Category Archives: UT Tyler History

The Eisenhower International Golf Classic

For thirteen years, the University of Texas at Tyler sponsored a world class professional golf tournament which boasted some of the biggest names in golf. The Eisenhower International Golf Classic (Eisenhower Classic), a partnership between UT Tyler and Sister Cities International, was named in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an avid golfer and founder of Sister Cities International.

The Eisenhower Classic served as a showcase for Tyler’s membership in Sister Cities International. Proceeds from the tournament went towards scholarship funds for international students pursuing higher education in U.S. Sister Cities. Tyler joined the Sister Cities Program in 1982, forming mutual ties with Metz, France (1982-1990). Additional partnerships were subsequently established with Yachiyo City, Japan (1992-present); Jelenia Gora, Poland (1993-present); and Lo Barnechea, Chile (2001-present).

Dr. George F. Hamm, second president of UT Tyler and member of the International Executive Board of Sister Cities International, served as tournament chairman from 1987-1998. Dr. Hamm co-chaired the 1999 tournament with his successor, current UT Tyler president Dr. Rod Mabry.

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Left to right, Dr. George Hamm, Tournament Chairman and UT Tyler president. Richard G Neuheisel, president of Sister Cities International. 1992.

The first Eisenhower Classic took place in 1987 at Hollytree Country Club in Tyler, Texas. The tournament moved to Willowbrook Country Club in Tyler, Texas in 1990, where it remained until 1999. The Tyler Sister Cities Board of Directors partnered locally with the UT Tyler Patriots, an honorary organization founded in 1984, to create the first annual Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest in conjunction with the Eisenhower Classic. Additional support for the tournament came from the PGA Tour, Sister Cities International, and local Tyler businesses.

The inaugural tournament was co-hosted by David and Julie Eisenhower in collaboration David Graham, a professional golfer from Australia. Thirty-two professional golfers from PGA Tour roster joined the 1987 Eisenhower International Golf Classic. The first Eisenhower Classic also included an auction, the Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest, and series of luncheons.

Over the next twelve years, the Eisenhower International Golf Classic expanded to include a Texas barbeque, concerts, a youth putting contest, a football clinic, a 5k run, celebrity luncheons, the Sister Cities International Young Artists Competition, twinning ceremonies hosted by Tyler Sister Cities, an International Trade Conference, the High School Scholars Program, and charity raffles featuring prizes from local businesses.

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Cover art for the 1988 program by Texas artist and UT Tyler professor emeritus Ancel Nunn. The piece, titled “Pars Pro Toto (A Part for the Whole)” was sold as a limited edition lithograph benefiting the UT Tyler Alumni Association.

The Eisenhower Classic featured members of the LPGA Tour for the first time in 1991. Members of the Senior PGA tour joined the tournament roster in 1995. In addition to pro golfers, the Eisenhower Classic hosted a broad range of celebrities including football great Troy Aikman and the Dixie Chicks. In keeping with its international mission, the Eisenhower Classic also hosted dignitaries from Austria, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United States, and the Soviet Union.

The last Eisenhower International Golf Classic took place in 1999. Many aspects of the Eisenhower tournament found new life under the auspices of the UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic, an annual tournament and fundraiser which benefits the university’s scholarship program. In conjunction with the Patriot Golf Classic, the UT Tyler Patriots organization hosts the Million Dollar Hole-In-One competition yearly. The Tyler Sister Cities organization continues to maintain business opportunities and educational ties through Sister Cities International.

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Grounds ticket for the 1999 Eisenhower Classic.

Want to Learn More about the Eisenhower Classic?
Check out the finding aid for the Eisenhower International Golf Classic Records.

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A Brief Library History

Revised layout for the Tyler State College library.

Revised layout for the Tyler State College library.

Processing of the Library Records collection began with four bankers boxes full of documents concerning the formation and development of the University Library. Many of the documents came from the personal files of University Librarian Olene Harned, a testament to her tremendous efforts in the establishment, operation, and improvement of the library.

The University Library has moved around quite a bit since opening in 1973. In the early days, Tyler State College was located in the Roberts Junior High School building on East Berta Street with the library housed in the gymnasium. While public services and the growing library collection filled the gym, technical services found a home in the locker rooms. Significant book accessions occurred in 1974 with the purchase of the Seton Hall and Kraus collections.

Tyler State College students at work in the library.

Tyler State College students at work in the library.

While technical services worked diligently to process new arrivals, preliminary planning and clearing of land was underway at the permanent campus site on Old Omen Road. In 1976 the library collection and public services moved to the second floor of the new University Student Center. Three years later technical services moved to the new campus, finding refuge in the science building.

The Student Center hosted the library temporarily as construction plans for the current library building advanced under the guidance of Olene Harned. During the Christmas break of 1980, public services, technical services, and the library collection moved into the new library building across campus. In October 1982 the library building was dedicated as the Robert R. Muntz Library. In 1991 renovations of the fourth floor concluded and periodicals were transferred from the second floor.

