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History lesson

Revisit the UT Arlington of 25 years ago

Pickard Hall
The Nursing-Math Building opened in 1982 at a cost of $14.2 million. Now called Pickard Hall, the 150,000-square-foot complex originally housed more than 950 nursing majors and 350 math majors. It was completed two months early.

A first-class postage stamp cost 20 cents. Diet Coke hit the market. Doctors performed the first artificial heart transplant. Enrollment at UT Arlington surpassed 22,000 for the first time.

The year was 1982.

The campus was booming 25 years ago as enrollment reached a high of 22,171. The University offered 54 undergraduate degrees (compared to 78 today), 35 master’s degrees (now 73) and six doctorates (now 33).

Of the administrators listed in the 1982 Undergraduate Catalog, only one, School of Urban and Public Affairs Dean Richard Cole, remains on the list today. Four of those administrators—President Wendell Nedderman (see "A legacy of honor"), nursing Dean Myrna Pickard, Vice President for Academic Affairs W.A. Baker and Vice President for Business Affairs Dudley Wetsel—have buildings named after them.

UT Arlington comprised four colleges and four schools. Urban Studies was an institute, and Education was a center. The Honors College was just a thought.

Doc Severinsen, Howard K. Smith, Ed Asner and William Windom were among the celebrities who visited the campus in 1982. Fiddler on the Roof and Play It Again, Sam played in the Fine Arts Building.

The campus had only 70 computers. Students waited in line to run programs and were allowed 30 minutes per session. Terminals were available in Ransom Hall, Davis Hall and the Engineering Building (now Woolf Hall).

Jim Hayes and Fort Worth Judge James Wright were the 1982 Distinguished Alumni. Hayes, who received his bachelor’s degree in 1974 and currently coaches the Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team, was honored for his achievements in working with the disabled. Wright, a 141st Judicial District judge, actively supported University activities in a variety of ways after graduating from North Texas Agricultural College (now UT Arlington) in 1940.

The Central Library opened its first branch, in the School of Architecture and Environmental Design (now School of Architecture). Plans were approved in 1982 to build the Architecture Building.

December 1982 UTA Magazine cover
The December 1982 issue of UTA magazine featured a cover story on the Nursing-Math Building.

“I can remember parking where the Architecture Building is now,” said theatre arts dramaturg Dennis Maher, who joined the faculty in 1982.

Maher was among 21 employees honored this spring for 25 years of service to the University. Another was Barry McKeown, chair of the Kinesiology Department.

“When I arrived on campus 25 years ago, it was rather bland, mundane and just not very aesthetically pleasing,” Dr. McKeown said. “I think the appearance now is excellent. The addition of two residence halls and several apartment complexes has increased the collegiate atmosphere.”

The University has added or renovated more than 25 buildings since 1982. The Nursing Building opened that year. It was sometimes called the Nursing-Math Building and is now Pickard Hall. A headline in UTA magazine (now UT Arlington Magazine) called the building “futuristic.”

In athletics, the NCAA annexed the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, and the Southland Conference added competition for women’s teams. UT Arlington won the first SLC volleyball title under first-year coach Lisa Love, who is now athletic director at Arizona State University. The team played in the Activities Building.

Gilbert Smith won the national championship in the men’s long jump at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, and the men’s basketball team advanced to the SLC tournament finals.

The campus yearbook, Reveille, ceased production after 1982 due to insufficient sales.

“It will definitely leave a vacuum in my life. I’m personally going to miss it,” Student Publications Director Dorothy Estes said then of the last volume. “But the way I perceive my job is to print publications that the University wants and needs.”

Perhaps a quote from President Nedderman in a UTA magazine story best summed up the University’s progress at the time:

“Someday we’re going to be so darn big and so darn good, we can’t be ignored.”

— Jim Patterson

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