A Pioneering Past and Promising Future
The University of Texas at Dallas has a unique heritage born of its pioneering spirit. Located in the center of one of the most dynamic economic and demographic regions of the nation, the University owes its existence to a group of creative and energetic scientific entrepreneurs who deeply valued education and were dedicated to the future of Texas.
Prior to World War II, Cecil Green, J. Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott, the founders of Geophysical Services Inc., were in the business of searching for natural resources. The war shifted the company's focus to creating instruments to help find enemy planes and submarines. GSI spawned Texas Instruments Inc., which launched a new era in technology with the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958.
From left: Cecil Green, J. Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott
During the expansion of Texas Instruments, the three men were forced to import engineering talent from outside the state while the region's bright young people pursued education elsewhere. They saw that Texas needed highly educated minds if the state was to remain competitive. "To grow industrially, the region must grow academically," they wrote at the time. "It must provide the intellectual atmosphere which will allow it to compete in the new industries dependent on highly trained and creative minds."
Having identified the need, the visionaries took action to serve both their enterprise and the region and established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, which in 1967 was renamed the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (SCAS). The center recruited some of the best scientific talent in the nation.
In 1969, the three founders transferred the assets of SCAS to the State of Texas. Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill creating The University of Texas at Dallas on June 13 of that year, fulfilling a mandate to create educational opportunities in science and technology in North Texas.
The late 1960s and early 1970s were a period of exciting research at the new University. William B. Hanson, a professor of physics, was named the director of the Division of Atmospheric and Space Sciences, which later became the Center for Space Sciences. Faculty conducting research out of the center had the opportunity to work on numerous space missions and study the moon's atmosphere and surface materials. Today, the center is known as the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences.
By law, UT Dallas offered only graduate degrees until 1975, when the addition of juniors and seniors helped boost enrollment from 408 to 3,333 students. By the fall of 1977, enrollment had reached more than 5,300 students.
The Callier Center for Communication Disorders
During that pivotal period of growth, the University added the Callier Center for Communication Disorders as part of the School of Human Development (now the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences). Opened in 1963, the center is a leader in providing in-depth, advanced evaluations and innovative treatments for children and adults with a wide variety of speech, language and hearing disorders.
The School of Management opened in 1975. The school has become the University's largest and offers programs at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels. The school has traditionally ranked among the top schools nationwide in research productivity, and the Financial Times ranks its executive MBA program No. 1 in Texas and tied for No. 10 in the nation.
Another key addition was the History of Aviation Collection, which opened in the Eugene McDermott Library in 1976. The University's Doolittle Library represents the only major collection of the general's memorabilia and personal files outside federal facilities. Doolittle was a pilot and hero best remembered for leading an air strike over Tokyo in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The 1970s came to a close with a flurry of building openings on campus, including Cecil H. Green Hall, J. Erik Jonsson Hall, Hoblitzelle Hall, the Eugene McDermott Library, the University Theatre, the Alexander Clark Center, the Campus Bookstore and the Visual Arts Building.
The Rise to National Prominence
The long-held dream of a UT Dallas engineering school became a reality in 1986 because of the joint efforts of business, community and education leaders. The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science is the second-largest school at the University, with about 2,700 students currently enrolled in its wide array of graduate and undergraduate programs.
UT Dallas admitted its first freshman class in 1990.
In 1990, the University admitted its first freshman class of 100 students. That group set the standard for future cohorts. Since then, freshman classes have grown while the University has maintained rigorous enrollment requirements.
The transition from an upper-division school to a four-year university with an emphasis on engineering, mathematics, the sciences and management has been facilitated by the excellence of the UT Dallas faculty, which has provided quality instruction to the student population while sustaining the University's research tradition.
The University has retained key faculty while attracting additional nationally and internationally prominent researchers, including four members of the National Academies – Dr. Ray Baughman, Dr. David Daniel, Dr. Brian Berry and Dr. Don Shaw – and one Nobel laureate, Dr. Russell Hulse. Berry, who is dean of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, also received the Royal Geographic Society's highest honor, the Victoria Medal, in 1988.
UT Dallas' first Nobel laureate, the late Dr. Polykarp Kusch, was a member of the physics faculty from 1972 to 1982, and an annual series of campus lectures is named in his honor. The University's second Nobel laureate, the late Dr. Alan G. MacDiarmid, was the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology and a professor of physics and chemistry.
Since 2000, UT Dallas has hired more than 100 tenured and tenure-track faculty members. New positions are being filled in areas with the greatest opportunity for research discovery and contribution to the region's success. Faculty who attract major grants also help the University fulfill another important goal: topping $150 million annually in research expenditures. Achieving that goal is generally considered a benchmark for national research university status.
During the past decade, the University also has expanded its teaching mission, improved its external research funding and enhanced its areas of focused excellence.
The Center for BrainHealth integrates research, treatment, academic training and community outreach and is one of the few facilities in the United States to provide continued follow-up to enhance recovery in children and adults with brain injury, brain disease and complications of normal aging. One of the center's top priorities is achieving healthy mental aging by translating scientific findings into treatment.
