1935 Mural Timeline
Joshua Chilton founds the Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute in 1890, with 80 students in attendance, including women students and twenty-eight Native American students of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation from Oklahoma. Students live at home or in boarding houses until the first dormitories are built 45 years later.
In 1906, Dr. William Herschel Bruce, who had been working as a math professor and assistant to the previous president, Joel S. Kendall, becomes the 5th president of the institute and serves in this role until 1923. During his tenure, several buildings are constructed, including the Education Building pictured in the 1935 Mural. Bruce lobbies to rename state normal colleges “teachers colleges” and evolves the instruction standard from a three-year vocational degree to a four-year bachelor’s degree. Bruce Hall would later be named for Dr. Bruce.
In 1922 the Alma Mater, “Glory to the Green and White,” is composed by Julia Smith (music) and Charles Langford (lyrics). The Alma Mater rings out from the UNT clock tower every day at noon.
A stock market crash in 1929 leads to a major economic downturn known as the Great Depression, the effects of which are felt worldwide throughout the 1930s, including unemployment and displacement.
The Public Works Administration, or PWA, is founded in 1933 to support construction of highways and public buildings as part of the New Deal, a federal economic relief program to provide employment. The PWA funds construction of seven buildings on campus, including the first dormitory, Marquis Hall, named after UNT President Robert Marquis, who fights for federal funds.
The Public Works of Art Project, or PWAP, forms in 1934 to fund public works of art, and within four months hires 3,749 artists and produces 15,663 works of art for public buildings around the country, including many murals. The idea for this program began in Mexico, where the government hired artists to paint murals in public buildings and promote nationalism during the 1920s.
In March of 1934, the Art Club, Kappa Alpha Lambda, sponsors an exhibition in the Manual Arts Building of reproductions of murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera, likely influencing the production, composition, and style of the 1935 Mural.
By the time Marquis Hall is being built in 1935, enrollment of only 1,800 students has been affected by the Great Depression when compared to the 2,930 students enrolled in 1927. In March of 1935, students across Texas protest an increase in college tuition.
During the 1935-1936 academic year, students create the 1935 Mural under the leadership of art professor Ronald Williams, one of only three art faculty at the time. The mural is designed to be displayed in the Marquis Grill.
The Works Progress Administration, or WPA, forms in 1935 and hires 8.5 million people to carry out 1.4 million diverse projects across the country, including art projects and artists such as young modernists Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock and regionalist John Steuart Curry. The Regionalist style of painting depicts American life, industry, and lore, which is popular subject matter in public buildings. Regionalism influences the style of the figures in the 1935 Mural as well as the depiction of everyday student life.
Marquis Hall opens in 1936 as the first dormitory on campus, housing 100 women. Families of female students consider the dormitory to be a safer alternative to traditional off campus boarding houses. Thus, the opening of Marquis Hall allows women to more easily convince their families to let them attend college.
The first known Hispanic student, Maria Isabel Rodriquez Quetglas, originally from Puerto Rico, graduates in 1943. She serves as President of the Pan-American Forum and as a second lieutenant in the newly formed North Texas State Defense Training Battalion of the Women’s Defense Corps. This defense corps is part of North Texas’ World War II efforts and the only known girls’ training unit in the country, preparing women to be leaders in defense organizations around the state.
At the end of World War II, during the 1945-1946 academic year, enrollment grows 55% from 1,886 to 2,936. To meet demand for housing, Bruce Hall is constructed to house 520 women and celebrated with the student cry, “Bruce is born!”
Named for University President William Herschel Bruce, Bruce Hall is one of few surviving buildings constructed before 1950. Bruce Cafeteria, which opened as coed in 1948, is considered by the Campus Chat as “one of the largest and finest in the Southwest.”
In the 1950s, Ramon Ruiz is the first Mexican American to play football for North Texas. Ruiz is a member of the Geezles Fraternity, known as “the letterman’s fraternity.” In 2010, Geezles alumni raise funds to commission the bronze eagle sculpture titled Spiriki, by artist Kent Ullberg, for the new Apogee Stadium.
Alfred Tennyson Miller enrolls in 1954 and is the first African American doctoral student, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows Miller to enroll because the course he wishes to pursue is unavailable at Texas’ African American colleges. He attends classes that summer with little notice relative to students integrating across the country. Miller later uses his experience to help others by becoming an integration specialist with the U.S. Office of Education.
In 1955, Joe Atkins is the first African American to apply for undergraduate admission. His application is denied and, while his case against the university is decided, he attends what is now the University of Texas at El Paso. Atkins later earns his master’s degree at North Texas.
In 1956, Irma E.L. Sephas attends as the first African American undergraduate student, after US District Judge Joe Sheehy rules the school could not deny admission on the basis of race. According to The North Texan, Sephas “began classes with little notice…the same day a screaming, rock-throwing mob threatened Autherine Lucy as she entered the University of Alabama.”
Also in 1956, the first group of African American freshmen enroll. Among them are two athletes, Leon King and Abner Haynes, who The North Texan reports “integrated the North Texas freshman football team 10 years before an African American played in the Southwest Conference.” While African American students on campus do not encounter violence in the ways students across the nation experience, they could not live on campus and instead commute or live in the boarding houses of African American families in southeast Denton. African American women students are allowed to live in Oak Street Hall during summer classes.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of 250,000 people in Washington D.C. in 1963, and that same year, one year prior to the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Denton City Council declares all city facilities and programs open to all races.
In 1966, the first international club is formally recognized, with around 80 members in attendance.
African Americans serve in faculty and administrative positions for the first time in 1969.
The first Hispanic student group, Los Chicanos, is formally created in 1970, and through many name changes, it remains the only Hispanic group on campus for 20 years.
The Center for Ethnic Affairs is created in 1974 and is led by African American Alma Ayers, to establish cultural understanding and encourage recruitment of diverse students and faculty. That year sees a number of firsts for people of color in student organizations, such as the Student Government Association, the One O’Clock Lab Band, and the Homecoming Court.
In 1976 the UNT Office of Equal Opportunity is formed.
The number of international students increases to 800 in 1978, and because of this growth, the Office of International Programs is established.
In 1983 North Texas football player Joe Greene, nicknamed “Mean Joe Greene,” is the first African American to be named a University Regent and a Distinguished Alumni.
Dr. Gloria Contreras becomes the first Chicana professor in 1987. Several years later she is appointed Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, and her work would result in the establishment of over 20 student organizations active on campus today.
In 1992, alumnus Renay Ford Scales becomes the first African American to serve as a UNT Vice President.
In 1993, Dr. Gerald Roland Vela Múzquiz, a renowned researcher and microbiology professor, establishes the first annual Hispanic Conference, which would take place for the next 10 years, promoting the education of Latino and Latina students.
Turn of the century, 2000-Present
The annual Equity and Diversity Conference begins in 2000.
In 2006, Dr. Gretchen M. Bataille becomes the first woman president of UNT. During her tenure, Bataille founds the Emerald Eagle Scholars student success program and initiates construction of what would become the Life Sciences Complex, Apogee Stadium and the Business Leadership Building. Bataille also helps move the University closer to its goal of becoming a national research institution.
By the time the mural Denton Shuffle is created for Bruce Cafeteria in 2015, over 37,000 students are enrolled, including over 3,000 international students from 120 countries. The Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity reports, “UNT’s student population is inching towards that of a Minority Serving Institution (MSI), with at least 50% of undergraduate students of color…,” and the Pride Alliance and Multicultural Center cultivate identity awareness, understanding and connections through programs open to all UNT students.