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A Piece in Time

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By Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts
Published: Nov. 18

Time CapsuleA glimpse of life at The University of Texas at Austin’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) during the 1940s and ’50s was sealed within the building blocks of the former ROTC building for more than half a century.

Last fall, a crew of construction workers stumbled upon a 54-year-old time capsule in the cornerstone of Steindam Hall during demolition. About a year later, the ROTC and UT Veteran’s Committee gathered at the UT Club located within the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to crack open the 4-by-12-inch copper box.

Frank Denius, a noted philanthropist and University of Texas at Austin alumnus (Business/Law, ’49), had the honors of revealing the contents before the committee. A decorated World War II veteran, Denius has a special connection to this piece of time.

Denius, who helped establish and fund the history department’s Normandy Scholars Program in 1990, proudly displayed a trove of photographs and well-preserved historical documents. Among the items was a 1957 ROTC textbook with a preface signed by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.nother interesting find was a letter from the 1954 Board of Regents detailing the plans to establish the original ROTC building, which was later renamed Russell A. Steindam Hall in 1972. Steindam was a University of Texas Army ROTC graduate who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970 for giving “the last full measure of devotion” in service of the nation in Vietnam.

As Denius tenderly sifted through the contents, he recognized some familiar faces in the glossy black and white photographs. Among the photographs were images of cadets at Fort Hood Summer Camp, B52 bombers, and a Veterans Day march down Congress Avenue.

The time capsule also included a book detailing the history of the Naval ROTC from its inception in 1940 until 1957, a 1956 Air Force ROTC yearbook, a brief history of the Army ROTC following its establishment in 1947, and shoulder patches pre-dating the university’s burnt-orange signature color.

“It was an honor to participate in the opening of the time ROTC capsule because it gave me a glimpse into the history and legacy of Air Force ROTC at the University of Texas,” says Col. Jeffrey Staha, chair and professor Air Force Science. “The photographs and documents tell a story of service and tradition that today’s Air Force ROTC cadets strive to uphold. The time capsule and its contents also link the past with the present with the common link being a legacy of service to our nation and its defense.”

Lt. Col. Joseph Kopser, professor and chair of military science, said the capsule’s contents offer a rare glimpse back into a significant point in ROTC history.

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