Connections to Past, Present Converge for Founders Day

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the winter 2020 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Three students at Founders Day pose with Temoc.

The UT Dallas community came together on Oct. 29 to reflect on the University’s past and present in a campuswide celebration. Founders Day is an annual tradition that honors the vision and legacy of UTD’s founders — Eugene McDermott, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson.

The event marks the day in 1964 when the Founders Building, the first building constructed on the present-day campus, was dedicated. All three founders attended the dedication of the building.
“Today, UT Dallas is a rising teaching and research powerhouse with eight schools and more than 140 academic degrees, including top-ranked programs in business, engineering, science, audiology, and arts and technology,” said Dr. Kyle Edgington, vice president for development and alumni relations. “We celebrate Founders Day because none of this would be possible without the collaboration and contributions of the University’s three visionaries.”
UT Dallas’ story began in the early 1940s when McDermott, Jonsson and Green founded Geophysical Services Inc., which eventually became Texas Instruments Inc. Wanting to hire locally and retain the best and brightest to benefit their firm, the trio discovered they had a problem: Talented young minds were leaving the area to pursue higher education elsewhere.

Erik Jonsson (right) and Lloyd Berkner, president of the GRCSW, seal the time capsule into the foundation of the future Founders Building.

To address this issue, the three men created the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW) in 1961. At the time, the campus was little more than a cluster of small nondescript buildings bordered by acres of cotton fields and undeveloped land. The institution joined the UT System as UT Dallas in 1969.
Adding another layer to this year’s Founders Day celebration is the 50th anniversary of UT Dallas’ founding. To mark the occasion, the University displayed an early artifact of its history: a recently unearthed time capsule that was originally placed in the foundation of the Founders Building in 1963. The lead capsule contained a small disk of a cesium isotope and a copy of the GRCSW charter on microfilm. – Kim Horner