Dear alumni,

Did you know that the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, who provided the spark that established the University of Dallas, integrated their schools long before desegregation?

As founding Bishop Thomas K. Gorman announced, “The University of Dallas will be a Catholic coeducational college, welcoming students of all faiths and races and offering work on the undergraduate level with graduate school to be added as soon as possible.” When it opened in 1956, UD was the only private college in Texas to be integrated and the only Catholic coeducational college. 

Part of the naturalness of welcoming all to UD came from the international character of the faculty and staff. The Cistercians spoke several languages and shared varied experiences. The Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur were founded in Belgium. There were fascinating stories every day, cultures to understand and a curriculum that sought the meaning of being human.

The students came from all over as well. Everyone pitched in to help with recruitment, including Bishop Gorman, who sent a letter to the bishops of Central and South America inviting their parishioners to apply. Through the National Competitive Examination, the university recruited from across the country. UD has often had the largest out-of-state percentage of students of any college in Texas. Variety enriched the experience while encouraging careful listening and understanding, even in matters as simple as food preferences. Before the tragedy of 9/11, the percentage of international students, especially those studying graduate business, was huge. The campus and the city were fascinated by the annual International Days, which featured incredible food, performances and artifacts from around the world.

The university worked hard to welcome everyone to the hilltop overlooking Dallas — not just because it was a new institution and needed to make folks aware of its existence, but because sharing hospitality is integral to the generous pursuit of truth and virtue. Virtually every event was followed by a reception, a time for greeting and conversation. However, in the first decades, there was no food service after 6 p.m. and very little staff. When a department scheduled a reception, it provided it. My favorite memories include helping the illustrious Louise Cowan, PhD, prepare fruit trays for an event in Gorman Faculty Lounge at which she was to be one of the speakers! The little kitchen attached to the lounge was widely used.

31_Cowan _ Louise _ students -8x10

We depended on student volunteers for ushering, guiding, pouring punch and preparing the spaces. Organizations such as the Student Foundation came into being in the early 1980s. My daughter Sybil (Novinski) Sutton, BA ’90, has fond memories of delivering care packages sent by parents. One semester, the toy included was a hula hoop. That added delight to the campus and raised funds for the Meg Davis Rome Scholarship. Projects reflected the aims of Charity Week, originally a weekend, another tradition of generosity, creativity and fun!

In 1974, UD welcomed Jacques Barzun, the first of the renowned McDermott Lecturers. Students helped make these large gatherings possible and discovered opportunities for contact and conversation with the scholars. Steve Carney, BA ’77, gathered his friends to park cars for such events, providing an important impromptu valet service — with some tips!

Parties at faculty homes were a staple of Orientation when freshmen classes were a bit smaller. Faculty still enlist students to help with home projects and babysitting, and many entertain them at holidays, creating lasting friendships. As Joe Hogan, BA ’74, wrote, remembering a favorite hymn: “We are companions on a journey who share and learn from each other. Little things strike chords of memory, like Robert Sardello’s habit of taking words apart, which helped us ‘under-stand,’ helped us break down the complex, and welcome both the question and the questioner.”



Related news