facade, their stylistic rows of small, raised circles were meant to be reminiscent of buttons, as the many inventions of the 1950s – from computers to vending machines – had transformed the modern world into what was then called a “push button society.”

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beb-escalatorAbove: A single bank of “up only” BEB escalators on the second floor of the crossover. The main west entry to the building is seen on the right. 

A protected crossover linked the classroom and office units. It functioned both as a corridor and housed the University’s first escalator. The high-speed moving staircase, austin-statesman-headline-1962-01-18-escalatorthough, only went up; there was no down escalator. While the BEB was furnished with elevators and stairs, a persistent joke was that students and faculty would all wind up on the top floor at the end of the day.

Similar to the top floor windows on the classroom building, the mostly glass crossover was sheathed in a solar screen, this one a perforated concrete wall, to block some of the heat from the Texas sun. So, too, was the front entrance of the BEB, found on the west side of the crossover. The glass doors were covered in a deep blue diamond pattern made from steel.

Because of the sloping terrain, visitors entered at the second level. Just behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, a walled patio provided space for faculty and alumni gatherings. An alumni lounge, next to the dean’s office in the office building, was equipped with a kitchenette,  along with doors that led out to the patio.

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Above: Behind the crossover, on the east side along Speedway Street, an enclosed patio served as a space for faculty and alumni events. In the 1980s, the area was enclosed and made the McCombs School’s Hall of Honor, though alumni events are still held here.

“The Family,” a sculpture by art professor Charles Umlauf, was placed at the main west entrance, in front of the crossover. A heroic-size bronze more than fifteen feet tall and weighing over two tons, Umlauf created the piece in Milan, Italy. Its mother, father, and child symbolically represented the basic economic unit. The sculpture was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Houston, and then carefully transported to Austin, but didn’t arrive in time for the BEB’s formal dedication. Instead, a prankish student attached a placard to the front of the statue’s empty granite base that read, “Tomb of the Unknown BBA Student.”

Above: Charles Umlauf’s “The Family” guarded the main entrance to the BEB. 

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1962-ibm-comuterThe opening of the BEB galvanized the business school. As part of the University’s Ten Year plan, the undergraduate and graduate programs were reviewed, revised, and strengthened. A Business Honors Program was founded. Typing classes were discontinued (though still offered through University Extension) in favor of courses in mathematical analysis, leadership development, and the use of technology. While the BEB was under construction, Business Dean John White invested a sizable $75,000 to purchase an IBM 1620 Data Processing System (above left), a room-exciter-newsletterssize computer that could perform over 1,500 calculations per second. It was installed in time for the BEB dedication, and was a highlight of the building tour. “In preparation of the computer world of the Seventies and Eighties, all students in the College of Business explored the mysteries of this fantastic machine,” explained the 1965 Cactus yearbook.

Along with academics, the business school used the BEB to initiate an outreach program. In 1960, an Advisory Council was created to both help with fundraising and “provide an avenue of direct liaison between the faculty and the business community.” The school’s first alumni newsletter, The Ex-Citer, was published three times a year, and special events, including an annual homecoming during football season, were held on the alumni patio.

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There have been several renovations to the BEB over the years. In 1975, the Graduate School of Business Building was added to the west side, which eliminated the crossover entry and moved the main entrance to the south side of the building. By the early 1980s, business school enrollment topped 10,000 students, the largest in the nation and nearly a quarter of the entire University. The University
Teaching Center was built across the street to the south in 1982 to ease overcrowded classrooms, and a pedestrian bridge added to connect it to the rest of the business 1985-business-school-renovation-hall-of-honorschool.  A few years later, the BEB underwent a significant renovation. The central courtyard was covered to create an atrium (top left), classrooms were retooled and upgraded, the original decorative tile along the hallways was removed, and the alumni patio enclosed in favor of a “Hall of Honor.” (photo at right) The complex was renamed the George Kozmetsky Center for Business Education and formally dedicated in 1986. A later, minor renovation was completed in 2008. Citing problems with pigeons nesting among the tiles, the solar screen along the top row of windows of the classroom building was removed.

Above: Business Dean Robert Witt (left) inspects the progress of the 1980s renovation to the Business-Economics Building. The mosaic tile on the wall – a different pattern for each floor – was removed. 