A joint creation of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Arts and Humanities, the ATEC program transcends existing disciplines and academic units. Offering both undergraduate and graduate degree plans, the program is Texas' first comprehensive degree designed to explore and foster the convergence of computer science and engineering with creative arts and the humanities.
UT Dallas has also kicked off two major research initiatives in recent years. The Office of Technology Commercialization was created to oversee all activities related to new venture development, intellectual property protection and licensing. Texas FUSION is a nanoelectronics consortium that is exploring smaller, faster and more energy efficient semiconductors. The latter is the largest program conducting original research at UT Dallas.
UT Dallas has received national and international acclaim for its chess program.
UT Dallas students are known for their tradition of intellectual rigor and academic excellence. The chess club was established in 1996 with the help of Dr. Tim Redman. Soon afterward, the University began offering academic scholarships that took chess-playing skill into account. Since then, UT Dallas has received national and international acclaim for its comprehensive chess offerings, which are part of a broad program that includes online instruction for teachers and courses about using chess in the classroom.
In fall 2000, the University added the prestigious Eugene McDermott Scholars Program. Established with a $32 million gift from Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the program provides a demanding and personalized educational experience combined with intensive extracurricular activities. As McDermott Scholars, students have their educational expenses – including tuition and fees, stipends for living expenses, travel and books – covered for four years. They also participate in a wide variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences.
Leading the Way – Presidents of UT Dallas
Dr. David E. Daniel
David E. Daniel is the fourth president of The University of Texas at Dallas, succeeding Dr. Franklyn Jenifer, who retired after serving as president since 1994.
Daniel received his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and served on the faculty at UT Austin from 1980 to 1996. In 1996, he moved to the University of Illinois, finishing his service there as dean of engineering before appointment as UT Dallas' president in 2005. Daniel's professional work has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and in 2000 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the nation's most prestigious organization recognizing engineering achievement. From 2005 to 2008, Daniel also served as chair of the external review panel of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which reviewed the facts surrounding the performance of New Orleans' levees during Hurricane Katrina.
Former UT Dallas presidents (from left) Robert H. Rutford, Franklyn G. Jenifer, Bryce Jordan and Gifford K. Johnson.
Jenifer, a nationally respected educator, retired in 2005. He had previously served as president of Howard University in Washington, D.C.; as chancellor of higher education in Massachusetts, where he was responsible for 27 public colleges and universities; and as vice chancellor of the New Jersey Department of Higher Education. His predecessor, Dr. Robert H. Rutford, served as head of the University from 1982 until 1994. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on Antarctica, serving as president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research for many years. An Antarctic ice stream discovered by Rutford bears his name, as does a street on the University's campus.
The first president of UT Dallas, Dr. Bryce Jordan, led the University for more than a decade, until 1981. He later served as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at The University of Texas System, and was a president of Penn State University.
UT Dallas has had two interim presidents. Dr. Francis Johnson served as interim president after SCAS was turned over to the state in 1969 and officially became The University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Alexander Clark served as acting president for more than eight months between the Jordan and Rutford administrations.
A Bright Future
Over the years, the UT Dallas student body has become increasingly culturally diverse. As the University strives for greater academic excellence, it reaches out to ambitious, highly talented young people from traditionally underserved communities. As a result, more than 45 percent of undergraduate diplomas are awarded to first-generation college graduates. The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement was created in 2008 to promote diversity at all levels of the University, through the efforts of faculty, staff, students and the executive leadership.
More than 68,000 degrees have been conferred during the University's 40-year history.
Ranked among the top 100 "Best Value" colleges in the United States, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, UT Dallas saw its enrollment reach nearly 16,000 in 2009. The record growth tracked with the University's strategic plan to increase the size of the student body to 22,000 in the next decade. The numbers reflect about a 70 percent growth rate in the last decade.
Under President Daniel's leadership, the University has opened an $85 million Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory and started work on $220 million in additional construction. Projects include a Math, Science and Engineering Teaching-Learning Center, a complete renovation of Founders Hall, and a Student Services Building that will house many of the primary departments serving students' administrative needs. UT Dallas has also launched a $30 million campus enhancement program, raised the academic rankings of its programs, introduced living-learning communities to residential housing and raised more than $200 million in private funds.
Daniel has advocated widely for UT Dallas to become one of the nation's top research universities, focusing on hiring and retaining world-class faculty, attracting top students, delivering top-quality education, and partnering with the community in research, education, outreach, the arts and technology commercialization.
The University recently served as the venue for the signing of the Tier One bill, known as House Bill 51. The legislation offers funding to reward research productivity and match private funding, and also establishes goals based on national standards that will encourage UT Dallas and other universities throughout the state to stretch toward excellence.
UT Dallas has a unique and exciting past. As it cultivates its national reputation in a number of academic disciplines, it has an even more promising future.