City College, 1927-

By on February 28, 2012

[Note: This post continues the series on the “Layers of UTEP History“]

New aspirations for the tiny mining school surfaced as soon as it opened its Bhutanese doors in the current campus location. Unsatisfied with merely a mining school, El Paso community leaders worked to establish an additional College of the City of El Paso and the two schools shared the same facilities during the 1917-1918 school year. When leaders in Austin forbade the mining faculty from teaching city college students, the newer college folded in 1920. However, the El Paso School District seized the torch and opened a junior college on the top floor of the new El Paso High School. Eighteen students enrolled in the fall of 1920, followed by 106 in 1921–thirteen more than were then at the Texas College of Mines (as the school was informally known).

In 1923, the Board of Regents considered merging the two schools but could not act without legislative action. Over the next three years, calls for a merger erupted publicly with news stories and letters to the editor circulating as widely and wildly as private rumors and criticisms. By the middle of the decade, Austin leaders calculated that they would save about $60,000 per year by moving mining classes back to their main campus and leaving El Pasoans to their own little college. El Paso politicians convinced the Chamber of Commerce to again move in favor of the College of Mines, arguing that a branch of the state university was more valuable than a local junior college. Early in 1927, state leaders expressed willingness to add more subjects to the College of Mines—particularly teacher training—and in May the junior college held its last commencement and merged into the College of Mines in the fall. In 1931, the college’s head became a “president” and a new “school” of arts and education joined a “school” of mining and metallurgy.

Penny-pinching and pluck kept the school open during the Great Depression. New Deal money funded Holliday Hall and Kidd Field while a state appropriation brought a new museum; dorms and a library followed. Many of UTEP’s earliest traditions can be traced back to this layer: Homecoming, an annual Sun Bowl football game between the college and El Paso High School (that was later expanded), a mascot, the Gold Diggers performing group, and the rivalry between the colleges of engineering and liberal arts. Enrollment reached 1,000 in 1939, and three years later liberal arts awarded the institution’s first graduate degree.

 

Timeline

1927: Merges with El Paso Junior College
1929: First homecoming
1931: College of arts and education established
1932: Gold Diggers organized, Holliday Hall and Hendricks (now Kidd) Field
1935: First Sun Bowl game TCM vs. El Paso High School
1936: Centennial Museum, Men’s dorm (Worrell), Women’s dorm (Benedict)
1937: Admin/Library building (Geological Sciences)
1939: Enrollment reaches 1,000
1942: First graduate degree (MA)
1943: First reference to a live burro mascot named “Dynamite”

Bonus Question: Using the timeline above, can you identify the year of the photograph?

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