Oral History

These audio recordings capture historic moments and reflections that span the timeline of UT Dallas.

President Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

"The Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, under the leadership of Dr. Berkner, helps to fill a vital need for the vigorous future of Texas and the Southwest. It has long had my admiration and my support."
- President Lyndon Johnson

President Lyndon B. Johnson's words were taped on October 27, 1964, for use on October 29, 1964 at the dedication of the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. The center was founded in 1961 by Cecil Green, Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott and was renamed the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies in 1967. In 1969, it joined the University of Texas System to become UT Dallas.

Listen (Windows Media)
Length: 5:11

Space Scientist Dr. John Hoffman

John Hoffman

"It seemed like when a person came (here) they stayed almost forever. ... I think the work conditions were so good that people just liked it here."
- Dr. John Hoffman

Dr. John Hoffman reflects on his long career at UT Dallas in a talk recorded recently. Hoffman joined the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, the predecessor to UT Dallas, in 1966. His instruments have helped unpack the mysteries of the Solar System, including three Apollo missions to test the moon's atmospheric conditions, a Pioneer Mission to Venus in 1978, and the landmark Phoenix Mission to Mars in 2008. His spectrometer helped explore Halley's Comet in 1986, and his experiments on a handful of satellites still revolve around the Earth. The recent Phoenix Mission – in which the presence of water was definitively determined – depended heavily on a system of small furnaces and a mass spectrometer system that Hoffman designed and built.

Listen (Windows Media)
Length: 42:01


Dr. Francis S. Johnson Former UT Dallas Acting President

Francis Johnson

"I don't know that the organization could have survived without some leadership in this. The other part of it was the matter of financing—of course that was at the heart of it. It was proving more costly than private philanthropy could support...that was one of the things that led really to the realization that the only way to preserve the institution was to bring it under state support."
- Dr. Frank Johnson

Dr. Frank Johnson discusses his years as president of the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (SCAS) and the business of presiding over the organization's transition to becoming a full-fledged member of the University of Texas System in 1969. Dr. Johnson was interim president of the newly named UT Dallas through July of 1971, when Bryce Jordan became the first president of UT Dallas.

During our visit, Johnson shared recollections and thoughts about:

  • Dr. Lloyd Berkner's role in recruiting him to UT Dallas.
  • Space research he conducted using captured German V2 rockets.
  • The transformation of SCAS into a state university and opposition to that effort in the late 1960s.
  • The positive and lasting contributions of his time in leadership.
  • Current work underway to grow UT Dallas to Tier One status.

Listen (Windows Media)
Length 11:43



Kennedy Trade Mart Invitation

President John F. Kennedy

"I am honored to have this invitation to address the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizens Council, joined by the members of the Dallas Assembly — and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting. For they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city — and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial and political support and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership's hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities — from MIT to Cal Tech — tend to attract the new and growing industries. I congratulate those of you here in Dallas who have recognized these basic facts through the creation of the unique and forward-looking Graduate Research Center."

Excerpt from a speech that was to be given on Nov. 22, 1963, by President John F. Kennedy, during a luncheon ceremony at the Dallas Trade Mart. Find the complete speech here.







Robert Rutford

President Emeritus Robert Rutford

"I was looking and had interviewed at several universities, but the uniqueness of this place and the opportunity... When you came here then, you interviewed with Erik Jonsson and Cecil Green and the local people here. I mean, it was clear that this place had fantastic backing from the community, and not just from the local Richardson community, but from downtown as well. So I just saw it as a wonderful opportunity to become a university president. I was very happy when I was named."
- Dr. Robert Rutford

Dr. Rutford is an Antarctic explorer and scientist of international acclaim, having been recognized with the naming of the Rutford Ice Stream and Mt. Rutford, in Antarctica.  A main thoroughfare on the campus of UT Dallas was named in his honor.  He served with distinction as president of UT Dallas throughout a very formative period during the University’s 40-year-history, 1982 to 1994. During his tenure as president, the university secured approval for a school of engineering, added freshmen and sophomores to its student body and built the first on-campus housing.

Listen (Windows Media)
Length: 29:25





Robert Rutford

Former President Bryce Jordan

“I went up to Dallas to meet with the so called ‘Selection Committee’ of the faculty that was chaired by a cosmologist, a space scientist, named Ivor Robinson. I met with that committee...and we talked for a while. I was puzzled enough that I said to Ivor Robinson, ‘Why in the world would you scientists want this musicologist to be president of your university?’ And I never will forget Ivor ’s response.  He said, ‘Dr. Jordan, you don’t know a thing about what we do, and we like it that way. ’ And that ’s how I became president of UT Dallas.”
- Dr. Bryce Jordan

Dr. Jordan became the University’s first president in July, 1971. He went on to serve as president of UT Dallas for 10 years before being appointed UT System vice chancellor for academic affairs.  He later became president of Penn State, serving there from 1983 to 1990.  A visionary academic and campus planner known for strategic thinking, Dr. Jordan crafted the University’s first strategic plan.  The plan envisioned an interdisciplinary campus with a strong showing in the arts, humanities and social sciences to compliment the University’s stellar reputation for science and mathematics.

Listen (Windows Media)
Length: 42:01