Why is it a triangle? What does it memorialize? The answer to first question about UTEP’s Memorial Triangle is simple. It is a triangle because that is the shape of the land that was left over between the intersections of Wiggins, Hawthorne, and University. The first two streets were laid out as spokes radiating outward from Old Main. When they were later bisected by University Avenue, the result was a triangular patch of earth with no symbolic meaning whatsoever. In fact, in 1963, the Mission ’73 planning committee proposed elongating the triangular space into a rectangle, moving the flag pole to the east, and adding water features.
The answer to the question of memorialization is more detailed. The space was referred to as “Memorial Triangle” from the first announcement of plans to do something with the space in 1947. The flag pole was moved from its first location near Old Main, however, no monument or memorial was placed on the space for ten years. In 1957, an anonymous group paid for a bronze plaque honoring veterans who had fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. In 1989, on the occasion of the school’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the plaque was replaced with a new one that added the Vietnam War to the list. That same year a Texas Historical Commission marker was attached to a rock at the southeast corner of the triangle. In 1998, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the University’s ROTC chapter, a third plaque was placed commemorating students, staff, and faculty who served in the armed forces.
[Sources: Mission ’73: A Ten Year Plan Proposed by Citizens of El Paso for Texas Western College (University of Texas at El Paso, 1963), insert facing 35; The Prospector, November 22, 1947, 1, February 14, 1948, 1, January 15, 1957, 3.]