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Above: A then and now look at the Business-Economics Building from the UT Tower observation deck. The image on top was taken in 1968, while the Jester Center residence hall was under construction. “The Family” statue can be seen in front of the west entry into the BEB crossover. The old Law Building (1908) was then home to the anthropology department. The photo above was taken in 2012. The Graduate School of Business Building was connected to the BEB in 1975, and later renovations enclosed the courtyard of the classroom building. Click on an image for a larger view.

The Main Building Seals

The seals of a dozen universities are on the Main Building. Why?

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“In a large group of buildings, be it a city, a world fair, or a university, there is always a certain part of the whole which provides the image carried in our memory when we think of the place.” – architect Paul Cret, 1933 University of Texas Campus Master Plan

ut-tower-aerialFormally dedicated eighty years ago – on February 27, 1937 – the University’s Main Building was designed to serve a variety of purposes. Functionally, it was meant to house the central library. Its grand reading halls and special collection rooms were assembled around a massive tower, which held the book stacks. To accommodate future growth, the library was intentionally planned to be larger than needed, which prompted the Board of Regents to reserve a portion of the building for UT administration.

Stylistically, architect Paul Cret blended the needs of his clients with his own desires. The limestone exterior, red-tile roofs, Spanish-themed reliefs, and a spacious, seven-arched loggia all expressed the Mediterranean Renaissance idiom first seen in Cass Gilbert’s 1911 Library (now Battle Hall), a style which the Board of Regents deemed appropriate for Texas and its historical connections to Spain and Mexico. But Cret added Classical elements as well. Simple Doric columns enclosed the two front extensions along with the belfry at the top of the Tower, while the south facade was decorated with a row of dentils, and pilasters with Ionic capitals. Cret felt strongly that, as America was a modern democracy, its public buildings should evoke some sense of those democratic origins in Ancient Greece, and dubbed the style a “New Classicism.”

main-building-south-facadeRight: A line of dentils – those square “teeth” along the top of the image – along with an Ionic capital atop a pilaster, are among the Classical decorations on the Main Building’s south façade, all carved in place during construction. Click on an image for a larger view.

Symbolically, Cret intended his monumental Tower to be that iconic image “carried in our memory when we think of the place,” and sought to give it an “appropriate architectural treatment for a depository of human knowledge.” The ornamentation on the building spoke to its purpose as a library as well as to the mission and aspirations of the University. Names of literary giants 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 main-building-athenaas 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 (photo above), 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.

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Above: Along the east side of the Main Building are six university seals.

The most colorful ornamentation was placed along the east and west sides of the building, just below the broad eaves, where artful representations of a dozen university seals 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.”

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Above: The west side of the nearly-completed Main Building in 1936.

The seal project began in the spring of 1932, as the initial phase of the Main Building was under construction.  Cret’s design allowed for something to be placed under the eaves, but left it to the University to determine the specifics. The idea to display university seals originated with the Faculty Building Committee and its chair, Dr. William Battle.

Which universities would be included? Battle consulted with Professor Frederick Eby, then the campus authority on the history of higher education. Eby provided a list of fifteen candidates: Bologna, Paris, Salamanca, Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, Geneva, Leiden, Edinburgh, Harvard, Yale, Virginia, and Michigan.

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The roster was heavy on European schools and, in part, charted a genealogical line. Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, is widely regarded as the first degree-granting modern university, followed closely by the University of Paris. Oxford developed in the mid-12th century after King Henry II prevented English students from traveling to France. A dispute in 1209 between the town of Oxford and its university caused some of the local scholars to leave in protest and begin a new school in Cambridge. Four centuries later, among the Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in North America, a group of Cambridge alumni created what would become Harvard. Located in the tiny hamlet of Newtowne, the group changed the name of the village to Cambridge in honor of their Alma Mater.