In 1990, University President George F. Hamm proposed the establishment of a University Archives. Under the guidance of James Smallwood a group of graduate students began compiling the history of the university by interviewing early faculty, administration, and donors. In 1991 the nascent archive began a project of preserving the records and history of the United States District Court System, Eastern District of Texas. This project marked the beginning of the University Archives as a repository for non-university records. The University Archives received its first full-time archivist in 1994.

An empty fourth floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library.

An empty third floor of the Robert R. Muntz Library.

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Archives Month at UT Tyler: Campus Groundbreaking

The University of Texas at Tyler began as Tyler State College, a two year upper division institution that provided students an opportunity to continue their education locally. One important condition of the bill that created Tyler State College was that the state would provide no funding or support in purchasing land for the campus. So, in November 1971, the Board of Regents delegated three members to the “Site Planning Committee”, who would work with architects and engineers to determine a permanent campus location.

An article from The Tyler Statesman, the University’s first campus-run newspaper

Luckily, the community was excited about the prospect of a new university and over 10 sites were offered as donation. The Regents inevitable chose land located on Old Omen Road and Spur 248–207 acres of land donated by Isadore Roosth, George Pirtle, and J.S. Hudnall.

Eleven architects were interviewed concerning their interest in preparing a master plan and specifications for the construction of Tyler State College. With unanimous Board of Regents authorization and agreement from the Legal Counsel and Committee as well as President Stewart, they choose Caudill Rowlett Scott as the architects to design the look of the campus.

Tyler State College construction sign.

With land chosen and architects hired, the planning committees began to outline how they wanted the permanent campus to look. The Board of Regents wanted to create a picturesque and park-like campus, with forestry, hills, and bodies of water, but were met with resistant from others. As State Representative Billy Williamson recalls in his oral history, one letter from a community member complained that the architects were creating a campus where “the buildings would cluster in a valley below the high terrain, and it seems there’s plenty of room to build on the higher ground where the college has visibility”. Simply, people wanted the college to be seen from the road, and not “hiding back in the woods”. But, the Board of Regents stood by their original plans of creating a park-like atmosphere, a concept which has continued on campus through nearly 40 years of expansion.

Phase I of construction started with site clearance in June, 1974. Building erected during this phase included the Physical Plant, a Sciences and Mathematics building, a Student Center, a Health and Physical Education facility, and the Administrative Building.

Administration Building upon completion, 1976.

Classes started on the permanent campus in Fall of 1967 with over 1,500 students enrolled in over 300 courses and Phase I of construction nearing an end.

Phase II, beginning in August, 1977, included more work on the Sciences and Mathematics Building, the Business Building, and a Greenhouse.

The Library was the last building constructed during the first phases of campus growth, but it wasn’t completed until 1980. Before then, the public services department and library collection were housed on the second floor of the Student Center, with Technical Services remaining at the temporary school site, Roberts Junior High School. By September 1979, Technical Services had finally moved to the permanent campus but were located in the Science Building. The library officially opened to students in January 1981.

For more information on the groundbreaking and growth of UT Tyler’s permanent campus, visitors can view the Groundbreaking Exhibit on the 2nd floor of the Robert R. Muntz library, up until November 2012!

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Filed under Archives Month, University Archives, UT Tyler History

Labor of Love: Billy Williamson and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler

ImageThe late Billy Houston Williamson, Sr. represented Smith County in the Texas House of Representatives from 1965-1975. He was renowned as a man of quick wit and good humor, whose unflinching dedication to his Conservative Democrat values often put him at odds with his peers. Inspired to run for office by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy only 90 minutes away from his adopted home in Tyler, Texas, Billy Williamson served during one of the most tumultuous periods of Texas political history.

Among other things, he was a vocal participant in the debate over liquor regulations in the early 1970s; a witness to the rise of the “Dirty Thirty” representatives who took down Speaker of the House Gus Mutscher; a delegate to the infamous 1974 Constitutional Convention; and a key player in both the redistricting of Texas state legislative districts and the reform of public school financing laws. Rep Williamson was also responsible for the installation of the Tyler Rose Garden on the State Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas.

