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.

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.

The University also opened centers and programs to encourage research excellence, such as the Center for BrainHealth and the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program.

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.

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.

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. Richard C. Benson is the fifth president of The University of Texas at Dallas, succeeding Dr. David E. Daniel, who was appointed Deputy Chancellor of The University of Texas System in July 2015.

Dr. Richard C. Benson

Benson earned a bachelor of science and engineering degree in aerospace and mechanical science from Princeton University, a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to beginning his university career, he worked for the Xerox Corporation as a technical specialist and project manager from 1977 to 1980.

He previously served as dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, overseeing record growth from 2005 to 2016. Benson's teaching interests are in the fields of structural mechanics, design and applied mathematics. At the graduate level he has taught courses in structural mechanics, structural stability, plates and shells, elasticity and continuum mechanics. At the undergraduate level he has taught courses in advanced mechanical design, statics, mechanical systems, kinematics, complex variables and boundary value problems. Benson has received three significant honors from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In 1998 he was made a Fellow of the ASME. In 2009 he was elected to a three-year term on the ASME Board of Governors (2010-13). He also has held editorial positions with the ASME Press, ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics and Applied Mechanics Reviews.

Dr. David E. Daniel

David E. Daniel was 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.

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.

Former UT Dallas presidents (from left) Robert H. Rutford, Franklyn G. Jenifer, Bryce Jordan and Gifford K. Johnson.

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 three 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. Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president, served as interim president between the Daniel and Benson administrations.

A Bright Future

UT Dallas remains driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of its founders and their commitment to academic excellence. The University enrolls more than 27,600 students — 18,380 undergraduate and 9,250 graduate — and offers a broad array of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs.

The University has more than 103,000 alumni who have earned over 114,000 degrees. In 2015, UT Dallas alumnus, Dr. Aziz Sancar PhD'77 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dr. Tomas Lindahl and Dr. Paul Modrich.

UT Dallas faculty includes a Nobel laureate, six members of the National Academies and more than 560 tenured and tenure-track professors.

In 2016, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education recognized The University of Texas at Dallas as a doctoral university performing the highest level of research activity, historically denoted as an "R1 University." UT Dallas is among 115 universities in the United States with this classification.

The University is ranked No. 1 in the United States among universities founded less than 50 years ago, according to the Young University Rankings report from Times Higher Education. UT Dallas ranked 21st in the world.

UT Dallas was also ranked as a top public college value in surveys from Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and The Princeton Review.

The University's infrastructure continues to expand as well. In 2017, the University celebrated the opening of the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, named for Nancy Gundy Davidson BS'80 and Charles "Chuck" Davidson MS'80, in acknowledgment of their $15 million gift that made its construction possible. The 30,246-square-foot facility located in the heart of campus designed to deepen bonds between students and graduates.

A new engineering building and a new science building are slated to open in 2018 and 2020, respectively.