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November 28, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 13



A Class Act: Informal Classes marks 30th anniversary

Director of Health & Safety says to exercise caution, but keep things in perspective

UT Press offers scholarly books about Middle East

UT and LULAC develop Austin Youth Leadership Academy

Advancements in disease research, mathematical theory take honors at Siemens competition

$7.2 million grant funds medical research

Marketing professor's research blends expertise in music industry, electronic commerce

New division to enhance teaching effectiveness, learning opportunities

Four teams to compete in MOOT CORP® finals

Eckhardt continues to safeguard campus history six years after his death

Norma Cantú brings expertise into classroom

$2.15 NSF grant to improve production of oil, gas

Research team discovers mechanism regulating plant growth

Engineers harness "quantum dots" for neurological research

Orange Santa program makes season brighter

Readership Survey

Anti-terrorism expert calls for increased steps to combat terrorism

Arete: Jessica J. Summers

School of Social Work gets funding for substance abuse research

A salute to military veterans, POWs, MIAs




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Six years after his death, University of Texas at Austin professor continues to safeguard campus history

The spirit of the late professor Carl Eckhardt, who conceived the idea for the orange victory lighting of The University of Texas at Austin Tower and crafted the processional maces carried at Commencement, lives on at the university. But nowhere is Eckhardt's voice more resonant than on the corner of Trinity Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

At this location in 1958, Eckhardt re-erected the Santa Rita No. 1 oil rig, the first well to "blow in" on university-owned lands in West Texas. In a recorded narration at the rig, Eckhardt speaks out to passersby, explaining the history of the rig and its part in starting a new era for the development of the university.

the Santa Anita No. 1 rig
File photo
In a recorded narration at the Santa Rita No. 1 oil rig at Trinity Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, the voice of the late Carl Eckhardt speaks out to passersby, explaining the history of the rig and its part in starting a new era for the development of The University of Texas at Austin.

It is fitting that Eckhardt, who died in 1995, and Santa Rita No. 1 should be paired together.

A former university student who went on to become a professor in mechanical engineering and director of the Physical Plant, Eckhardt also was a tireless historian with a consuming interest in the campus. His office was stuffed with university memorabilia, and he compiled a series of booklets chronicling the university's history, including one on the institution's first 20 presidents.

"The Santa Rita rig stands as a symbol of a reigning era at The University of Texas and a reminder of greater things to come," says Eckhardt in his 17-minute message that runs non-stop from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The rig originally was in Reagan County in West Texas and was named by its drillers for Santa Rita, the saint of the impossible because of popular opinion that there was no chance of a successful oil strike in that location.

The oil produced from Santa Rita No. 1, which came in on May 28, 1923, made more than $300 million, which, along with other rigs' profits, went to the Permanent University Fund created by the state constitution.

The pump was moved to Austin in 1940 and stayed in storage for 18 years before it was restored and placed at the current site.

The oil fields in the Permian Basin area still are producing, and money from the endowment fund supports 18 institutions in the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems.

The rig does not operate all the time, because the university does not want to wear out the parts that now are more than 78 years old. Santa Rita No. 1 is run on special occasions — including during university home football games, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Honors Day, Texas Independence Day, Commencement day and, on May 28, discovery date of the rig's oil.

Eckhardt came to the university as a student in 1920 and remained here for almost his entire professional life. He taught mechanical engineering until his retirement in 1973 and also was at various times superintendent of the power plant, superintendent of utilities and director of the Physical Plant.

Eckhardt first promoted the idea of the annual Service Awards Program that recognizes the university's non-teaching staff.

All along the way, Eckhardt dedicated himself to documenting the history of the university, probably unaware that in many instances he was making history himself.

Eckhardt thought of the idea of bathing the Tower in Longhorn orange light in 1939. He placed orange filters over the lights, and when the idea became a hit, special orange lights were installed. Eckhardt handcrafted the 40 maces that are carried at Commencement and Honors Day ceremonies using wood from the original Old Main Building.

The university maces are on permanent display on the first floor of the Flawn Academic Center.

When Eckhardt re-erected the Santa Rita rig on campus, he did it not only as an important symbol of the university's birth as a major institution, but "as a reminder to each entering student of the achievement of those who have preceded him or her and as a call to rival those achievements."

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