Juan and Marjorie Lawson

By on February 7, 2014

Juan and Marjorie Lawson first came to El Paso in 1965. They both loved El Paso from the start.  Juan Lawson was an active-duty reserve officer in the Army, stationed at Fort Bliss.  While her husband concentrated on his job with air defense artillery, Marjorie Lawson settled into life as an officer’s wife.  The quiet life soon became uncomfortable for her, and she started looking for a job.  Both husband and wife had earned degrees form Howard University in Washington D.C.–she with a Master’s in English and he with a Ph.D. in Physics. Juan and Marjorie Lawson

 

An experienced lecturer, Marjorie Lawson saw an opportunity for employment at Texas Western College.  The faculty at the time was not integrated although there were African-Americans students at the campus.  Her application was initially rejected, but Dr. John O. West, Dr. Joseph Ray, and Dean Ray Small championed Professor Lawson with the Board of Regents in Austin.  A month later, Marjorie Lawson was hired as the first African-American member of Texas Western’s faculty.  The University broke race barriers by hiring Professor Lawson to teach English Composition and Literature.  Dr. Mimi Gladstein, also new to Texas Western, shared an office with Professor Lawson. She remembers her friend and colleague as beautiful and vivacious with a love for teaching. Professor Lawson taught for a total of 18 years.  She passed away in 1984.

lawsonJuan

 

One year after the University hired his wife, Dr. Juan Lawson, having completed his tour with the Army, also came looking for employment. In 1967, Dr. Lewis Hatch was influential in hiring Dr. Lawson as Texas Western’s first African-American Ph. D. faculty member.  He found a tentative acceptance among his academic peers and, according to Dr. Lawson, over time his colleagues came to regard him as a competent, qualified individual “without regard to my complexion.”

 

In the fall of 1975 Dr. Lawson became the first African-American Dean of Science.  His title was Dean Ad Interim while the administration tested the waters and waited to see how he was received by his colleagues.  Within three to four months, his title was changed to dean.  Over the course of his career he published a number of papers, reached full professorship, served on many committees, received a NASA grant to study volcanism one of the moons of Jupiter, and held many distinguished administrative positions.  Dr. Lawson retired from UTEP in 1992 to pursue other interests.

 

 

In the fall of 1975 Dr. Lawson became the first African-American Dean of Science.  His title was Dean Ad Interim while the administration tested the waters and waited to see how he was received by his colleagues.  Within three to four months, his title was changed to dean.  Over the course of his career he published a number of papers, reached full professorship, served on many committees, received a NASA grant to study volcanism on a moon of Jupiter, and held many distinguished administrative positions.  Dr. Lawson retired from UTEP in 1992 to pursue other interests.

 

lawson

Interview with Dr. Juan Lawson

Interview with Dr. Mimi Gladstein

Digital Commons @ UTEP, Interview no. 667

Diamond Days: An Oral History on The University of Texas at El Paso  http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/

Photo of Juan and Marjorie Lawson provided by Dr. Lawson

El Paso Herald-Post records, MS348. Special Collections Department, University of Texas at El Paso Library