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University History is Reviewed at Dedication Ceremonies

"The University was established because it was a good thing and wouldn’t cost anybody anything," President H. Y. Benedict declared at the laying of the cornerstone Saturday afternoon in the loggia of the New Main Building before about two hundred and fifty students and University dignitaries. "The founders believed that it would not cost taxpayers of the State a cent."

Dr. W. J. Battle, professor of classical languages, was master of ceremonies. Colonel A. A. Stiles, who witnessed the first dedication exercises and also was present at the removal of the old cornerstone in 1934, gave a word ??cture of both ceremonies. Beauford H. Jester, former chairman of the Board of Regents, told the story of the genesis and erection of the New Main Building.

Weather Unusual

The weather resembled that of November 17, 1882, when the cornerstone of Old Main Building was laid before three thousand spectators, Dr. Benedict recalled. "It was, as usual, unusual."

"The dedication in 1882 was quite an occasion," he said. He quoted Dr. Ashbel Smith, first president of the Board of Regents, whose words, "No cornerstone anywhere in this State yet laid or which can be laid can exceed the importance of this cornerstone," will be engraved on the new tablet.

"Wichita Falls is not the only thing that faith built," he declared. "The University of Texas was built by faith and will be maintained by faith."

1882 Witness Speaks

"My memory of the ceremonies of 1882 is as clear as if the old pageant were passing by this minute," Major Stiles, who was eleven years old at the time of the first dedication said. "The building in construction was about four feet high, and there was nothing else on this hill except a few scattering mesquite trees."

Mrs. Helen Marr Kirby had had a fashionable young ladies’ school, he said and there was a somewhat fashionable boys’ school. Both were represented in the ceremony. The Austin Grays, military company, were to escort the young ladies if the school. They stood in company front half way down the hill, and Mrs. Kirby’s young ladies came giggling by.

"They told us the stone would be lowered by three motions," Major Stiles continued. A man with a purple sash and a little square with a ribbon on it touched the stone like someone trying to flick of an ant and said, "The stone has been tested and found square." Another, with a long string and a plumb on the end of it, said, ‘The stone has been tested and found plumb.’ A third man found it level.

Old Stone Removed in 1934

"But when we removed that cornerstone in 1934, we found that the mortar hadn’t been properly placed, and the stone was neither square nor plumb nor level. The ants had got in, and we had to kill them before we could get the stuff out of the box."

Cameras flashed as President Benedict deposited the old record box with its original contents into its new nesting place, the inside of which was constructed with brick from the walls of Old Main Building.

Mr. Jester explained that in the New Main Building is a representation of our Southwestern civilization. The influence of the Old South is found in the bequest of almost $500,000 by the late Major George W. Littlefield, Confederate veteran, for the erection of a new administration building.

The revenues from the grazing lands endowed by our Texas forefathers was used as a security for the loans granted for the construction of the building. And the money in the form of grants and loans given by the present New Deal government, through the P.W.A., made the construction possible.

Special mention was made of the work of Major Littlefield, the late Judge R. L. Batts, Governor James V. Allred, Comptroller J. W. Calhoun, John N. Garner, Senator Morris Sheppard, the late Congressman James Buchanan, state senators and representatives, and William L McGill, director of student publications in the University.

H. J. Lutcher Stark, chairman of the Board of Regents, deposited the new record box, which contained recent University publications and documents, beside the old one. "I am reliably informed that there are no toads and rattlesnakes–and I hope no ants–in this box," he declared. "I hope it will remain here for the next hundred years, in the bricks of the Old Main Building."

The ceremonies ended with the singing of "The Eyes of Texas."

Daily Texan. February 29, 1937.
Article by: Mavournee Fitzgerald

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3 May 1999
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