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Covering two kinds of Mavericks

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My favorite Wendell Nedderman anecdote appears in the summer 1991 issue of Presence (now UT Arlington Magazine). He had just announced his retirement as president of the University, and the magazine ran a story recounting his two decades at the helm.

When told early in his career that a former student had won a Pulitzer Prize, Dr. Nedderman didn’t bat an eye. He expected such things. When advised later that the student had attended UT Arlington only one semester and hadn’t passed a single course, he still didn’t flinch.

He thought a moment, peered over the top of his glasses at the bearer of the news and offered his perspective.

“Well, there you have proof that even our worst students do things like win Pulitzer Prizes.”

Chris Cagle is the first to admit that he was not a great student when he attended UT Arlington in the late 1980s. He preferred singing to studying and was already dreaming of conquering Nashville.

“It was obvious he was never going to be an accountant,” said Steve McKeever, who pledged Phi Delta Theta with Cagle in 1987. “He’d take over the mic at every party and sing and entertain. Music was his life.”

Cagle’s publicist promised only a 15-minute telephone interview for our story in this issue. Before I could ask my first question, Cagle had one for me.

“I’m pretty blown away by this request,” said the man with three gold albums and six top-10 hits. “How did this come about?”

I explained that every bio I’d read mentioned that he attended UT Arlington and that I’d seen him wearing a UTA lapel pin on national TV. I wanted to know why somebody who spent only two semesters here was so proud of his affiliation.

“It was a great time in my life as far as me finding out where my lack of discipline was and what I needed to fix,” said Cagle, who still keeps track of his UT Arlington friends. “I only wish I was wiser to actually finish and take advantage of the opportunities the University would have given me had I had the head for it at the time.”

An hour and 20 minutes later, we finally hung up.

Cagle graces the cover of this issue. So does Nedderman. Two covers, each targeting a segment of our readers.

The musician and the academician might appear to have little in common. But look closer.

Nedderman was thorough, a stickler for detail and always prepared when he went to battle. Cagle is meticulous about his music, almost obsessive when it comes to making his performances sound like his records. Both are grateful for the time they spent at UT Arlington.

Perhaps they crossed paths one day.

signature of Mark Permenter

Letters to the editor: utamagazine@uta.edu

— Mark Permenter

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