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100 Years In 10 Objects

Letters to Spurgeon Bell  © Brian Goldman

By Jim Nicar

Photographs by Brian Goldman

From the fall 2016 issue of McCOMBS, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.

Letter to Spurgeon Bell

"I take pleasure in informing you," wrote UT President Sidney Mezes to Spurgeon Bell on April 1, 1912, "that the Board of Regents of the University of Texas … elected you Professor of Business Training at an annual salary of $3,400." The letter completed a two-year effort by Mezes to initiate business studies on the campus. Bell, a 1903 UT graduate in economics, was then teaching at the University of Missouri when Mezes recruited him to return to Austin. Bell's arrival led to the first business classes being taught on the Forty Acres, followed in 1922 by the creation of a College of Business Administration. Bell would be its first dean.

Before all that could happen, however, Bell had to create an entire program from the ground up. By fall 1912, he had established the School of Business Training as a department of the University's College of Arts and Sciences. It offered courses in accounting, statistics, banking, and corporations.

Conditions for Bell's first classes were far from ideal. The university was expanding faster than funding allowed, and monies for new classroom facilities simply weren't available. Instead, Mezes ordered cheap, pinewood shacks be constructed. Without proper foundations and outfitted with potbelly stoves for heat, the shacks were purposely left unpainted in the hope that the state would find their appearance too embarrassing and replace them with adequate buildings. In the cooler months, Bell's daily routine began by stoking the coals left by the custodian the night before, then hauling in firewood from a pile stacked behind the building.

Despite these humble beginnings, Bell was able to hire an additional professor after a year and add courses in advertising, marketing, and sales. By April 1916, University President William Battle asked the Board of Regents to rename the department as the School of Business Administration and approve a new Bachelor of Business Administration degree. "So strong an impression has the school made upon the University community," lauded Dr. Battle, "that the general faculty, after full discussion, has voted to recommend the creation of a new degree." The regents agreed.

Hermes McCombs Patron Saint of Commerce © Brian Goldman  

Hermes The Patron Saint

In 1922, the School of Business Administration, now separated from its original home in the College of Arts and Sciences, sought to gain its own identity. Dean Bell introduced the idea of an annual banquet for the school, and to help with the festivities, students looked for a mascot they could call their own. Several UT schools and colleges had adopted "patron saints" as a part of their campus identity.

At a meeting in the Old Main Building, the business students selected as their patron saint Hermes, the Greek god of commerce, noted for his eloquence, speed, shrewdness, and wisdom. The inaugural business school banquet was held May 10, 1922 at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue. A rough drawing of Hermes was framed and placed on the head table. The following year, Peter Mansbendel, an internationally known woodworker from Austin, was employed to create a more appropriate likeness from a block of oak.

Mansbendel's three-foot-tall carving wears winged sandals as a symbol of his swiftness. With his left hand near his heart he holds a caduceus, a staff with two entwined snakes symbolizing commerce to the Greeks, declaring Hermes the authority of strategic negotiations.

In his right hand he carries a bag of gold, a trophy of his successful commercial transactions. An eagle sits at his feet, evidence that the business school's Hermes is "one hundred percent American" despite his early origins, reported The Daily Texan at the time.

Hermes continued to make annual appearances at business school banquets until they were discontinued in the 1940s. He is still on display in the BBA offices.

Adams Best Vanilla Extract © Brian Goldman

Adams Extract

At first glance, it might seem to be an unassuming bottle of vanilla flavoring, something you'd find perched on the shelf of a local grocery store. For the McCombs School, it's an important connection to the BBA program's first graduate.

The university's 34th annual spring commencement was held on the warm and humid Tuesday morning of June 12, 1917. Just over 350 degree recipients — UT's largest graduating class to date — gathered in front of the ivy-draped, Victorian Gothic Old Main Building.

Nine of the graduates had completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Business Administration degree that had been authorized the previous year by the Board of Regents. The first to receive the BBA was Fred Ward Adams.

Adams hailed from Beeville, Texas, where his father, John, owned the Adams Extract Company, which specialized in high quality vanilla extract for baking. John had founded the business in 1888 in Michigan before moving his family to Texas in 1905, but was starting to look ahead to retirement. John sold it in 1922 to his son Fred, who moved the entire operation to Austin. For the next several decades, Fred Adams used what he'd learned in those marketing, accounting, management, and economics courses at UT to shape Adams Extract into a nationally known company.

