History of the UTA Presidency

Past UTA Presidents

Jennifer Cowley, Ph.D., took the reins as 10th president of UTA on April 28, 2022. The nine presidents that preceded her played vital roles in developing the University as a premier research institution poised for continued excellence and impact.

Jack Woolf

Jack R. Woolf (1959-1968)

Taking office at age 35, Dr. Woolf guided The University of Texas at Arlington (then known as Arlington State College) through many changes. It transformed into a four-year college in 1959, expanded its physical footprint to approximately 130 acres in 1960, and became the first school in the A&M System to integrate in 1962. Shortly thereafter, Woolf helped ASC transition to the UT System, with its name officially becoming The University of Texas at Arlington in 1967. Woolf left the presidency on a high note, having also bolstered faculty salaries from the lowest to the fourth-highest among Texas state schools during his tenure.

Frank Harrison

Frank Harrison (1969-1972)

Following in the previous administration’s footsteps, Dr. Harrison continued to develop UT Arlington’s academic offerings by adding over 30 baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs. He supervised the construction of Carlisle Hall, University Hall, and University Administration Building (originally called Davis Hall). Perhaps most notable and popular for students was the decision to change the school mascot to the Mavericks in 1971.

Wendell Nedderman

Wendell H. Nedderman (Acting 1972-1974; 1974-1992)

Dr. Nedderman championed the growth of UT Arlington from a modest enrollment of 14,000 to over 25,000, with graduate students increasing by nearly 500%. The University also experienced stunning growth in research funding, from $200,000 to $12.7 million, a milestone that helped jumpstart its journey toward becoming the research powerhouse it is today. Nedderman described UT Arlington students as a “working-class student body” that was “goal-oriented, knew what they wanted, and were willing to work for it.”

Ryan Amacher

Ryan C. Amacher (1992-1995)

As both professor and president, Dr. Amacher sought to impart his expertise in economics and public affairs to the University’s administration. Following this mindset, he worked to bring UT Arlington into full compliance with Title IX and focused on fundraising and recruitment. The position of provost was added during Amacher’s presidency, with Dalmas Taylor inaugurating the role and, in doing so, becoming the highest Black administrative official the University ever had.

Robert Witt

Robert E. Witt (Interim 1995-1996; 1996-2003)

UT Arlington saw a 20-year low in enrollment in fall 1998, as numbers fell below 19,000 students. Dr. Witt successfully reversed this and several other challenges. His presidency brought the launch of the Honors College; construction of Arlington Hall, the first residence hall built in more than 30 years; and the establishment of the Nanotechnology Research and Teaching Facility. Crucially, Witt also spearheaded new partnerships with local African American and Hispanic leaders, putting his focus on recruiting minority faculty members and students.

Charles Sorber

Charles A. Sorber (Interim 2003-2004)

Though his tenure as interim president was brief, Dr. Sorber made an impact on the future of UT Arlington by overseeing two major policy changes: a tuition increase and tougher admission standards.

James Spaniolo

James D. Spaniolo (2004-2013)

Spaniolo oversaw a 34% increase in enrollment during his nine-year presidency. He also brought a construction boom to campus, with more than $400 million in new facilities erected and opened during that time, including the Engineering Research Building, Maverick Activities Center, and College Park Center. Spaniolo established many beloved new traditions, such as the Maverick Speakers Series, MavsMeet Convocation, Parent and Family Weekend, and official class rings. These and other accomplishments helped set UTA on the path to achieving Texas Tier One status.

Vistasp Karbhari

Vistasp M. Karbhari (2013-2020)

Research expenditures and enrollment were priorities for President Karbhari. In 2015, he launched a strategic plan aimed at making a “global impact through enabling a sustainable megacity.” In 2016, the University received R-1 “Very High Research Activity” classification from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Dr. Karbhari’s tenure also featured the debut of several new facilities, including the Science & Engineering Innovation & Research building, Brazos Park, and The Commons.

Teik Lim

Teik C. Lim (Interim 2020-2022)

Taking the reins during a challenging period in the University’s history, Dr. Lim helped keep the Maverick community safe during a worldwide pandemic. His two years as president witnessed several important milestones, such as the achievement of Texas Tier One status and the establishment of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Meet the President

Jennifer Cowley, Ph.D., is the first female president of The University of Texas at Arlington and the 10th overall. She is also a professor of public affairs and planning in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs.

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About UTA

Founded in 1895, The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research 1 institution with more than 100 years of academic excellence and tradition.

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