Founders Day Punctuated with Whoosh Stretching Across North Mall
After the North Mall ribbon-cutting, about 350 students, faculty and staff participated in “the largest Whoosh in world history.” This image was created by merging three photographs taken of participants, who lined up from just north of the Trellis to the North Mall.
Under a flawless, blue October sky, UT Dallas students, faculty and staff turned out by the hundreds to participate in the University’s second annual Founders Day activities, which this year included the largest “Whoosh” ever and a celebration of the newly enhanced North Mall.
Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, president ad interim, paid tribute at the midday ribbon-cutting ceremony to Margaret McDermott, longtime campus supporter and widow of the University’s co-founder Eugene McDermott. McDermott provided funds to enhance the campus grounds from the Trellis to the Administration Building. The project followed the transformation of the south end of campus, which also was funded by McDermott and completed in 2010.
“People are the most important part of campus, but people appreciate living and working in a beautiful environment,” Wildenthal said. “The landscaping idea was a good idea that turned out to be a great idea. It’s been a source of enjoyment for so many people.”
The campus community took advantage of the sunny day to enjoy the new features of the North Mall, which now boasts more than 70,000 square feet of lawn and plant areas; 115 cedar elms, magnolias and oak trees; 1,300 linear feet of stone wall seating; and 48,000 square feet of new concrete paving.
Student Government vice president Grant Branam said the park-like setting is one of his favorite spots on campus, and provides a peaceful space for students to gather, eat lunch or study for tests.
“It’s really a special time to be here,” said Branam, an arts and technology sophomore. “When I came here as a freshman, I never saw this kind of activity. Now the social heart of campus is opened up.”
Founders Day is held on Oct. 29 because on that day in 1964 Founders Building was dedicated at what was then the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. It was the first facility built on campus, surrounded by acres of cotton fields and undeveloped land.
Eugene McDermott, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson established the center because they wanted to nourish the engineering talent at their firm, Texas Instruments. They had seen too many bright young people leaving the region to pursue advanced education elsewhere.
With the vision to train young minds here, they established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest in 1961. It was renamed the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies (SCAS) in 1967. The founders made a gift of the assets of the center to the state of Texas, setting in motion the creation of UT Dallas in 1969.
After the North Mall ribbon-cutting, about 350 students, faculty and staff participated in “the largest Whoosh in world history.”
Participants donned orange and green T-shirts and formed a line that spanned north along the mall from Founders Building. On the count of three, they leaned to the left, extended their right hands upward in the familiar Comet gesture and unfurled custom-made banners while shouting “Whoosh!”
Students also wrote thank-you letters to the founders, and held them up for photos next to a giant UTD sign at a newly constructed fountain. Wildenthal, UT Dallas Power Dancers and Cheerleaders, and campus mascot Temoc posed with students for the photos.
Kevin Masten, assistant director of research facility operations, brought recent hire Shannon Gaspard, an administrative assistant, to the celebration. "I think it was awesome," Gaspard said.
Some students said Founders Day gave them the opportunity to learn more about the history and legacy of University founders.
“We came in not knowing much about them, but this is a pretty cool idea. This is one of the things we’ve been looking for — to see some school spirit on campus,” said biology freshman Umme Samiha, as she put on a green T-shirt bearing the names “McDermott & Jonsson & Green.”
Afterward, students, faculty and staff lined up at a food truck and tent area for corn dogs, veggie burgers, pretzels, chips, popcorn and cookies.
Kevin Masten, assistant director of research facility operations, brought a new staff member, Shannon Gaspard, to learn about campus traditions.
“I wanted to show her what the Whoosh was all about,” Masten said.
“I think it was awesome. It’s pretty rare to see so many students turn out like this,” said Gaspard, an administrative assistant.
Margaret Bullock, a bioengineering graduate student, said she’s never seen such activity on the mall in her five years on campus.
“It’s so exciting. I have really seen campus spirit grow over my five years here, to actually see people on campus now. I love UTD so much,” Bullock said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].