Birth of Nations spawned
UTA family affair

By Sherry Wodraska Neaves

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the July 1993 issue of Presence magazine, the forerunner to UTA Magazine.

Edward Nation and his brothers spent their childhood summer afternoons wading in Trading House Creek, fishing for crawdads and digging caves in the banks. That was back when the creek, which runs just north of Mitchell Street, marked the southern city limit of Arlington.

The family home, built just south of that 1930s era city limit, stood on land now occupied by UTA’s South 40 parking lot. All seven Nation children, Margaret, William, Fay, Edward, Ruth, Joe and David, eventually attended neighboring North Texas Agricultural College (NTAC), now known as U.T. Arlington.

“The traffic light at South Cooper Street and Nedderman Drive, marked the last street in town when I was growing up,” Edward said.

Fay Van Dam, administrative assistant in the College of Engineering, was born Fay Nation in that house on South Cooper. “The University was part of our life, always,” she said. “We went to plays, football games, military parades. In the summer, the Music Department would put on musicals every Wednesday night.”

Football games were a highlight for David, the youngest of the Nation children. Because the football stadium had no locker rooms, the players dressed in the gymnasium, then walked across campus to the field.

“They would pick up the kids standing outside and carry them in,” David recalls. “Of course, the guards weren't going to stop them.”

City and social events in Arlington and at the college were inseparable in those days. Fay's 1939 Arlington High School graduating class celebrated commencement in the old gymnasium, which was torn down a half century later to make way for the Chemistry Research Building. And Edward remembers the traditional freshman orientation ritual, which required drinking from the city's famous mineral well.

Margaret attended NTAC during the 1935-36 academic year. In those depression days, students wore blue uniforms to class and rode the train to out-of-town football games.
Edward was enrolled from 1945 to 1947, studying industrial aeronautics and working on engines. He acquired his love for airplanes as a small child.

“They used to rebuild airplanes on campus and rev them up at night to test out the engines,” he said. “When we were kids, we would go and watch. One night while we were out there, the plane rolled down the grassy field and actually took off.”

A true agricultural college
Fay came to NTAC in 1939 as a business student. Following graduation in 1940, she began working at the college full time. In those days it was a vital, working, agricultural site.

“Cattle roamed near what is now Maverick Stadium,” she said. “And the police department area was once home to cows and chickens. The school sold milk and fryers. It was a big program, but later Arlington became more citified, and it was phased out after the war.”

World War II claimed many more important casualties than the agricultural program. William Nation, called Bill, attended NTAC in the early 1940s, then joined the military and served in Europe. He was killed near the war's end. In the early 1990s, Fay visited his grave near Liege, Belgium.

Many fellow NTAC students, all well known and remembered, died in the war. “NTAC was a small enough place that you knew everyone-students, faculty and staff,” Fay said.

After the war ended, veterans returned home anxious to take advantage of the GI Bill to continue their education. Joe Nation, an NTAC student from 1947 to 1949, remembers when his parents took in students as boarders.

“There were so many veterans and no housing available whatsoever,” he said. “At one time, we had 18 people living in our house—bunk beds everywhere. And only one bathroom.”

Joe loved the college life, even as a child. “We lived on the college campus-literally,” he said. “Everything that they put on, we got to see. The children of faculty members went to school with us. Everybody knew everybody else. It was really a paradise.”

But, even paradise can have its little flaws. Visitors to campus in the 1940s would often see young men in ROTC uniforms working off demerits as they marched around and around the quadrangle, an area near the present University Center.

The changing face of campus
Just as the quad made way for the U.C., so other campus landmarks have come and gone. Following the war, Fay married and left Arlington, and when she returned her beloved NTAC had become Arlington State College (ASC). Then, in the 1960s, ASC became UTA. Such changes have continued throughout her career.

“They keep adding another building and another building,” she said. “Now it’s a big place.”

It was a much smaller place in the 1940s, said Ruth, who attended NTAC from 1943 to 1945. Only a handful of buildings made up the entire campus, including the Administration Building (now Ransom Hall), the Science Building (now Preston Hall), and the Library (now College Hall).

Though vastly larger than the college of their day, today’s sprawling 392-acre campus still holds special memories for the Nation family. Nearly 20 years ago, a UTA electrician found a set of dog tags in a flowerbed near College Hall and returned them to the family. They belonged to William, the brother who was killed in World War II.

Joe came home to Arlington a few years ago and visited the small cemetery near Doug Russell Park, part of his childhood stomping grounds.

“The little winecup flowers were still growing there just like when I was a kid,” he said. “Everything else has changed, but that’s still the same.”



Springing forward
Graduate students lead the way in spring enrollment increase
Graduate students like Ruby Ruperto and her Contemporary Science classmates significantly boosted University enrollment for spring 2001, the fifth consecutive semester of enrollment increases.

Writing for the Digital Age
New  tools and technologies are taking one Honors English class online and into the future
When students in Martin Danahay’s Honors English class get ready to work, they don’t pull textbooks out of their backpacks. Instead, they each slide a thin, black Toshiba laptop onto their desk, flip up the cover and log in to UTA’s first completely wireless class.

Worldwide welcome
International recruitment efforts are expected to pay long-term dividends
New faces, from places all over the world, keep coming through the UTA front door. And, with continuing international recruitment efforts, the University is keeping the welcome mat on the doorstep.


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