Two state universities were also included. Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia had been a role model for many colleges in the South, though Eby told Battle, “The influence of Michigan on state universities has been greater than that of any other in my judgement.”

earnest-w-winkler-ut-librarianThe Faculty Building Committee considered Professor Eby’s suggestions. After some discussion, Yale, Leiden, and Vienna were eliminated to trim the list to twelve. Additional input came from Ernest Winkler, the UT librarian (photo at right). “Should not the seal of the University of Mexico, the ancient university, be used also?” said Winkler. “It was created by decree of Charles V in 1551, as was put in operation in 1553. Printing was introduced into Mexico ten years earlier. These cultural forces appeared in New Spain (Mexico) much earlier than they did in any of the other Spanish possessions in America. These are facts which may be pointed to with pride. It seems to me we ought to include the University of Mexico seal.”

The committee readily agreed. Mexico’s university predated Harvard, was the oldest in North America, and its connection to the history of Texas made it an obvious and appropriate choice. Mexico was substituted for Geneva.

The Board of Regents gave its approval at their meeting on June 17, 1932, but allowed the committee to make minor changes if needed. In early July, John Calhoun, the University Comptroller and a member of the committee, suggested that a female college be added to recognize the inclusion of women in higher education. As a final change, Vassar College replaced the University of Prague.

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Above: From left, the seals of Salamanca, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna on the west side.

With the list finalized, Battle set out to acquire printed copies of the seals or coats of arms. Some were found in books in the UT library, others obtained through correspondence.  “I wonder if you can help me out in securing a copy of the arms of the University of Bologna,” Battle asked the secretary of the Italy America Society in New York. “What I am looking for is a black and white print or Photostat of one from which our designer can evolve the form appropriate to the space at his disposal.”

While Battle required a black and white image to start, he also needed the correct colors. “The only place on which our seal appears in color,” said Frank Robbins, the assistant to the president of the University of Michigan, “is the flag which is annually carried at the head of the Commencement procession.” Robbins sent a copy of the 1931 graduation program, with an image of the UM seal printed on the front, and in pencil drew arrows to the various parts and listed the colors he saw on the flag.

Vassar College proved to be the most challenging, as it didn’t yet have a printed version of its seal to send. Instead, Battle received two imprints of the seal embossed on a single sheet of white stationery. “This is our only emblazoning and it is not used with colors,” explained a brief note from the president’s office. “Unofficially, the colors of the college are rose and gray.” A pair of short clippings of rose and gray ribbon was attached with a paper clip.

edinburgh“How do we best proceed to get them made?” Battle asked Paul Cret. The ornamentation was to be in the form of oval-shaped cartouches, not circular, formal reproductions of the seals, so there would be some artistic license in the finished product. “I am not easy in my mind by heraldic designs made by Texas artists. They do not know even the first principles of the art.”

The highly regarded Atlantic Terra Cotta Company in Perth Amboy, New Jersey was chosen. Headquartered just southwest of New York City, it was only 75 miles from Cret’s firm in Philadelphia, and Battle wanted Cret to oversee the design. The cost to produce the twelve cartouches was just under $1,400.

Above right: A terra cotta rendering of the University of Edinburgh seal.

Through the fall of 1932, sketches of the cartouches were prepared in Philadelphia, and then sent to Perth Amboy to be fashioned in terra cotta. They were installed in early March, 1933.

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Above: The process. From a drawing of the University of Virginia seal in Paul Cret’s office, to a rendering by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, to finished cartouche. 

“The university shields are now in place and as a whole have excited general admiration,” Battle wrote to Cret. “They give very attractive spots of color, and the designs in most cases can be made out well enough to understand them.” Unfortunately, the Salamanca, Virginia, and Vassar cartouches, “being all in one color, and that a dull one, can hardly be made out at all from the ground.” While not entirely colorless, most of the renderings for these three were a natural light grey, which made it difficult to see details. An oil-based paint was applied to brighten the hues and provide additional contrast.

On the Main Building, the university seals are arranged in order of the years they were founded.

Along the west side, from south to north:

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bolognaBologna (1088): The original seal of the University of Bologna (left) was pressed into hot wax to authenticate official documents, and its design was purposely intricate to discourage forgery. As it was too complicated to be easily understood as a cartouche, Cret and Battle opted to use the city of Bologna’s coat of arms instead.

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Paris (1200): Along with Bologna, Paris is one of Europe’s oldest universities. Here, the design was simplified. The flour-de-lis designs were eliminated to feature the “hand of God” delivering knowledge and wisdom from the heavens. Though the present University’s seal is blue and gold, Cret, a native Frenchman, used blue and red, the national colors of France.
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Oxford (1167): The Latin motto on the Oxford University seal on the open book is Dominus Illuminatio Mea – “The Lord is my light.” But look closely. The top left line reads “Domi,” and the second line “nus.” A slight error in the making of the cartouche has the top line “Dom” and the second “inus.”

