Dr. Bryce Jordan, UT Dallas’ First President, Dies at Age 91
University Added Undergraduate Programs, Buildings — Including Library, Student Union — During His Tenure

Dr. Bryce Jordan

Dr. H. Bryce Jordan served as UT Dallas president from 1971 to 1981.

Dr. H. Bryce Jordan, the first president of The University of Texas at Dallas, died April 12 in Austin. He was 91.

Jordan served as UT Dallas president from 1971 to 1981.

Jordan took the helm of the University just two years after the campus became part of the University of Texas System. The rapidly growing institution expanded its faculty from 50 to 215 and increased student enrollment from 40 to more than 7,000 during his tenure.

UT Dallas offered only graduate degrees until 1975, when it began accepting juniors and seniors. Jordan awarded the first bachelor's degrees at spring commencement in 1976.

“I was not privileged to spend much time with Dr. Jordan, and mostly remember visiting him at his Austin home,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, UT Dallas president ad interim. “All of the admiring tales I had heard from UT Dallas faculty colleagues about him were immediately validated during that visit. He exuded dynamism, cheerfulness and engagement, and we traded questions and answers about the many luminaries he had worked with over his long and distinguished career. He was blessed with a superabundance of those human traits that draw admiration, affection and respect.”

A visionary academic and campus planner known for strategic thinking, 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 complement the University’s stellar reputation for science and mathematics.

McDermotts and Bryce Jordan

Margaret and Eugene McDermott look at a model of the Phase II buildings planned for the campus, including the Eugene McDermott Library, with Dr. Jordan (right). The library was finished in 1975.

During Jordan’s term, the University experienced tremendous physical growth. Several buildings opened during the 1970s, including Lloyd V. Berkner Hall, Cecil H. Green Hall, J. Erik Jonsson Hall, Hoblitzelle Hall, the Eugene McDermott Library, the University Theatre, the Alexander Clark Center, the Student Union and the Visual Arts Building.

The School of Management was established in 1975, and has today become the University's largest school, offering programs at the undergraduate, graduate and executive levels. 

Dr. Robert Rutford, who succeeded Jordan as president from 1982 to 1994, said his predecessor was instrumental in building a world-class faculty from scratch, together with his vice president of academic affairs, the late Dr. Alexander Clark, who also served as acting president of the University for a short time after Jordan’s departure.

“Bryce left a legacy of a university that was set to grow,” Rutford said. “He was always very proud of the work he had done at UT Dallas. The biggest contribution he and Alex made was hiring world-class faculty. Without them, UT Dallas would not be like it is today.”

Among Jordan’s many other UT Dallas legacies was his creation of the University's logo. That logo, made up of the letters “UTD” with a box around them, remains in use. He also chose the University's colors — orange and green.

Jordan left UT Dallas in 1981, moving to Austin to serve as executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer for academic affairs of the UT System. In 1983, he was appointed president of Penn State University, an office he held for seven years.

Former UT Dallas President David Daniel, who left the University last year to become deputy chancellor and chief operating officer at the UT System, said he had the opportunity to meet Jordan on several occasions in Austin.

UT Dallas past presidents

From left: Former Presidents Dr. Robert Rutford, Dr. Franklyn Jenifer, Jordan and Gifford Johnson. “Bryce left a legacy of a university that was set to grow,” Rutford said. “He was always very proud of the work he had done at UT Dallas.”

“President Jordan was an extraordinary leader and a person of exceptional integrity, intellect, vision, and good humor. He was keenly interested in UT Dallas’ progress. I last spoke with him on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and it was obvious that he was following the University’s advancements closely and with much pride.”

Jordan was born Sept. 22, 1924, in Clovis, New Mexico, and was raised in Abilene, Texas. A World War II veteran, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Texas at Austin before receiving a PhD in historical musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1956.

He was a professor of music at the University of Maryland and later at the University of Kentucky before leaving to become chairman of the Department of Music at UT Austin in 1965. He was vice president for student affairs and later president ad interim at UT Austin from 1968 to 1970.

Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities who joined the UT Dallas faculty in 1978, said Jordan encouraged the University’s efforts to nurture the role of the arts on campus. 

“It was vitally important that he brought a musician’s mind and sensibility to the early years of the University, investing that formative era with a sense of harmony and balance,” said Kratz, the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities. “He once told me that a quality essential to both musicians, teachers and administrators was the ability to listen to others, not only attentively but also sympathetically. And he displayed that quality in every conversation that I can remember having with him.”

Dr. Rainer Schulte, professor of arts and humanities and the Katherine R. Cecil Professor in Foreign Languages, became a member of the UT Dallas faculty in 1975 and experienced all of the Jordan presidency.

"Bryce Jordan fully understood the innovative concept of creating a new university to meet 21st century scholarly and educational needs," he said.  "His elegance and background in the arts and humanities allowed him to launch and implement a new educational vision to meet the challenges of a forward-thinking institution.

"President Jordan facilitated an atmosphere that gave faculty, as well as students, the opportunity to follow their own creative instincts."

Jordan was preceded in death by his first wife, Jonelle Thornberry Jordan.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Austin; his daughter, Julie Ohlen, and her husband, Keith Ohlen, of Coppell, Texas; his son Christopher J. Jordan, and his wife, Lucille Guinta-Bates, of St. Cloud, Minnesota; his stepson, Gregory E. Brueggebors, and his wife, Kelly, of Austin; and six grandchildren.


Memorial Celebration

A memorial celebration of Jordan’s life will be held in Austin this summer at a time and place to be announced.

In lieu of flowers, the family invites gifts in his memory to any of the following programs:

  • The Jonelle and Bryce Jordan Scholarship Fund at UT Dallas, for students in the creative and performing arts
  • The Doty Society at UT Austin
  • The Bryce and Jonelle Jordan Excellence Fund at Penn State University — Penn State University, 1 Old Main, University Park, PA 16802.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].