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Rep. Williamson surveys the historical marker to be installed in the Capitol Rose Garden, 1969 {Tyler Morning Telegraph}

Mr. Williamson left an indelible legacy upon his district. While his legislative contributions towards the creation of the University of Texas at Tyler were recently highlighted during UT Tyler’s 40th anniversary celebration, few people are aware of Mr. Williamson’s involvement with another influential Tyler institution: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

UTHSCT began as a military hospital at Camp Fannin, a World War II infantry-training base and prisoner of war camp in Tyler, Texas. After the war, it was chartered as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. The East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital had special significance for Rep. Billy Williamson. His mother had contracted TB in 1939, spending two years undergoing treatment at the Louisiana Tuberculosis Hospital. (“Williamson Oral History”, Billy Williamson Papers, University Archives and Special Collections, Box 1 Folder 1, p. 2 )

During the 59th session of the Texas Legislature, Mr. Williamson lobbied extensively for appropriations to supplement the low salaries of doctors in state tuberculosis hospitals. He corresponded at length with East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital officials, including Mr. Leon Baily, Business Manager, and Medical Superintendent Sam Topperman, M.D.

Mr. Williamson wrote to Governor John Connally that he had “a very keen intereset in our state tuberculosis program”. In another letter to Edwin Rasco of Citziens First National Bank, Mr. Williamson wrote “you can be assured that I am vitally interested in tuberculosis – its detection, treatment and prevention and would consider it a great pleasure to work with the Smith County Tuberculosis Association in their efforts to this end. (“3691 –Tuberculosis, Texas Association of”, Billy Williamson Papers, Box 46 Folder 1)

During the 60th Legislative session, Rep. Williamson introduced HB 921, “relating to the establishment of a medical branch of the University of Texas in the city of Tyler, Smith County, Texas, to be known as the University of Texas Medical School of Tyler”. This was the first serious mention of  a medical center in Tyler. Mr. Williamson would later testify that he had little confidence in the bill itself; he intended it as “a sales gimmick to help sell Tyler to the legislature and sell the people of Tyler on the idea that things could be a whole lot better”. (Williamson Oral History, p. 26) However, the response in Tyler was so favorable that he decided to pursue the idea in earnest, as a companion measure to his dream of bringing an upper-division university to East Texas.

During the 61st regular session, Rep. Williamson introduced HB 833, “relating to a pilot program to treat persons with various respiratory diseases at the East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital”. The bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in May 1969, allowing the TB hospital to offer treatment for other chronic pulmonary diseases to a small number of medically indigent Texas residents. The pilot program was a success.      

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Gov Preston Smith congratulates Rep Williamson on the passage of his bill to expand the T.B. hospital in Tyler to treat all respiratory diseases {Tyler Morning Telegraph}

The Texas Legislature voted in 1971 to change the name from East Texas Tuberculosis Hospital to East Texas Chest Hospital. In May 1971, Rep. Williamson introduced HB 799, “relating to the treatment of persons with various respiratory diseases at East Texas Chest Hospital and designating the hospital as the agency of the state for conducting research and providing training for the treatment of such diseases”. The Chest Hospital became  the foremost referral facility in Texas for the treatment of and research relating to chronic pulmonary diseases. This designation would set the stage for significant future expansions.

Mr. Williamson envisioned the Chest Hospital as institution that “would be to chest what M.D. Anderson is to tumors and cancer”. (Williamson Oral History, p. 55) He also hoped that it might one day be aligned with Tyler State College (the inaugural name of UT Tyler), which would allow the Chest Hospital to transition into the role of a medical school. In a 1975 interview Mr. Williamson said, “I hand-wrote that Chest Hospital bill in such a way that it could, without additional authorization, become a medical school, if the Board of Regents that it was under chose”. (Williamson Oral History p. 101) After the creation of Tyler State College, Mr. Williamson advocated locating the permanent campus site of UT Tyler on a property adjacent to the Chest Hospital in hopes that the hospital and the college might one day merge. (Williamson Oral History p. 118)

In 1977, Senator Peyton McKnight of Tyler sponsored the bill which transferred control of  the East Texas Chest Hospital to the University of Texas Board of Regents, bringing to life Billy Williamson’s dream of a medical school in Tyler. In addition to offering its own degree programs, UTHCT partners with UT Tyler to provide clinical training and medical care for UT Tyler students , staff, and faculty. Today, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler consistently ranks among the top hospitals in the nation for pulmonary care. It has also received multiple awards for its groundbreaking research on and treatment of pulmonary diseases. (Learn more about the history of UTHCT)

After retiring from the legislature in 1975, Mr. Williamson was appointed as a county judge in Smith County. He succumbed to adrenal cancer on May 26, 1982 at the age of 54, after two years of treatment. (See House Concurrent Resolution No. 19, in memory of Billy H. Williamson) Mr. Williamson spent his final days at UT Health Science Center at Tyler, the institution which he helped transform from a small tuberculosis clinic to a nationally acclaimed hospital and medical teaching facility.

Visit our finding aid to learn more about legislative career of former House Representative and County Judge Billy Williamson.

 

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Filed under Billy Williamson Papers, Special Collections, UT Tyler History

History of The University of Texas at Tyler

About two years ago, Bobbye Rucker with the Alumni Association asked us to research and create a panel exhibit.  This is the result, which is still displayed downstairs in the library.

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