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Salamanca (1230): In medieval Europe, the University of Salamanca, Spain was best known as a law school. The cartouche on the Main Building was the only attempt to stay true to the intricate design of the original university seal. Officially black and white, university colors were selectively applied to highlight the many details.

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Cambridge (1281): The Cambridge University coat of arms was granted in 1573 and consists of a red background and a cross of ermine fur between four gold lions. A book, placed horizontally with the spine at the top, is in the center.

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Heidelberg (1385): As with the University of Bologna, Heidelberg’s cartouche is a representation of the city’s coat of arms.

Along the east side, from north to south:

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Mexico (1553): The oldest in North America, the University of Mexico’s seal features the castle and lion, symbolic of the Spanish crown when Mexico was part of New Spain. It’s also seen on the Salamanca cartouche.

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Edinburgh (1583): The coat of arms for the University of Edinburgh features the blue, St. Andrew’s cross of Scotland with an open book of learning at the center, an image of Edinburgh Castle at the bottom, the thistle – the national flower of Scotland – at the top.

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Harvard (1636): The oldest university in the United States, Harvard’s motto – Veritas, or “Truth” – dates to 1643. At a New England regatta in 1858, Harvard crew members Benjamin Crownshield and Charles Elliot hurriedly supplied crimson bandanas to their teammates so that spectators could easily distinguish them in a race. Elliot was named Harvard’s 21st president in 1869, and served in that capacity for four distinguished decades. In 1910, the year after he retired, crimson was officially named the University’s color and added to the seal.

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Virginia (1819): Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia’s seal features an image of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, standing in front of the original mall and buildings of the campus, which Jefferson termed an “academical village.” As the seal was colorless, Cret’s office had to artistically add UVA’s orange and blue to the design.

michigan-seal-cartouche

Michigan (1817): The University was founded in Detroit two decades before Michigan became a state, and its seal has been through several revisions. Currently all blue and maize, the description Battle received in 1932 included a red shield in the center. The design was simplified for artistic reasons – the sun and rays were eliminated – and the red shield became the predominant hue, though blue is still seen on the motto, Artes, Scientia, Veritas – Art, Science, Truth.

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Vassar (1861): Now co-educational, Vassar was founded as one of the first women’s colleges in the United States. The seal wasn’t approved by its Board of trustees until 1931, only a year before Battle requested a copy for use on the Main Building. The design features an image of Athena as the “patron of learning,” holding an olive branch as a symbol of civilization, and with a view of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in the distance. As with the Virginia seal, there were no colors yet assigned to it, though the College’s colors were unofficially rose and grey. Cret’s office had to make artistic decisions, and oil-based paint was used to color the cartouche.

Garrison Hall is 90!

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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.

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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.

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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.

garrison-hall-from-ut-tower-deck

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.

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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-longhorn-skull

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.

garrison-hall-cattle-brands-st-louis-times-dispatch

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.

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garrison-hall-1930s

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

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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.

paul-cret-1933-master-plan-1

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.

cret-campus-plan-garrison-hall

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

garrison_hall-burnet

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.

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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.

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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.”

 

Remembering Old B. Hall at 125

This month marks the 125th anniversary of UT’s first residence hall.

B Hall Color Postcard

 “You may tear down the Alamo, but never B. Hall!” – B. Hall Alumni Association

In the storied annals of Texas history, few places could ever compete with the spirit and lore of the Alamo. But for a select group of students who lived on the University of Texas campus from 1890-1926, the Alamo took a back seat to B. Hall.