Under Fred's direction, the company expanded into other flavors and created a food coloring product, particularly important during the Great Depression. Adams Extract is credited with popularizing Red Velvet Cake throughout the country in the 1930s, as it was the first to sell a red food coloring dye marketed with point-of-sales posters and tear-off recipe cards. (The red on Adams Extract labels and bottle caps wasn't a random choice, but part of the marketing.) In 1947, the company introduced the four-pack food coloring line that's still sold today. The company, now located in Gonzales, continues to be one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in Texas.

Victrola Record © Brian Goldman


Victrola Record

Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap!

Florence Stullken listened to that sound in her classroom for nearly 40 years. Hired in 1919 as the first woman on the business faculty, she taught classes in typing and shorthand. Into the 1920s, as the school's curriculum expanded into cotton marketing, life insurance, Latin American commerce, and hotel management, Stullken's popular typing classes were a mainstay for business students.

Always looking for a new approach to teaching, in 1928 she discovered the Rhythm Method. It was organized around a series of six Victrola records with 12 songs that varied from Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" to the "Toreador March" from the opera Carmen. Starting with the slowest tempo, students typed in unison to the beat of the music and gradually worked their way up to faster speeds. "I am very well pleased with the results," she told The Daily Texan, "for even the beginners are able to keep perfect time to the elementary pieces."

As an added incentive for her students and to promote UT spirit, Stullken added a seventh record to the course. In May 1928, the university band travelled to San Antonio to professionally record "The Eyes of Texas" and "Texas Taps" — better known today as the "Texas Fight!" song — for the first time. Victrola records were ready by the next football season, and the songs were in high demand during typing classes.

Stullken remained on the business faculty until 1958. With her retirement, typing classes were discontinued as the school updated its curriculum to emphasize technology, mathematical analysis, and leadership development.

 University of Texas presidential maces © Brian Goldman

Graduation Mace

Every year at commencement, two members of the McCombs faculty serve as marshals, each carrying a graduation mace at the start and finish of a single-file line of graduates as they march into the commencement arena. Originally symbols of authority, college maces were first seen in the 13th century when they were carried in the graduation processions of Oxford and Cambridge. This one used by the McCombs School is of more recent vintage.

Made of a 42-inch oak shaft and decorated with brass icons, this business school mace features symbols of each of the academic departments that existed in the 1960s when it was created. At the top is a coin, representing the Department of Finance, with the face of Liberty on both sides. Just below the coin and around the shaft are four brass plates. Inscribed in one is a window envelope with an opened letter, intended to emphasize the importance of proper correspondence in the Department of General Business. Another features a ledger and calculator, icons of the Accounting Department. Management is represented by the image of a board of directors seated around a conference table. On the fourth plate is a cash register, signifying what was then the Department of Marketing Administration.


Invitation to the BEB Dedication © Brian Goldman

Invitation to The BEB Dedication

When the Business-Economics Building opened in 1962, it was the largest classroom facility on campus.

Students dubbed it the "Big Enormous Building." It was modern in design, based on function and efficiency, though its limestone and brick still identified it as a part of the university. On the south side, a five-story classroom building featured a 400-seat auditorium, a 10,000-volume business library, study halls, conference rooms, and much needed interview rooms for the placement office. The basement was reserved for student recreation, with lounges, games, and vending machines. To the north, a seven-story office building housed the faculty and dean. A screened crossover provided a connecting hallway between the two units, along with the first escalator on campus. The escalator, though, only went up, prompting students to joke that at the end of the day everyone wound up on the top floor.

University of Texas Art Professor Paul Hatgill designed a series of ceramic panels that were placed above the top row of windows around the office unit. His whimsical creations not only added color to the building, their stylistic rows of small, raised circles were meant to suggest buttons, as the many inventions of the 1950s had transformed the modern world into what was then called a "push button society."

