UT Dallas Magazine

Happy Birthday, J. Erik Jonsson

J. Erik Jonsson

On this day in 1901, UT Dallas co-founder J. Erik Jonsson was born in Brooklyn, New York.

Jonsson helped create Texas Instruments and — along with his TI co-founders Eugene McDermott and Cecil Green — the institution that later became UT Dallas.

UTD co-founder J. Erik Jonsson (right) is accompanied by Richardson High School student council president David Cordell in this 1968 photo.

Jonsson also served as mayor for the City of Dallas during a pivotal time in its history. Professor David Cordell met Jonsson as mayor in the 1960s and later recalled the occasion for the Fall 2010 issue of UT Dallas Magazine:

Cordell was a 17-year-old senior in the fall of 1968 when Dallas Mayor J. Erik Jonsson visited Richardson High School to discuss plans for the future of the City of Dallas.

As president of the student council, Cordell had the auspicious task of greeting the larger-than-life mayor. Jonsson was visiting Cordell’s school that day to share his thoughts about the Goals for Dallas program, which Jonsson conceived in 1964 and which included concepts that supported the creation of a major metropolitan airport, as well as the eventual founding of UT Dallas.

“The significance of that meeting was more than I recognized at the time. He was a visionary who saw things others didn’t, and he had the energy and civic minded-ness to move the city forward.

“It wasn’t long after the Kennedy assassination, and Dallas had lost some of its swagger. Jonsson looked beyond what Dallas was and saw a world-class city. For example, most people thought Love Field was sufficient, but Jonsson recognized the critical importance of a large international airport. At the time, some of his ideas seemed like unrealistic or distant dreams. Most Dallasites didn’t comprehend the vision or understand its significance.

“Jonsson spoke with reason, not rhetoric. He was a visionary whom Dallas was lucky to call its own. I think his visit to Richardson High School was to encourage the next generation to recognize the importance of his goals and to become inspired to imagine the future.”

Dr. David Cordell directs finance programs in the Naveen Jindal School of Management and serves as secretary of the Academic Senate.