Nestled on the eastern slope of the Forty Acres, within earshot of the ivy-draped old Main Building, Brackenridge Hall, or simply, “B. Hall,” was the University’s first residence hall. Opened December 1, 1890, it was intended to be an anonymous, unceremonious gift, a low-cost building to provide cheap housing for male students. But the gift of B. Hall grew to be much more.  For decades, the hall and its residents were central to campus life. A stronghold of student leadership, the birthplace of UT traditions, championed as a bastion of “Jeffersonian Democracy,” the hall sheltered future Rhodes Scholars, professors, philosophers, lawyers, physicians, state and national lawmakers, U. S. ambassadors, college presidents, a governor of Puerto Rico, and a Librarian of Congress. For a time the hall became so well-known nationally that letters addressed simply to “B. Hall, Texas,” were known to reach their destination. When it was finally razed in the 1950s, the legacy of the hall wasn’t simply a building and its donor. The gift that was B. Hall rested with the indelible contributions its residents had made to the University, and, later, to the world.

Ashbel SmithDormitories were not originally planned for the University. Ashbel Smith, the first chair of the Board of Regents (photo at left), was flatly opposed to them. “It is even worse than a pure waste of money. Nor should there be a college commons where students eat in mess. Experience is decisive on these points.” By experience, Smith knew of the raucous student rebellions that had plagued Harvard and Princeton and left their dorms in shambles, and of a violent incident at the University of Virginia in which a professor was shot and killed. All of these events involved young men housed together on the campus, which left many college authorities hesitant to build dorms. Cornell’s first president, Andrew White, hoped the hometown citizens of Ithaca, New York would provide room and board. White wrote in 1866, “Large bodies of students collected in dormitories often arrive at a degree of turbulence which small parties, gathered in the houses of citizens, seldom if ever reach.” Manasseh Cutler, a Massachusetts botanist who helped to settle Ohio and found Ohio University, was more direct: “Chambers in colleges are too often made the nurseries of every vice and cages of unclean birds.”

Old Main.1890

Above: In 1889, only two-thirds of the old Main Building was completed. The two children in the front are sitting among bluebonnets about where Sutton Hall is today.

As the University of Texas opened for its seventh academic year in the fall of 1889, enrollment exceeded 300 students for the first time, with almost two thirds of them men. As there was no campus housing, most students found room and board in private homes around Austin for about $25 per month. Additional costs included an annual matriculation fee of $10, a $5 library deposit, and the purchase of textbooks. Tuition for in-state students didn’t yet exist, so that a year at UT could easily be had for less than $300.

That might sound inexpensive, but the cost of living in Austin was too high for many college-aged youth in Texas. At the time, almost 90% of the state’s population was classified as rural, struggling against the Southern agricultural depression of the late 1880s. Poverty conditions were widespread among the farms and ranches of Texas, where eggs brought in just two cents per dozen, cotton netted four cents a pound, and a healthy steer earned five to eight dollars. Young men raised in these conditions, known as the “poor boys” of the state, sought a way out, and looked to the University as a promising opportunity for social mobility.

When the Board of Regents convened in February 1890, George Brackenridge, a wealthy San Antonio banker and University regent, offered up to $17,000 to build an economical residence hall for the state’s poor boys. He preferred to keep his donation anonymous and requested the building be named “University Hall.” His fellow regents, though, wanted to encourage a similar gift for a dormitory for women, and persuaded the reluctant donor to allow the building to be named for him. (They did, though it was from Brackenridge again.) Students would later shorten the name from Brackenridge Hall to simply “B. Hall.”

B Hall Original.1890

Above: The original B. Hall, opened in 1890. The house down the hill to the right sat along Speedway Street and would today be in the middle of the East Mall.

Completed on December 1, 1890, the original hall was a plain, no-frills structure, made from pressed yellow brick and limestone trim. Four stories tall, with simple bay windows and two front doors facing west, it better resembled a pair of low-cost city townhouses adrift on the Texas prairie.
1899 Cactus.Campus from 21st and Guadalupe

Above: The Forty Acres in the 1890s as seen from 21st and Guadalupe Streets. Old Main is in the middle of the campus, with B. Hall to the right.

Initially, Brackenridge Hall housed 48 men and could accommodate more than 100 persons in its ground floor restaurant, which doubled as the first campus-wide eatery. Rent was initially set at $2.50 per month for a room, and meals could be had for less than $10 monthly, half the usual cost of living in Austin by half.

