The University of Texas at Tyler
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40th Anniversary and Still Growing

UT Tyler Celebrates 4 Decades of Growth and Excellence

Forty years ago, The University of Texas at Tyler’s forward-thinking founders created an institution of action – a living, breathing center of excellence where education continues to grow.

We are celebrating our 'coming of age' and our success

That is why UT Tyler’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, launched in June, is not just about being . . . it is about doing.  And it is not just about looking back . . . it is about moving forward.

From its inception on June 10, 1971, UT Tyler quickly grew from a fledgling two-year, upper-level institution to a mature, four-year university.  Today, with an enrollment of almost 7,000, UT Tyler is a leader in higher education for the entire region. 

 “We are celebrating our ‘coming of age’ and our success,” said UT Tyler President Dr. Rodney H. Mabry.  “UT Tyler is a comprehensive university that has truly taken its place among the educational leaders in Texas and the nation.  We just graduated our first doctoral students.  We just passed the $10-million mark in research funding.  We have more than 80 degree programs in five full colleges, and our Division III athletics program is arguably among the top 10 in the nation.”

Tyler City Mayor Barbara Bass said, “With 40 years of tremendous growth and an even more UT Tyler pasttremendous impact on the educational opportunities of our East Texas area, The University of Texas at Tyler has become an integral part of our community.”

The mayor spoke during UT Tyler’s 40th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration last summer. Anniversary events are taking place through June 2012. Major events this fall have included a UT Tyler Founder’s Dinner and an unveiling ceremony for the newly named James H. Stewart, Jr., Administration Building on campus. The building was constructed during the tenure of Dr. Stewart, the university’s founding president.

A University is Born

UT Tyler’s exciting journey of excellence began with the determination and action of a small group of visionaries in the community.

State Rep. Billy Williamson, local attorney Harry Loftis and others saw the need for a senior college in East Texas in the late 1960s. Their persistence paid off with state legislation creating what was then called Tyler State College, the first state university in the 14-county East Texas Planning Region.  Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill into law on June 10, 1971.

Community leader Jeff Austin Jr. remembers being asked to join the university’s first Board of Regents, chaired by Harold J. McKenzie.  “I thought it was a great opportunity to learn about education and help do something for the community,” Austin said.  “When we first started, we had no funds.  But the board was made of a group of people who knew how to make things happen.”

belltower

Before long, they found the resources to hire Dr. Stewart as the first university president, Austin said. Organizers then began the process of creating curriculum and hiring staff.

Dr. Keith McCoy was one of the original faculty members.  “I’m the last of the dirty dozen, which is what I jokingly call the original faculty,” he said.  “The president began in January after the university was created and I joined that summer.  There were actually between 10 and 20 original faculty.”

Dr. McCoy, professor emeritus and former chair of health and kinesiology, said there was “a lot of scrambling in the early days. We had to get the curriculum going, attract students and create a presence.”

Tyler Independent School District leased the old Oran Roberts Junior High School building, near the intersection of North Broadway Avenue and Gentry Parkway, to the university.  And in 1973, the first class of 176 students enrolled.

“We had one building that we shared, the old Roberts Junior High School,” Dr. McCoy said.  “My office was in the old band room, where they stored instruments.  Then they took a two-story building across the street and refurbished it for administration primarily.  Our second year, we moved over to an old Safeway building near city hall in the downtown area.  We called it Safeway U.  Then we moved to the current site.”

Community leaders James S. Hudnall, George W. Pirtle and Isadore Roosth donated land to create

Old Roberts Jr. High School

the 204-acre campus.  And in 1975, Tyler State College became Texas Eastern University.

In relentless pursuit of excellence and opportunity, university leaders sought a relationship with The University of Texas System.  And in 1979, Gov. William P. Clements Jr., signed into law legislation sponsored by State Sen. Peyton McKnight and State Rep. Bill Clark making Texas Eastern University a part of the UT System.

The new University of Texas at Tyler forged ahead.

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