Graduation Commencement – Eighty Years Ago

By on May 4, 2012

Eighty years ago this month, the seventeenth annual commencement ceremony for the College of Mines and Metallurgy (a branch of the University of Texas) took place in El Paso. The class of 1932 had a total of twenty graduates, with nine women graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and eleven men earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mining Engineering. The College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP) started the academic year with an enrollment of 759 students, the largest ever in the college’s history at the time. The 1931-1932 academic school year saw The College of Mines and Metallurgy hire more faculty than ever before, along with a significant growth in the number of courses available for students. The 1932 address was given by the college’s Health Officer, Doctor Burt F. Jenness. After the speech, various musical numbers were performed by Mrs. H.A. Owsley, as well as the College of Mines Male Quartet, among others. Dr. Jenness, who had been at the college since 1918, seemed the perfect fit to be the ceremony’s speaker because of his closeness with the students. He would later state in the journal School and Society that “The health officer of a college is perhaps closer to the students than any other member of the staff, even the dean.”

The class of 1932 had some prominent graduates. Else Kohlberg Craige was the daughter of successful business entrepreneurs and civic activists Ernst and Olga Kohlberg, both originally from what is now Germany. Ernst, who arrived in El Paso in 1875 met Olga on a trip to Europe where she would follow him back to El Paso in 1884. Mrs. Kohlberg helped organize the Mount Sinai Jewish Congregation in 1898. She was also the President of the El Paso Public Library board from 1903-1935. Another graduate in 1932, was Joseph Friedkin. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1909, he would later become the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commision from 1962-1986.

For more information regarding the Kohlberg family see the Kohlberg family papers guide at, located in UTEP’s C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department. Also available is an interview with College of Mines and Metallurgy alumni; former U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission, Joseph Friedkin, at

[Sources: Burt F. Jenness, “College Health Officer and Guidance,” School and Society 50, (July 15, 1939); and Francis L. Fugate, Frontier College: Texas Western at El Paso the First Fifty Years (El Paso, TX: Texas Western Press, 1964.)]

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Bryan Winter is an assistant in the C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department of the UTEP Library. He earned a BS in Geography from New Mexico State University, and is currently in his final year as an MA student in History at UTEP.