1892 B Hall Menu

Above: The B. Hall menu for Thanksgiving Day, 1892. Check out the prices and the inside jokes with the quotations. Source: UT Memorabilia Collection, Box 4P158, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

A decade after it opened – thanks to another donation from George Brackenridge – the hall was renovated and expanded to house 124 students. Wings were added on the north and south ends, an open community room was built  above the top floor, and towers, turrets, and a red tin roof helped to improve its humble facade.

B Hall Color

Above: In 1899, wings were added to the north and south sides of original building.

B. Hall provided young men in Texas with limited finances the opportunity to attend the University. Many of them were the sons of pioneers, born in log cabins and raised with few luxuries. Practical, self-motivated, and individualistic, all of them were poor. Often equipped with a single change of clothes, some would ride into Austin on horseback, sell their horses, and use the money to help pay for a year’s stay. Almost all held part-time jobs while they were students.

What the hall’s residents lacked in pocket change, they more than made up for in character. From the Texas range they brought with them the best attributes of frankness and determination, and their shared economic status provided them with a common motivation. With limited opportunities to attend school in rural Texas, many had no high school diplomas. They had to prepare themselves for college-level classes and were conditionally admitted through examination. Ages varied from 18 to just over 30.

Sometimes shunned by more affluent UT students, the occupants of B. Hall developed their own fraternal, close-knit community. Academics were taken seriously. Most of the honors students, along with the University’s first Rhodes Scholars, lived in the hall. Professors were frequent guests for dinner and often stayed for the post meal “pow-wow,” held in the dining hall or in the shade on the east side of the building. For an hour or so at dusk each evening, faculty and students engaged in a lively conversation on current affairs, campus issues, or academic topics. “The student that missed the daily pow-wow,” wrote one B. Hall alumnus, “never knew what University life at its fullest really meant.”

B.Hall.1904.Engineering Roommates

Above: Two engineering roommates in B. Hall.

Strong friendships developed between the hall’s residents, as mutual support was always encouraged, and sometimes required. The University’s first visually impaired students lived in B. Hall, among them Olan Van Zandt, who graduated from the Texas School for the Blind to enroll in the law school. None of the texts were written in braille, and recordings weren’t available. Instead, Olan’s fellow denizens spent untold hours reading to him and reviewing torts, contracts, and equity.  Van Zandt graduated with honors and went on to serve in the Texas Legislature: four sessions in the House, and another four sessions in the Senate.

Eyes of Texas First VersionAlong with classes, B. Hall occupants took an active part in UT affairs, voted for themselves in student elections, and were recognized as campus leaders. Their contributions to the University were many and long lasting. The origins of The Eyes of Texas, Texas Taps (“Texas Fight”), student government, The Daily Texan, UT’s first celebration of Texas Independence Day, the Longhorn Band, and even the purchase of the steer that became the longhorn mascot Bevo are all connected to B. Hall. Three of the hall’s alumni: Dr. Harry Benedict, the first alumnus to be appointed UT president; Dr. Gene Schoch, a noted chemical engineering professor who founded the Longhorn Band; and Arno Nowonty, the immensely popular Dean of Student Life, have campus buildings named for them.

Above left: The original lyrics of The Eyes of Texas, written on a scrap of laundry paper in room 203 of B. Hall by John Lang Sinclair.

1901 Cactus.Varsity Band

Above: In 1900, Gene Schoch purchased 16 musical instruments at a downtown Austin pawn shop, and then recruited a group of B. Hall residents to form what is today the Longhorn Band.

While most college dorms were heavily supervised by campus administrators, UT officials allowed the hall’s denizens to largely manage themselves. While there was a hired steward to look after finances, the students created their own B. Hall Association, wrote a constitution and by-laws, and enacted their own regulations. A suit and tie was required dress for all meals, musical instruments could only be played between 1-2 pm. and 5-7:30 p.m., and card playing was expressly prohibited.

Rusty Cusses.1908

Above: The Rustic Order of Ancient and Honorable Rusty Cusses was a very non-serious social club of B. Hall men who hailed from farms and ranches around Texas. Several campus organizations were born within the confines of B. Hall, including the Texas Cowboys and the Tejas Club.