The building's opening was a seminal moment for the College of Business Administration. For the first 15 years, BBA students attended their business classes in unpainted wooden shacks, and it wasn't until 1931 that Waggener Hall opened along the west side of Speedway. Named for Leslie Waggener, UT's first president, the building was designed for Business Administration, but for several years shared its quarters with English, math, and public speaking courses. Designed to blend in with the familiar Mediterranean Renaissance style of other campus structures, Waggener Hall was constructed of white limestone, multi-colored brick, and a broad red-tile roof. The clean lines and sharp details were a welcome addition, and the 26 terra cotta medallions that adorned its walls sent a clear message as to the purpose of the building. Each represented an export of Texas at the time: oil, cotton, lumber, corn, pecans, and cattle, among others. As Business Administration grew more popular with students, Waggener Hall was short on space within a decade and led to the call for what became the BEB. Today the BEB is simply known as the College of Business Administration, and is part of a larger McCombs School complex that now includes the Graduate School of Business. When Rowling Hall is completed in 2017, graduate courses will be moved there, and the current complex will undergo a complete renovation, after which it will be renamed Mulva Hall.

 John Sibley Butler's Bronze Star © Brian Goldman

John Sibley Butler's Bronze Star 

John Sibley Butler, a management professor, former IC2 Institute director, and founding director of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor while serving in the Vietnam War from 1968-1972. He was a medic in the U.S. Army.

In wartime, the business school has always done its part. When the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, the university completely transformed itself to support the war effort. The business school's first two professors, Spurgeon Bell and John Treleven, both joined the U. S. Army. Stationed in Washington, D.C., Treleven helped manage the Quartermaster Corps, while Bell worked in the Army's statistics office. Near the end of the war, Treleven died of pneumonia in the influenza pandemic of 1918. The UT chapter of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, which Treleven helped found, had a bronze tablet created in his memory. It is currently found on the fourth floor of the Graduate School of Business building.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, the university community once again joined in the nation's service. Dean J. Anderson Fitzgerald led the campus effort to sell war bonds, and in 1943, the business school volunteered to assist the Naval V-12 unit that had been established on campus. More than 100 sailors of the U.S. Navy were enrolled in classes. Most of them were business majors, taking their courses in Waggener Hall, knowing they could be called to service at any time.

In 1945, word reached campus that the V-12 unit would soon be needed. If called, the agreed-upon signal was that the bells in the UT Tower would play "You're in the Army Now." (At the time, the Tower's carillon didn't yet have the correct bells to perform "Anchors Aweigh.") On a sunny afternoon in May 1945, the Tower bells began to ring. The V-12 students, jubilant that they would finally be joining the war, leapt out of their chairs in classrooms throughout Waggener Hall, leaving their open notebooks and textbooks on the desks behind them, and ran up to the Main Mall to celebrate. Their girlfriends, though, were less joyous, worried about the men leaving for combat. Some of the sailors did not return.

 George Kozmetsky's Books © Brian Goldman

Books Written By George Kozmetsky

The stack of books speaks not only of a prolific author, but of a productive and creative person. George Kozmetsky's accomplishments were many, though to the McCombs School he is best appreciated as the dean who transformed a regionally strong college business program into a national leader.

Kozmetsky co-founded Teledyne, Inc. in 1960, an entrepreneurial startup that grew into a Fortune 500 company within six years. His academic credentials and business successes were getting noticed, particularly by the University of Texas, which recruited him to be the dean of its business school in 1966.

Over the next 16 years, Kozmetsky put in long days. He was regularly in his office by 4:30 a.m., meeting with local and national business leaders who were treated to breakfasts of corn flakes and orange juice. He recruited star-quality faculty, encouraged a cross-disciplinary approach to faculty research, emphasized technology in the business curriculum, and oversaw the completion of the Graduate School of Business Building in 1976. He made personal financial contributions to the school and tirelessly solicited important endowments that helped boost the business program into the national rankings.

Toward the end of his tenure, Kozmetsky founded the IC2 Institute, a think tank devoted to researching the intersection of business, government, and education. By 1983, just as Kozmetsky had finished his term as dean, he and the IC2 Institute were instrumental in bringing the Microcomputer and Technology Corporation (MCC) to Austin, chosen among 60 competing cities. Similar efforts wooed 3M in 1984 and Sematech in 1988, followed by AMD, Motorola, Samsung, and others, which transformed Austin into a high technology center and fulfilled Kozmetsky's vision of what he termed a "technopolis."

