Dr. James H. Stewart, Jr. was our first university president. The Assistant to the President and Director of Development of North Texas State University was nominated as Tyler State College president at the August 7, 1972 Board of Regents meeting. Stewart accepted the job and began working with the Board of Regents to plan and develop Tyler State College. Dr. Stewart served as the University President from 1972 to 1981. During his tenure the permanent University campus was built, the University name was changed from Tyler State College to Texas Eastern University, and finally joined the University Texas System, to become The University of Texas at Tyler.
Stewart was inaugurated on the sunny Saturday afternoon of March 27, 1976. The event was planned by an inauguration committee comprised of University faculty, administration, and student representatives. Several events were held that weekend in conjunction with the inauguration.
The Neil Simon play Plaza Suite was presented by the Texas Eastern University Theatre Arts Department on Thursday the 25 and Friday the 26, directed by faculty member John Callahan and starring University students and community members.
Tours of the permanent campus were given Saturday morning. Visitors arrived at the temporary campus on Berta Street and enjoyed coffee and donuts before being bused to the University Boulevard campus. Tour groups were led through the University Center, Administration, and Science and Mathematics buildings by faculty and administration members. Additional guides were placed at stations throughout each building and offering information to passing groups. This was not an open house, tour routes were carefully planned to restricted guest access, as the final touches of construction were not signed off on by the contractor.
Following the campus tours a delegate luncheon was hosted at the Sheraton Inn. Guests enjoyed baked ham with jubilee sauce, sweet potatoes, seasoned green beans, and apple pie. After lunch visiting university delegates and University faculty, staff, and administrators making up the platform party, assembled at the Rose Garden Center on the East Texas Fair grounds in preparation for the inauguration ceremony at 2 PM.
Grand Marshall Dr. Gerald L. Morris led the procession across the street and into Harvey Hall carrying the Texas Eastern University (T.E.U.) mace. The inauguration was the first occasion where the mace was used. The 100-piece Sam Rayburn High School Symphony Orchestra of Pasadena, Texas provided prelude music and accompanied the processional.
The invocation was given by Dr. William Shamburger, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Tyler, and was followed by the introduction of delegates by master of ceremonies Dr. Donald M. Anthony. Dr. Chester A. Newland, Director of the Federal Executive Institute United States Civil Service Commission, gave the inaugural address titled “Learning for America’s Third Century.”
Following Dr. Newland’s inaugural address, Chairman of the Board of Regents C. Quentin Abernathy commenced the investiture of Stewart as and presented him with the T.E.U. medallion. President Stewart set out his vision for the future of the University with his address, “Texas Eastern University: Its Mission and Challenge.” Dr. Wayne H. McCleskey, Marvin United Methodist Church minister gave the benediction and the recessional was performed by The Sam Rayburn High School Symphony Orchestra.
The inaugural ball was held that night in Harvey Hall. Attendees to the black-tie affair danced the night away to the music of the Hugh Fowler Orchestra of Dallas.
All images are digitized photographs from the James H. Stewart, Jr. Papers collection.