On May 15, 1988, the University of North Texas celebrated its transition from North Texas State University to its current name. This would mark the seventh title for the institution since it began 125 years ago as the Texas Normal College and Teacher’s Training Institute. The event was celebrated with a small parade, releasing green balloons advertising the name change, the burial of a time capsule, and the unveiling of both a new university seal and a new sign bearing the name of the University of North Texas.
In November 1901 the first North Texas student publication, the North Texas State Normal Journal, was published. From 1901 – 1905, the Normal Journal served as North Texas State Normal College’s literary journal and yearbook, as well as the student newspaper. Short stories, poems, and literary criticism were published on a monthly basis alongside coverage of national and international news and updates on campus life. The final issue of the year, in May, featured class pictures and other features commonly associated with a college yearbook. In 1906 students voted to nix the May issue of the Normal Journal and instead publish all annual retrospective content in the University’s first yearbook, The Cottontail. Read more
From the early 1980s to 2007, the Delta Lodge, who call themselves “the party professionals,” organized the Fry Street fair. This event was an annual gathering for students and the community to share laughs, enjoy food and drinks, and dance to the melodies of local and regional bands. The fair was not only a happening which promoted good times for the attendees, it also showcased the sociocultural significance of the Fry Street area to the University of North Texas. This area has always been a home away from home for students.
Prolific writer and North Texas alum Larry McMurty was born on this day in 1936 in Archer City, Texas.
McMurtry contributed works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction to the campus literary magazine, Avesta, during his tenure at North Texas. In May 1957, during his junior year, he won $25 in an Avesta “best-of” contest for his non-fiction essay about jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke. Reflecting on his years at North Texas in 1978, McMurty told The North Texan “I was quite happy here […] I found it a very stimulating school.”
McMurtry graduated from North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1958. After leaving North Texas, he continued his education at Rice University, earning a Master’s in English from Rice in 1960. McMurtry studied at Stanford University as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in 1960.
O’Neil Ford (1905-1982) was born in Pink Hill, Texas, a small community near Denton. When his father died at an early age, the young Ford took it upon himself to support his family, so he went to work as an adolescent. Ford loved to draw and showed an interest in architecture from the beginning. Later, when it came time to pursue his interest as a career, he enrolled in North Texas State Normal College. O’Neil attended the school for two years until he was no longer able to afford tuition and went to work at a local diner, Dyche’s Corner, on Avenue A, where he flipped burgers while earning his certificate in architecture through a correspondence school in Pennsylvania.
Ford had a flair for selling himself, which manifested itself through struggle in the early years and providing for his family in the absence of his father. This talent served him well once he began his practice as an architect. Ford would go on to become one of the most accomplished and noteworthy architects in the state of Texas.
Ford led the planning for such buildings as The Little Chapel in the Woods on the Texas Woman’s University campus in 1939. This structure was typical of the kind of work O’Neil Ford did throughout his career and it spoke much about his philosophy on architectural structures and their practical use. Ford’s other projects included the Tower of the Americas (1968) in San Antonio, First Christian Church (1987) in Denton, Texas Instruments (1958) in Dallas, the Civic Center Complex (1963-1968) in Denton, the Selwyn School (1967-1968), Trinity University (1963-1971) in San Antonio and the Gazebo (1928), on the North Texas State Teachers College campus, now known as the University of North Texas.
The Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute, now known as the University of North Texas, opened on September 16, 1890 with 80 students in attendance. There were two concerns for the new school – where to hold classes and how to recruit enough students. The first issue was solved by renting space above a hardware store just off the square. The second issue was partially solved by enrolling twenty-eight members of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation from “Indian Territory,” now Oklahoma, to attend classes.
Some accounts state the federal government paid the expenses of the Creek students, but UNT no longer has records to support this claim. The Creek students appear to have been brought in for the second term, which started on November 25, 1890. At that time there was a forty week school year which was divided into four quarters from September 16 to June 21, 1891. Overall enrollment was estimated to be from 150 to 185 students during that time.
The students came to a small town. Denton’s population was estimated to be between 3,500 and 4,000 people at the time of the opening of the Normal College. There were no dormitories, so rates were set for boarding houses. The rates for two students to a furnished room started at $2.50 per week. Two students in an unfurnished room could be rented for as little as $2.00 per week.
