June 13, 2019
Gov. Preston Smith signs House Bill 303 on June 13, 1969, establishing The University of Texas at Dallas. If you don’t see the video, watch it on Vimeo.
Fifty years ago today, The University of Texas at Dallas was created by the stroke of a gubernatorial pen, merging the efforts of three visionary entrepreneurs and The University of Texas System Board of Regents to increase the number of science and technology graduates in North Texas.
On June 13, 1969, then-Gov. Preston Smith signed House Bill 303, which gifted the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (the precursor to UT Dallas) to the state of Texas.
“As we mark the beginning chapter of our 50th anniversary, we reflect on the incredible progress we’ve made and embrace the challenge of building upon our legacy.”
That simple act was the culmination of a dream launched by Texas Instruments co-founders Cecil Green, J. Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott. The visionaries had taken action to keep bright young engineers in the region by establishing the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, which in 1967 was renamed the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies.
In 1969 the founders wanted to expand the successful center’s impact by making it part of the UT System, so they transferred its assets to the state of Texas. Now the center’s faculty and staff, research and teaching programs, laboratories and 900 acres of land would become the resources for a new university.
Today, what started as a campus with one building in a field of Blackland Prairie has grown into one of the highest-ranked young universities in the U.S., according to Times Higher Education. In 2016, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education designated UT Dallas as an “R1” doctoral university of very high research activity, and in 2018, UT Dallas met the requirements to receive funding allocations from the state of Texas’ National Research University Fund (NRUF).
“As we mark the beginning chapter of our 50th anniversary, we reflect on the incredible progress we’ve made and embrace the challenge of building upon our legacy,” UT Dallas President Richard C. Benson said.
In recent years, UT Dallas has grown rapidly, reaching a present enrollment of 28,755 and 110,000 alumni. Its eight schools and more than 140 academic degrees include top-ranked programs in business, engineering, science, audiology and communication disorders. The faculty includes members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and the most recent freshman class featured more than 170 National Merit Scholars, one of the highest numbers in the country.
“I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Green, Mr. Jonsson and Margaret McDermott, Eugene McDermott’s dynamic widow who was devoted to his vision. I am confident that the founders would stand amazed and gratified if they could see how their generous ambitions of 50 years ago blossomed into the UT Dallas of today,” said Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president for UT Dallas.