University of Texas at Tyler Celebrates 50 Years

Brynna Williamson • Staff Editor

Image courtesy of UT Tyler
Image courtesy of UT Tyler

On the evening of Thursday, November 11th, UT Tyler celebrated a major milestone: 50 years of service helping, educating, empowering, and strengthening the community.

To celebrate this monumental anniversary, the school hosted a big, blowout “block party” situated in downtown Tyler’s square.

Attendees of the celebration talk amongst themselves. Photo courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Attendees of the celebration talk amongst themselves. Photo courtesy of Brynna Williamson

The event was a major success, with 13 booths of various UT Tyler offices and special partnerships adding to the celebratory atmosphere of the already-crowded downtown plaza. According to Brittany Childs, UT Tyler’s Executive Director of Community Partnerships, at least 250 people attended the event.

Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Left to right: Annalee Cook, Chandler Davis, Jeni Chilton. Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson

There were several unusual incentives for onlookers to join the excited group of people. First were the smells of hot meatballs, pulled pork sliders, and cheese quesadillas floating throughout the group, the second and very similar reason to join the event was free ice cream from Andy’s Frozen Custard, who had a tent set up with their delicious frozen treats beneath the trademark red canvas.

The third incentive for participation was the grooving sounds of UT Tyler’s own Jazz Band, who, situated behind white bandstands, blasted their bouncing music with the help of speakers located to either side of them.

Jazz members entertain attendees. Photo courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Jazz members entertain attendees. Photo courtesy of Brynna Williamson

The fourth encouragement was the widely-publicized introduction of the first-ever UT Tyler beer; the beer, created by students in Dr. Jordan Beaver’s new CHEM 1380, “Introduction to Fermentation Science” class, was based off of a recipe created by the inaugural class, was brewed in collaboration with ETX Brewing Company and with True Vine Brewing, and had its chemical components checked by UT Tyler research students.

Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Dr. Jordan Beaver posing with the new beer. Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson

According to Dr. Beaver, “The Fermentation Science program was started about two years ago, and… it was basically right at the start of COVID, so this is really the first semester that we’ve been able to do a lot of hands-on stuff… primarily what we’re teaching in this program is breaking down the process side of things, the application into a chemically applied study.”

Even faculty could be seen at the event with beers in one hand and sliders in the other as they chatted with friends or sat and listened to the music. Dr. Beaver joked, “I hope [that the students are as excited as I am]! I mean, it’s hard because I am very excited, but I bet… the students whose beer is now on tap they’re probably a little more excited than I am.”

The UT Tyler Patriot Dancers also made an appearance in their sparkly blue uniforms and neon orange pom-poms, and joining them was none other than the school mascot, Swoop. All parties milled around the venue, taking pictures, laughing, and adding to the general milieu.

Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Patriot Dancers starting at top left: Sydney Stoeberl, Allie Schultheis, Mya Takenaka, Lauren Hinch, Victoria Kinney, Jooyoung Lee Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson

Aside from the fun and games, the celebration of UT Tyler’s 50th anniversary resonated with several attendees.

To students and faculty alike, UT Tyler has meant something special in their lives, from “the opportunity of a lifetime… the opportunity I was really looking for, coming out of a graduate degree” for Dr. Beaver to “be[ing] able to insert yourself into an organization… and communicate with people” to Patriot Dancer and Accounting major Lauren Hench, to being able to “see the turnout of [fellow] alum[ni] and faculty” that Honors Co-ordinator Laura Grace Dykes enjoyed.

Swoop shows his Patriot Pride. Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson
Swoop shows his Patriot Pride. Image courtesy of Brynna Williamson

In fact, as student Kathryn Chamberlain said, “I’m from Houston, so campus is great—the environment, the professors are really nice, the students [are awesome]… it’s just… really great.”

The fact that the anniversary was such an important one really motivated everyone in attendance to look both to their own pasts— the individual stories that drew each and every person to the same place that evening—and to the future of UT Tyler as a whole.

“[The anniversary is] kind of like a milestone for the university, and it’s sort of like a starting point for this program, so it’s kind of… like ‘where could we go from here? How much could we expand by the 60th, or the 75th, or the 100th anniversary?” said Dr. Beaver.

Ms. Hench noted a similar theme of expansion when she mentioned, “To me, [the anniversary] shows growth—for our university, and being 50 years… that’s just awesome, that we’re being able to continue… expanding our university.”

Ms. Dykes waxed eloquent on the same idea as she mused, “I’m excited to see UT Tyler continue to grow. I really like that we offer a stable educational home for the East Texas area; there’s so many people in East Texas who have not gone to college… so many kids who have the opportunity, first-gen[eration] college students, that I really hope that what we do is to continue to just expand the number of people who get college educations. I think that’s great, because all that does is provide more opportunities for people in our area to grow and live happy, better lives.”

Others, such as Ms. Chamberlain, were excited for the possibility of the growth in the activities that UT Tyler might be hosting in the next 50 years: “There’s been talk of a football team!... If they had a football team, I would’ve joined the marching band…. I did marching band in high school,” she said with a smile. She continued on to say, “I am [proud to celebrate 50 years with UT Tyler]… everyone’s really great here—faculty, students, staff…it’s been a great experience for me!”

In all, the closing remarks from Ms. Dykes really wrap up what was definitely a fun, successful event, an important celebration, and the deep feelings of many regarding UT Tyler as a whole: “I’m really proud to be a UT Tyler alum[ni]… Ut Tyler [is] where I want to be a part of! It’s kind of my favorite part of Tyler.”

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