Mining School, 1913-

By on February 23, 2012

[Note: This is the first in a series of posts on “The Layers of UTEP History“]

UTEP’s story began at least a decade before the founding of the institution. This early period reveals two influences that would shape the institution over the coming century: the aspirations of El Paso community members for their school and the guidance of state leaders—the school has always been directed by the Board of Regents of the University of Texas and its first three leaders carried the title of “Dean.”

City leaders called for a mining school as early as 1902 but The University of Texas in Austin, which already had mining courses on the books, blocked the request. Thwarted in this attempt, the city worked with Fort Bliss to establish a short-lived Military Institute. In 1910, when UT announced it would no longer enroll students in its mining program, El Paso leaders jumped again at the opportunity. State legislation passed in 1913 authorized the creation of a school–if local leaders would put up the money for it. In the spring of 1914, the El Paso Chamber of Commerce announced that it had received commitments to the amount of $50,000, enough to purchase the available Military Institute campus and reopen it in the fall as the State School of Mines and Metallurgy. Over the coming years they would donate money, land, and time to the success of the school.

Twenty-seven students enrolled to begin classes on September 28, 1914. Tuition was free, but fees were set at $30. After a fire in 1916 destroyed the main building of the four-structure campus, the school moved to its current location. Seeing a similarity between El Paso’s foothills and the mountains of Bhutan featured in a National Geographic cover story, Kathleen Worrell urged her husband (Dean S. H. Worrell) to persuade the Regents to build the school in this distinctive style. In 1919, the U.T. System was formally established and the mining school became the first branch in the System. The following year it was renamed the College of Mines and Metallurgy. By 1923, a handful of buildings could be seen clinging to the hill in which students practiced mining under the direction of the dynamite-wielding dean J. W. “Cap” Kidd. The entrance to the mineshaft they dug is still accessible and the Bhutanese architecture is still dominant. The story of the Miner Nation had begun.

Timeline

1902: El Paso Herald issues first call for a college
1903: International Miners’ Association meets in El Paso and resolves to secure a school in the city
1907: El Paso Military Institute opens
1913: Texas state legislature authorizes a mining school
1914: El Paso city leaders commit to support the school, State School of Mines and Metallurgy opens, 27 male students enroll (1 from Mexico)
1915: First issue of student publication The Prospector
1916: First commencement, first female students, fire destroys the main building
1917: Five El Pasoans donate (current) land, Bhutanese architecture urged by Kathleen Worrell
1919: Renamed U. T. Department of Mines and Metallurgy, Student Association established
1920: St. Patrick’s Day student initiation ritual begins, renamed College of Mines and Metallurgy
1923: Alumni Association established, “M” painted on Franklin Mountains, J. W. “Cap” Kidd becomes dean

Keith A. Erekson served as the Executive Director of UTEP's Centennial Celebration from December 2011 through May 2014. Learn more at keitherekson.com.