The University of North Texas began as North Texas Normal College. A normal college was the name given colleges that primarily educated students to be public school teachers.
And normal colleges, for whatever the reasons, were second rate citizens among colleges and universities.
Oft times their classroom credits wouldn't even transfer to a new college should a student move, say, from North Texas Normal to the University of Texas.
Or, if the credits were accepted, they came in as a "C" regardless of what grade the student had earned.
Additionally, at least in Texas, the legislature had a history of not giving fairly, much less adequate funding normal colleges. Instead they showering University of Texas and Texas A&M with an abundance.
So the question that has always haunted me is this: Why did college professors choose to teach in normal colleges when pay was substandard and the employment wouldn't enhance their resumes? If can only be because educating others in schools where they thought there was the most needed, rose above all else.
By the time I entered North Texas State College, it had slowly moved from its normal college beginnings to being North Texas State Teachers College and then North Texas State College. But its position in the world of academics hadn't risen significantly, even though the education it put out was equal to or better than all Texas state universities, public or private.
Oddly, in the late 1950s, Texas Christian University professor, Leon Breeden, was talked into taking over a relatively new program at North Texas, its jazz music studies. His jazz bands -- known by the hour of the day the band rehearsed -- became so exciting and popular that they became North Texas' world-wide ambassadors, playing for presidents, in foreign countries, in fact literally playing for audiences around the world.
The North Texas Lab Bands by themselves put Denton, Texas' North Texas State College on the academic map, and thus the status rose, and finally it became University of North Texas. The school couldn't be ignored anymore.
So after Mr. Breeden retired, it just seemed only right to me that the school owed him full honors -- an honorary doctorate degree and a building named after him. The story of the marriage of Leon Breeden to North Texas State College should be memoralized, I thought.
My nearly twenty-year pleas were largely ignored by the University under three presidents and several boards of regents.
But alas, on August 14, 2009, now 88-years old, Leon Breeden will become Dr. Leon Breeden. And there seems to be hope that a building, rehearsal hall, maybe a special classroom will be named after him within the near future.
Congratulations to those who made this happen, including President Gretchen Batzille, and college of music dean James Scott.
The University of North Texas finally got its priorities right.
BILL CHERRY, REALTORS
DALLAS - HIGHLAND PARK
Copyright 2009 - William S. Cherry