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Schools of architecture, urban and public affairs to celebrate history

Wednesday, September 6, 2017 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

architecturefacultystaffstudentsurban and public affairsAll Topics

John Connally was Texas governor.

Preston Smith was lieutenant governor.

Ben Barnes was speaker of the house.

Those giants in Texas history formed the backdrop for the establishment of the Institute of Urban Affairs, The University of Texas at Arlington’s link to cities, counties and entities seeking help in urban issues.

School of Architecture timeline

School of Architecture timeline

The Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 464, sponsored by state Sen. Don Kennard, D-Fort Worth, in 1967 during the 60th Legislative Session. It directed the UT System Board of Regents to establish and maintain the Institute for Urban Studies in the Fort Worth-Dallas metropolitan area.

Charged with addressing Texas’ growing urban challenges, the Institute had immediate tasks to address. By 1965, more than 75 percent of Texas’ population lived in cities – primarily Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio – compared with only 45 percent in 1940.

Soon after the Institute’s creation, a master’s program, three faculty and 15 students started studying urban issues and public affairs. SUPA became a reality in 1990 and evolved into a highly ranked school with seven degree programs and close to 1,000 students.

In 2015, UTA’s School of Urban and Public Affairs merged with the School of Architecture to become a new collaborative – the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs or CAPPA.

To honor the rich histories of those two schools, CAPPA will host the “SOA + SUPA 50th Anniversaries Exhibit” through Oct. 6 in the Max W. Sullivan Gallery located in the CAPPA building, 601 W. Nedderman Drive.

A “Welcome Back” celebration for CAPPA students will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, in the Richard B. Myrick Courtyard adjacent to the CAPPA building.

School of Urban and Public Affairs timeline

School of Urban and Public Affairs timeline

An invitation-only celebration will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, for alumni, donors, faculty and staff in the CAPPA Building.

“Our emphasis has not changed from the beginning,” said Enid Arvidson, associate professor of planning and public affairs and chair of the SUPA 50th Anniversary Committee. “We need to continue to fuel a future generation of planners, policy makers and administrators that are equipped to meet the growing challenges of urban settings.”

Even though, the North Texas population was only about 2 million in 1967, the complexity and nature of urban issues required an interdisciplinary approach. Latest estimates peg today’s North Texas population at more than 7.1 million.

The Institute of Urban Studies hired three inaugural faculty members – sociologist Paul Geisel, economist James Cornehls and political scientist Delbert Taebel – to develop the initial Master’s of Urban Affairs program, which began with a student body of less than 30.

The School of Architecture’s roots date back to 1948 when a two-year technical program was started in the Department of Engineering by architect Professor George Shupee, who taught Architectural Studies.

Professors Lee Wright, Dan Spears and Richard B. Ferrier started the initiative to expand the two-year technical drafting program into a four-year undergraduate and two-year graduate program with degree options in architecture, interior design, building systems, landscape architecture, urban design, city and regional planning, and environmental studies.

A new Department of Architecture was established in the College of Liberal Arts in 1970. By 1974, after significant expansion, the department became the School of Architecture and Environmental Design.

The establishment of the Department of Architecture, created the fourth School of Architecture in Texas.

“Architecture has been a staple in the UTA community for decades,” said Steve Quevedo, associate professor of architecture and chair of the SOA 50th Anniversary Committee. “We take a look at our history, which is important to do, but we keep our eyes focused on the future and where new demands in the profession take us.”

The rich histories and significant contributions of the SOA and SUPA to education, design, planning, research and service – and the uncovering of some surprising historical overlaps and encounters – will be remembered, retold and recorded with an eye to the present and future.

Two historical booklets have been produced to document the histories of the schools, which now make up CAPPA. Oral interviews also were conducted with SOA and SUPA pioneers and faculty members. 

CAPPA Interim Dean Ron Elsenbaumer said much has changed since 1967 when UTA enrollment was about 11,500 and faculty numbered less than 500. Today, enrollment has eclipsed 58,000 students and faculty members is about 1,700. Texas’ population is now more than 27 million, which continues to present planning challenges that the Institute and CAPPA address.

“The Institute, the School of Architecture and the School of Urban and Public Affairs have touched so many lives in North Texas and the world,” Elsenbaumer said. “From architecture to planning to transportation to public policy to landscape architecture to interior design and a host of other topics, these two schools have contributed greatly to the urban landscape. Now, with all of these programs under one roof, CAPPA continues to be the agenda setter and leader in these areas.”

Elsenbaumer said the Texas Legislature also deserves thanks for seeing the need in 1967 to create the Institute.

UTA could not have had a better ally in Kennard, either. The Fort Worth lawmaker was a constant friend to higher education. In his Austin American-Statesman obituary, Barnes said that during the 1950s and '60s there was no better friend to public and higher education than Kennard, who once filibustered for 29 hours and 22 minutes to pass a bill making UTA a four-year institution.