The Search for the 1963 Time Capsule

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.
The time capsule, installed during construction of the Founders Building in 1963, was on display at the Founders Day celebration. Inside was a small disk of a cesium isotope and a copy of the research center’s charter on microfilm. Texas Instruments donated the first item for UT Dallas’ next time capsule: a 300-millimeter wafer.
The time capsule installed in Founders Building in 1963
The time capsule is gently cleaned after being pulled from the foundation of the Founders Building.The time capsule is gently cleaned after being pulled from the foundation of the Founders Building.
In 1963 UT Dallas co-founder Erik Jonsson helped seal a time capsule into the foundation of the future Founders Building. The lead cylinder contained a small cesium clock and a microfilm of the charter for the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW) — the precursor institution of UT Dallas. As construction and expansion changed the campus landscape in the years afterward, the exact location of the time capsule was forgotten. That was until September, when the vessel was pulled from the foundation of the Founders Building after more than 50 years. Its discovery can largely — if not wholly — be credited to Dr. James Carter, associate professor emeritus, who arrived on campus in the early 1960s. Although he officially retired in 2008, he was a regular fixture on campus for the next 11 years. Carter always claimed he knew where the time capsule was located — he just needed to prove it. Prove it he did. Before his unexpected death in September and with the help of personnel in facilities management, Carter tracked down the location of the small piece of UT Dallas history. President Richard C. Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership, presented the time capsule and its contents to the University community during the annual Founders Day celebration on Oct. 29. “The time capsule had become a personal quest for the late Dr. James Carter,” he said. “We didn’t know for sure if the time capsule had survived. But because of Dr. Carter’s dedication to the search, we were able to recover it.” At the Founders Day event, Texas Instruments — whose founders also established the GRCSW and UT Dallas — provided a 300-millimeter wafer to be the first item for a new time capsule. Additional items will be collected throughout the school year. — Paul Bottoni