Among the courses of study open to students at this time were: teacher training, science, business, classical, as well as engineering and surveying. Tuition for a full year was set at $48.00.
In Fall 2014, 540 students at the University of North Texas identified as Native American.
– by Perri Hamilton
The advent of jazz studies at North Texas — diplomatically referred to as “dance band” in early years — met predictable resistance. In an oral history recorded in October of 1978, Gene Hall recalled:
“Generally, they [the music faculty] were antagonistic toward it. There were two or three who were very much in favor of it: Bob Rogers, a piano player, and Frank Mainous, one of the theory teachers. There were two or three who were very much in favor of it because they had played professionally, and they knew what it took to get along in the world…”
One colleague, while making clear he had no personal animosity toward Hall, but simply did not believe jazz belonged in the university, took his concerns to President W. Joseph McConnell. Hall described the outcome, quoting the other faculty member:
“I told the president … Y’know, I’ve just come back from a national meeting, and every time I introduced myself as being from North Texas, the reaction is, ‘Oh, that’s where you have the jazz program! Tell me about it!’ And then I have to go to the trouble of telling them we also have an orchestra, and an opera, and all these other things that make the School of Music. And the president says, ‘Well, if you’d get off your ass and do something, you wouldn’t have to do that, would you?’” Read more
The onset of World War II changed life for all students and faculty attending North Texas State College. In 1941, the college began offering training classes in many programs whose aim was to contribute as much manpower and resources possible to the nation’s war efforts. These programs include a civil aeronautics authority flight pilot training program, a Naval Defense officer training program, an Army specialized unit training program, a Women’s Defense Corps program, and industrial arts classes focuses on welding and other industrial defense work. North Texas, like much of the world during this momentous time, began to prepare and anticipate the shifts in daily life due to the mounting pressures of War.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States formally announced its entry into the war. North Texas students and faculty gathered in the Main auditorium building to hear President Roosevelt’s address. It was a grave time for those attending classes as declaration of war meant focusing fully on enlistment as well as on campaigns and programs for War relief. President W.J. McConnell’s annual address in the 1942 Yucca yearbook was somber, but hopeful. The president message was clear; North Texas was prepared to pledge all it could to ensure a “full and complete victory but also to the achievement of a just and enduring peace.” Read more
It is impossible to imagine UNT without its jazz program nowadays; the two are all but synonymous. In the 1920s, however, the forerunner to the formal presence of jazz at North Texas was formed somewhat out of necessity, as an ensemble to accompany silent films, and starting in 1927, to support a Saturday night stage show which became a local institution in a prairie college town not otherwise known for its night life. The stage band, under the directorship of Professor Floyd Graham – or “‘Fessor Graham” – became known as the Aces of Collegeland. Numerous performers who went on to considerable success appeared with the group, including Louise Tobin, Moon Maids, who joined Vaughn Monroe’s band, Jimmy Giuffre, and Pat Boone.
The Aces of Collegeland and the participation of student arrangers in its activities gradually generated an interest in – and a need for – qualified training in stage band work. There were not many student arrangers, but an alto saxophonist named Gene Hall, from Whitewright, TX, advanced to the point where he was arranging for both Fessor’s band and the marching band.
Hall finished a bachelor’s degree with a dual major in music and education in 1941. Expecting to be drafted at any time, he began graduate studies at North Texas. Years later, he recounted:
“… I come back to North Texas, and [Dean Wilfred] Bain gives me a graduate assistantship. I have three chores. One of them seems ridiculous now. One of the things I had to do was patrol the practice room area at certain times to be sure no one was practicing or playing jazz or popular music.” Read more
On April 16 the University of North Texas community came together to celebrate our 55th annual University Day, the anniversary of the day our institution became a University. Prior to May 1961, the North Texas State College had already evolved from a Teacher Training Institute, to a Normal College, and into a Teachers College since its inception in 1890.
Our transition from college to university became official following a vote by the Texas legislature and Governor Price Daniel‘s signature. In celebration, the first University Day was held on May 10th, 1961. University Day is now an annual event, celebrated on or around May in celebration of our community achieving this important milestone.
In 1962, the United Students of North Texas (the student government association at the time), documented our first year as a university in a time capsule, filling it with items that reflected the activities and concerns of the campus they served. They buried the time capsule in front of the Administration Building as a gift to the future. Read more