A stroke of luck
Near the end of a campus tour for prospective students, leader Andre Smith stops the group in front of a bronze bust of E.H. Hereford on the first floor of the University Center. His next words elicit mixed reactions.
"A lot of campuses have superstitions," says the senior art major from Fort Worth. "This is UTA's superstition: If you need some help on a test, come by here and rub his head for good luck."
Several in the group chuckle. Others frown in disbelief. Then a few extend their arms and give the noggin a swipe.
"Naturally, many people don't believe it," said Smith from behind the desk at the Visitors Information Center in Davis Hall. "But when I point out the discoloration on the top of his head, it tends to make people believe."
Count Smith among the believers. He said that several times he's been unprepared for tests, but a rub of Dr. Hereford's head has magically resulted in passing grades.
Sophomore David Cox, who learned about the tradition during orientation before his freshman year, also has become convinced of the powers of head patting.
"This is UTA's superstition: If you need some help on a test, come by here and rub his head for good luck."
- senior art major Andre Smith
"Despite having mono the first semester of my freshman year, I managed to pull a 3.6 GPA," said the international business major from Waxahachie. "It seemed rather strange at first, but it has grown to be a habit."
The bust was unveiled Nov. 23, 1959, during ceremonies naming the student center after Dr. Hereford, the school's top administrator from 1946 until his death in 1958. Alumnus Edward C. Brown sculpted the piece on behalf of faculty and staff wishing to preserve Dr. Hereford's legacy.
Exactly when the head-rubbing practice started is unclear. Kent Gardner, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, recalls that the tradition was established when he arrived on campus in 1967.
Arlington attorney Orsen Paxton, a 1972 graduate, admits he and his classmates were indifferent toward the superstition.
"We really didn't pay that much attention to it," he said. "But it was very prevalent in the early 1960s."
A bit of uncertainty also exists over the bust's exact location through the years. According to President Emeritus Jack Woolf, the statue spent several years in the west stairwell of the Central Library.
But there's no doubting Smith's enthusiasm for telling the story during tours.
"Give him some good love, and he'll give you some good love back," he says. "But it doesn't work on relationships."