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
Historical marker on Hickory Hall identifying the site of UNT’s first on-campus building.
Students attending the Normal were listed in the back of the catalog by the course of study they had selected. Student’s place of origin was listed beside their names. The Native American students were identified by town and I. T. for “Indian Territory.”
The cover of the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute 1890 -1891. This slim volume provided students information on the school, the courses of study, and explained the costs associated with attending the Normal College.
Joshua Crittenden Chilton was the founder and first president of the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute. He served as president from 1890 to 1893. This button is decorated with his image.
First building on the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute campus, located on corner of Hickory and Avenue B. The building was constructed 1891 and burned to the ground in 1907 after being struck by lightning.
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
Hispanic students are an important part of campus life, but were not visible as a distinctive group until April of 1970 when they formed the first Hispanic group on the North Texas State University campus. “Los Chicanos,” was formed to “meet the social, cultural, and educational needs of Mexican-American students.” (1970 Yucca) In 1974 NTSU worked to develop new means to solve the problems of minorities on campus and understand differences among groups through the new Center for Ethnic Affairs. That year 300 of NTSU’s students were Hispanic, and they were referred to as the “forgotten minority” on campus in that year’s Yucca. Los Chicanos, then known as MASA, made it a priority to “return yearly to many poor Texas Mexican American neighborhoods, or barrios…to provide and establish with younger students a positive identification factor with life in a white university.” (1974 Yucca) This remained the only Hispanic group on campus for close to 20 years going through many name changes, including La Causa, the Mexican American Student Association (MASA), the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO), Hispanic Students for Higher Education (HSHE), and the Association of Latino American Students (ALAS).
Throughout the years, Hispanic students made regular appearances in the Yucca, the North Texas yearbook. One of the earliest students known to be Hispanic, hailing from Puerto Rico, was Maria Isabel Rodriguez Quetglas. She was popularly known as Betty Rodriguez while at North Texas State Teacher’s College, and graduated with a BA in Spanish in 1943. She was a member of the Gammadions, and was the Junior and Senior Miss Ardens. As president of the Pan-American forum she worked to promote education about Latin America and the Spanish language and served as hostess at the Spanish table in Marquis Hall Dining Room to help fellow students practice their Spanish. In 1942 she was appointed second lieutenant of Company B in the newly formed North Texas State Defense Training Battalion of the Women’s Defense Corps. This defense corps was the only known girls’ training unit in the country and made up entirely of students with the goal of training girls to be leaders in defense organizations around the state. Read more
As part of its Centennial Decade agenda, the University of North Texas committed to, among many other goals, achieving a designation as “an emerging national research university,” and enhancing “computer resources consistent with status as a research university.” It was this goal of achieving national recognition for cutting edge technology and research contribution that Vice Provost for Research Rollie Schafer referenced in a 1999 white paper when he recommended that the University of North Texas become a member institution of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, also known as the Internet2 Consortium.
The University of North Texas had been an early participant in the National Science Foundation’s NSFnet, a computer network that connected several research institutions and that would eventually become part of the backbone of the internet that we know today. However the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991 and the privatization of the internet in 1995 led to an unprecedented increase in users and a transition from text-based data traffic to bandwidth-intensive multimedia. This network congestion had a decidedly negative impact for universities using the internet for research. Read more
The Rock Bottom Lounge opened in the North Texas State University Union Building in 1976 as a restaurant and nightclub for university students. Featuring a nightly happy hour which included beer, wine and a full dinner menu, students gathered nightly to enjoy live music from local acts, including UNT music students in the jazz lab bands.
The beloved campus club was almost closed after underage students were caught drinking. In 1984 students under age 19 were not allowed in the nightclub after 8 pm. previously underage students had been admitted if they agreed not to drink. However, later in the evenings the students were usually spotted drinking beer or wine. On a typical night between 100 and 300 students came to the Rock Bottom Lounge.
Music in the Lounge was a reflection of the time and tastes of the students. When the club opened it featured a regular “Disco Night.” By the mid-1980’s the nightclub featured new wave music, DJ nights and a “Club RBL” night modeled after new-music clubs in Dallas like the Club Clearview and Club Da-Da. Read more
The Denton Gay Alliance (DGA) was established in 1975 under the leadership of North Texas State University (NTSU) student Ruben Salinas. On March 12, 1976 Salinas asked President C. C. Nolan’s Cabinet to formally recognize DGA as a campus organization. The Cabinet denied the request on March 23 because DGA was partially composed of non-student members, a barrier to official recognition. The DGA operated as a campus social chapter for a few more years but fizzled out after Salinas graduated and left Denton.
In October 1976 an NTSU student calling himself “MWF” wrote a series of letters about his life as an out gay man to North Texas Daily editor Terry Pair. MWF’s letters captured a young man struggling with his sexuality and public identity. The anonymous author admitted he’d contemplating suicide and closed one letter with “Don’t tell me about the well-adjusted gay.” Read more