That doesn’t mean life in the hall was all serious business. With little money for entertainment, the hall’s occupants often had to create their own diversions, and a favorite pastime was staging elaborate practical jokes.  One student discovered he was a great voice impersonator and, pretending to be University President Sidney Mezes, called professors and instructed them to “be at my house tonight at 8 to discuss a serious matter.” Harried faculty members showed up unexpectedly at Dr. Mezes’ front door. Another B. Haller physically masqueraded as the UT president and registered most of the freshmen with fake papers, which resulted in a very interesting first day of class. A lost donkey was led into the women’s dorm as a late night gift on Halloween. In search of a new morning wake-up alarm, some hall residents “borrowed” a bell from the Fulmore School in South Austin. When a few B. Hallers tricked the Texas Legislature into officially inviting a world famous pianist to the State Capitol to “sing” his most famous piece, the incident created national headlines. As Engineering Dean Thomas Taylor, a regular guest at the hall, once remarked, “Barely a week passed by that some freakish cuss did not spring something entirely original, and not half of it ever got into the newspapers or magazines.” Many of the antics became legendary and the stories were passed along to succeeding generations of students.

After graduation, when the “poor boys” of B. Hall had completed their hard won degrees, they set out to make to the most of their education. Along with an impressive list of professors, lawyers, judges, authors, state legislators, engineers, and physicians, the alumni roster included a Librarian of Congress, a governor of Puerto Rico, multiple U.S. ambassadors,  Morris Sheppard and Ralph Yarborough as U.S. Senators, and Sam Rayburn as Speaker of the House.

Most of the alumni maintained a lifelong, cherished attachment to the hall, often visited when they were in Austin, and were welcome guests. Prodded by the current occupants to tell stories of the “old times,” alumni shared their UT adventures, along with their experiences after graduation, and in the process inspired the generation of students.

B. Hall from Main Building.1945By the 1920s, as University enrollment surpassed 4,000 students, B. Hall was still the only on campus men’s dorm. Though it was no longer a designated refuge for the “poor boys” of the state, it was still less expensive than other housing options and in high demand. The hall’s popularity meant that most rooms went to upperclassmen or older students, who were solid academically and already involved as campus leaders.

 

Above left: Where on campus was B. Hall? This photo, taken from the Tower observation deck in the 1940s, shows the hall straddled what today is the East Mall. Immediately behind the building is Waggener Hall and Gregory Gym, with the stadium in the upper left.

However, the building itself was in the way of future campus development. In 1925, the Board of Regents decided that B. Hall was too close to Garrison Hall – then under construction – to remain a dormitory. Garrison was to be a co-ed classroom building. According to the regent’s minutes, “young women should not be required to attend classes in full view of the bedrooms of men, particularly in a dormitory where freedom in matters of clothing is well-known.” Alumni of the hall loudly protested, organized into a formal B. Hall Alumni Association, and threatened legal action. (The Association’s president was, appropriately, Walter Hunnicutt, the composer of the “Texas Fight!” song.) Before the situation became too tense, University officials and alumni settled on a compromise: the current B. Hall could be re-purposed if a new Brackenridge Hall was built on a more appropriate site.

The hall was closed in 1926, renovated, and served, among other things, as the first home of the School of Architecture until it moved into more spacious quarters at Goldsmith Hall. In 1932, a new Brackenridge residence hall was formally dedicated on 21st Street.

Brackenridge Dorm.1930s.

Above: A new Brackenridge Hall was opened in 1932, just south of Gregory Gym.

B Hall was finally razed in 1952 to clear the way for the East Mall. As it was being demolished, the contractor did his best to satisfy the many requests from alumni for specific bricks, doors, floorboards, and other pieces of the building. Former Austin Mayor Walter Long also ensured that some parts of the hall were kept and preserved by the University. One of those pieces, a decorative pediment from the roof, spent decades in storage at the Pickle Research Center, but has been restored and is now on display in Jester Center, just outside the auditorium.

B Hall Pediment.

Above: it’s still possible to see a piece of old B. Hall. A decade ago, the author discovered a decorative piece from the building in a warehouse at UT’s Pickle Research Center in north Austin, sitting on top of a pile of dusty boxes that contained the clock from the old Main Building (upper left). Thanks to funding from the UT Division of Housing and Food and the Texas Exes, the six foot tall piece was restored and is now hanging in Jester Center (above center), complete with a story board. The piece comes from the top floor of B. Hall (upper right, highlighted in brown).

1900. B Hall from Speedway