"His institutional legacy at The University of Texas at Austin is extraordinary," UT President Larry Faulkner said of Kozmetsky, "and his influence will be felt for generations."

Computer cards © Brian Goldman

Computer Punch Cards


For BBA students in the 1960s, computer punch cards were a way of life when the business school was the first on campus to offer computer programming courses.

With the opening of the Business-Economics Building in 1962, Dean John White initiated a complete review of the undergraduate curriculum. More courses emphasized mathematics, analysis, leadership development, and, especially, the use of technology. Caught up in the fervor of the Space Age, many envisioned a future where business and technology worked together to solve the problems of modern society. A familiarity with computers was vital for BBA students.

In 1962, White invested a hefty $75,000 to purchase an IBM 1620 Data Processing System, a room-size computer that could perform more than 1,500 calculations per second. Every undergraduate student was required to develop a proficiency in its use. "In preparation for the computer world of the Seventies and Eighties, all students in the College of Business explored the mysteries of this fantastic machine," explained the Cactus yearbook.

Introductory computer programming meant tedious work with punch cards. Each was 7 3/8 x 3 1/4 inches with 80 columns of numbers. The holes punched into the card could be a record of data or an instruction for the computer. Complex programs required stacks of cards — called "decks" — to be read by the computer. A separate keypunch with a typewriter keyboard was used to prepare the cards.

By the mid-1980s, punch cards gave way to the personal computer, and the college sought an innovative new approach to combine technology, business, and instruction. In 1985, a renovation to the business building created what today is the Hall of Honors, with a room above it that was literally suspended from the ceiling. With a multimillion dollar grant from IBM, the room was outfitted with 48 workstations, each connected to a variety of computer information networks across the country years before the popular use of the internet. This "classroom of the future" was christened Classroom 2000 and launched the college's Management of Information Systems program. Equipped with the latest audio, visual, and telecommunications technologies, some of which were invented by the instructors, the facility was nationally recognized and considered a showpiece on the campus.


Susie Brown's Typewriter  © Brian Goldman

Susie Brown's Typewriter

For Susie Brown, associate dean of business affairs at the McCombs School, the white IBM Selectric typewriter in her office has been a longtime friend, and she's not quite ready to part with it. In the 1980s, before the advent of modern computer word processing, Brown and her typewriter produced endless memos to colleagues, reports for the dean, and, perhaps most important, thank-you letters to alumni and friends who had contributed financially to the business school.

While Red McCombs' exceptional $50 million gift in 2000 might be the best known, alumni support has always been essential to the success of the BBA program. In the 1920s, when Dean Anderson Fitzgerald first included internship experience as a degree requirement, alumni of the fledgling school were solicited to help create internship opportunities. A career placement office was opened in 1940, and alumni were again called upon to assist with employment leads and volunteer as mentors. As financial needs for the school increased, Dean John White created an advisory council in 1960, both to "provide an avenue of direct liaison between the faculty and the business community" and to "promote the objectives of the College of Business Administration through fundraising activities." Alumni came through with the 1964 purchase of an IBM 1620 Data Processing System, which introduced computer programming courses to the campus before a computer sciences department existed.

In more recent times, assistance for undergraduate students has taken many forms. Annual giving has been a mainstay for alumni support since the 1980s, and in 1990 the business school could boast of being the first UT college or school to achieve $1 million in donations within a year. Dozens of professorships have been endowed by generous alumni to promote cutting-edge teaching and research, while other endowments help bolster the efforts of the BBA Undergraduate Program Office, which include leadership development, student organization assistance, and the BBA Exchange Program, where almost half of all McCombs undergraduates participate in study abroad. The BBA Alumni Endowed Excellence Fund supports student-led initiatives that enhance the educational experience, while the McCombs Scholarship Fund, initiated in 2010, has already created 120 scholarships totaling $33.5 million in philanthropic support and is used to recruit top-tier students to McCombs. Since 2013, the McCombs Parents Council has been involved with UT's Family Weekend and student recruitment and raised more than $220,000 in assistance.

Austin writer Jim Nicar runs the website


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