Editor’s note: The following is part of a weekly series commemorating the University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Celebration in 2014.
More than 70 unique buildings make up the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. Each structure constructed during the past century has served a distinct purpose — from providing classrooms and labs, housing students and hosting art exhibits to serving as an arena for the community to enjoy athletic and entertainment events.
While some of UTEP’s structures possess functional names, like the Psychology Building, the Education Building or the University Ticket Center, others are not so straightforward. Instead, their names honor individuals and organizations who contributed to the growth and transformation of the university from a small mining school to a comprehensive doctoral research university serving the Paso del Norte region.
Early in the university’s history, buildings often were named after members of the University of Texas System Board of Regents.
In 1928, Seamon Hall was the first building named to honor a faculty member: the recently deceased professor of metallurgy, William H. Seamon. While the school at the time could dedicate a building to an individual, it could not officially name it.
Nevertheless, the name “Seamon Hall” stuck.
Later, it became common to name buildings after benefactors to the university. For example, in 1948, the Cotton Memorial Building opened with fine and applied arts studios and labs. The building was named after Frank B. Cotton, a Boston industrialist who bequeathed thousands of acres of real estate in West Texas to the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy in 1937.
In addition to financing the Cotton Memorial Building, the trust supported the creation of an applied arts department and later funded research and instruction in biology, geology, anthropology and environmental science.
In 1978, the UT System Board of Regents authorized the naming of the Fox Fine Arts Center in honor of El Paso arts patron Josephine Clardy Fox. As a local El Pasoan who invested in Paso Del Norte real estate, Fox loved the arts; she collected paintings, oriental rugs, silver and other antiques. Upon her death in 1970, Fox became the university’s biggest benefactor to date. Though she was not an alumna, she left her entire estate, including her library filled with rare books and collectibles, to the university.
UTEP’s presidential residence — the Hoover House, located on Cincinnati Street — was named by the regents in 1965 to honor the family who donated the 7,063-square-foot mansion to the school.
Since its donation in 1965, the home has hosted dozens of dignitaries — from former Gov. Ann Richards to former first lady Laura Bush — and dozens of celebratory and ceremonial events.
UTEP President Diana Natalicio, speaking about the Hoover House, said, “We are deeply grateful to the Hoover family for their generosity in making this very special El Paso residence a part of our UTEP campus.”
The most recent university building to be named after a UTEP alumnus benefactor is the Mike Loya Academic Services Building. Famed El Pasoan Mike Loya, who is president of one of the world’s largest energy trading companies, received a mechanical engineering degree from UTEP before attending Harvard University. In 2011, Loya made a multimillion-dollar gift to UTEP to create the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce. The center supports research initiatives, graduate student development and entrepreneurship, and courses that integrate engineering and business education models to improve research capabilities.
Specific spaces within the campus are sometimes dubbed after notables, too.
The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts that sits within Seamon Hall serves as a place for art students to learn and showcase their work, and for the public to see work from acclaimed artists.
Gerald Rubin, who is a UTEP alumnus, founded the $1.3 billion Fortune 500 Company Helen of Troy. Later, donations to the university from Rubin and his wife, Stanlee, also a UTEP alumna, led to a state-of-the-art renovation of the center in 2004, named in their honor.
By honoring donors and successful alumni with building dedications, the university hopes to remind students of the people who are rooting for their success and contributing toward their futures.
It also stands as a note of encouragement to dream big.
When the Academic Services Building was renamed to honor Loya, President Natalicio said, “May this building serve to remind all the students who walk through its doors that excellence is expected, success is attainable, and that even the biggest dreams may not be big enough.”
Who knows, maybe some of today’s current students will have UTEP buildings named after them someday.
Nadia M. Whitehead is a former writer for UTEP's University Communications office.