History Department
History Department

Come Back to Garrison Reception

Mon, February 25, 2008

More than 160 people attended the reception and reopening ceremony. History Department Chair Alan Tully, College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl, members from the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management (CPFM), Office of Facilities Planning and Construction (OFPC), and Flintco, Inc., the construction company responsible for the renovation, and Plan II/Engineering student Anna Temple, all addressed the audience.

The crowd of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends of the History Department listened and laughed at the various stories of Garrison’s own illustrious and not-so-illustrious history during Chair Alan Tully’s presentation.

When Garrison was first built in 1926, it replaced the numerous shacks that practically surrounded the Main Building at the time, Tully said. Later in the early 1930s, the north entrance became the home to a large colony of bats. And as the department grew, the attic became home to new hires and teaching assistants, causing some to remark that the shacks had just been elevated to the fourth floor attic. Its dilapidated condition coupled with no windows or elevator contributed to its gloomy atmosphere. Those who had ever visited or had their offices on the fourth floor, knew all too well what he was referring to.

All that is gone now with an open layout, offices and conference rooms tucked neatly under the eaves, windows where the dormers used to be, and a new elevator that goes all the way to the top floor. But it was the impressive renovation of the building, while maintaining its historical features, that was paramount in each person’s speech.

At the beginning of the project, the plan had been to replace the more than 300 birch-wood windows with metal ones. But through Flintco’s determination to save the windows, they found a subcontractor, Restorhaus, Inc., from Lubbock, Texas who could do the job, and for less money than replacing them with metal ones. They removed all the windows and wooden doors, scraped off all the old 60s lead paint, hand tooled the windows so that double-paned reflexive glass would fit, and restored the wood to its original luster.

Flintco, Inc. submitted this project to the Central Texas Chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) in the renovation category and received the coveted Eagle for Excellence in Construction Award. They will be submitting it at the national level next.

“Maintaining the integrity of the historical value was very important,” said Dr. Steven A. Kraal, Sr. Associate Vice President of CPFM. “And if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the windows of Garrison are the soul to Garrison,” said Kraal, “and I hope to keep them another 80 years.”

While the original wooden windows could be saved, all the plumbing, electrical and mechanical had to be completely replaced. Plus, many Americans with Disability Act and accessibility updates had to be made to the building. As a result, this meant extensive demolition, and therefore, some of the antique green tile had to be replaced.

How were they able to match the original baked glazed flint tile, which is a natural stone that was used during the 1920s? Flintco had to conduct a nation-wide search and finally found a custom tile manufacturer from California that came closest to matching the original historic flint tile.

It still took multiple attempts before they came up with a match and it required hand-casting the new tile. Using the new green tile, Flintco made a commemorative gift and presented it to Dr. Pat Clubb, Vice President for Employee and Campus Services at the event.

Jim Overton, resident construction manager for UT Systems’ OFPC, presented UT’s Silver Certificate Award to Flintco Director of Estimating (pre-construction planning) Mike Hutter for exemplary safety performance during the renovation of GAR. The Safety Through Exemplary Performance award program was started by UT in 2006 to promote safety in construction and recognize those contractors who demonstrate that in the field. With over 113,000 man-hours on the GAR renovation, there was only one recordable accident.

This ended the awards and gifts presentations, but there was still much more to come. Master of Ceremonies and History Professor Joan Neuberger, who was the program coordinater for the Come Back to Garrison event, gave a tribute to her colleagues, and former and present students. “I am happy and proud to be a part of the History Department,” she said.

The Department of History is very happy to be back in its newly renovated original home, but it is really what happens in those classrooms and offices that is the heart of the department. Neuberger explained that “doing history” at UT involves a range of intellectual activities with both undergraduate history majors, as well as graduate students. “Selecting topics to generate undergraduate theses and graduate dissertation projects are certainly a part of what we accomplish with our students,” she said.


There is the selecting of undergraduate students from all disciplines to participate in the Normandy Scholar Program on WWII (NSP) that the History Department administers. The NSP takes a select group of undergraduate students to Europe to explore the sites of the Second World War after first studying about the war for 14 weeks during the spring semester. “But there is another element of what ‘doing history’ at UT also means,” she added, “and that is we often attract students who are not history majors.”

“Anna Temple is one of those student’s, and she has just returned from conducting field research on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana,” Neuberger said as she introduced Temple.

Temple immediately told the audience that even though she is a Plan II/Engineering major, she knew she wanted to work with a history professor for her undergraduate research thesis. Why? Because they had come highly recommended by other students who had been mentored by history professors for their theses. But that had not prepared her for the regular barrage of questions at her meetings with Assistant Professor James Wilson of the History Department to discuss her understanding of the reading material.

At these meetings, she was continually surprised by his questions, such as, “Who are the authors? Are they African? Are they from Botswana? What is their agenda? What are their possible biases?” Temple said. “Clearly, very important questions that are obvious to you as historians, but that's not quite what is emphasized in my engineering classes,” she told the crowd to much laughter.

While she had always been interested in public policy, it was only after these lengthy, thought-provoking sessions with Prof. Wilson that it became clear how essential it is to look at things from an historical perspective. “I began to realize things like: you can't talk about a highly mobile work force, without talking about how the migrant worker system was set up during colonialism. You can't talk about rolling out programs that use male circumcision as a way to prevent female-to-male transmission of HIV without understanding the historical and cultural meanings and connotations associated with male circumcision,” Temple added.

“No matter where my interest in public policy takes me, I will never make the mistake of excluding the perspective of the people I am trying to help, and that is a direct result of my working in the History Department,” she concluded to much applause.

Neuberger then introduced Dean Diehl, who said he shares University President William Power’s conviction that the humanities, and in particular the discipline of history, is of utmost importance in educating students and to society at large.

Powers committed $1.3 million during his inaugural address in 2006 to the History Department to support research, teaching and the new Institute for Historical Studies (IHS). "In the great universities throughout civilization, the teaching of history has always been fundamental," Powers recently said. "Every UT student, no matter his or her major, should study history in order to enjoy the full range of the intellectual experience."

And to that end, Diehl said he has also supplemented Powers’ funding to the History Department. “I am delighted to be working with an outstanding department chair, Alan Tully, and with his colleagues to build one of the best history departments in the nation,” Diehl said.

Chair Tully then announced new initiatives such as a Visiting Committee and the founding of the Institute for Historical Studies whose inaugural programs will focus on “Global Borders.” The Director of the Institute, Professor Julie Hardwick, was introduced.

There will be visiting faculty and fellows at the institute that will be give lectures, symposia and workshops. Present faculty will receive release time and funding to conduct their research.

Tully concluded the program with more history on the building itself. “Garrison was first occupied by the history, government, economic, sociology and psychology departments, but each left, except history,” he said. “This historical building is the History Department’s building, a rich pantheon. History is the building,” Tully declared.

He encouraging everyone to visit Garrison the next day for tours of the building, faculty lectures and exhibits throughout the day. And that they did—in droves!

Related Links:
Part II of Come Back to Garrison--all-day lectures
Liberal Arts to Reopen Garrison Hall, Home to Nationally Noted History Program
Campus Planning and Facilities Management
Office of Facilities Planning and Construction
Flintco, Inc., an American Indian contractor since 1908
Taylor Jones Images
Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Central Texas Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., National

Bookmark and Share