The (Margaret Berry) Student Activity Center?

Movement Grows to Name New Building After UT Icon

The sprawling University of Texas campus boasts more than 110 buildings. Some are named for distinguished professors, UT presidents, or regents. A few, like Gregory Gym, bear the names of important alumni, while others acknowledge generous donors to the University.

Usually the process for naming a building begins with the administration and gets approved by the Board of Regents, but in the last year some alumni have started a movement—largely via social media—to rename the newly opened Student Activity Center after Margaret Berry, BA ’37, Life Member and Distinguished Alumna.

A fourth-generation Texan, Berry graduated the same year the UT Tower opened. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, and her dissertation, Student Life and Customs at the University of Texas: 1883-1933, became the foundation for her book UT Austin: Traditions and Nostalgia, a staple in bookstores along the Drag for decades. Berry also completed an illustrated history of the University, Brick by Golden Brick (a resource compilation on University of Texas buildings) and UT History 101.

Iris Camille Claudio

In 1962, Berry joined the University staff in the Dean of Students office, and is perhaps best known among alumni for her class “Self and the Campus Society,” which she taught for 25 years. The class was intended to prepare UT students for leadership positions on campus and after graduation.

Though she retired in 1980, at 95 Berry continues to be among the most revered personalities on the Forty Acres, sharing her knowledge and affection for the University through a full schedule of public appearances before students and alumni. She served on the Commission of 125, was president of the Retired Faculty-Staff Association, is an active member of the Texas Exes Scholarship Committee and UT Heritage Society, and has served on the Texas Exes Council. At the request of the provost’s office, Berry agreed to teach a freshman seminar from 1995–2002.

Rick Potter, BJ ’77, and Cyndy Powell, BJ ’75, MPA ’83, Life Members, are spearheading the effort to rename the Student Activity Center to honor Berry, and the notion has quickly become popular. Last year, UT Student Government passed a resolution of support, and the list of those who endorse the idea continues to grow.

Among them are former UT president Peter Flawn, Life Member; Bill Livingston; Mike Myers, BBA ’59, Life Member; Frank Denius, LLB ’49, Life Member; longtime Longhorn Band Director Vince DiNino, Life Member; and a host of previous student body and Texas Exes presidents.

The University has not yet said whether it supports the effort or whether other plans exist to rename the building after someone else. Margaret Berry’s supporters will be meeting with the administration this summer.

Editor’s Note: An astute reader has pointed out that the Student Government resolution mentioned in this article did not explicitly support naming the Student Activity Center for Margaret C. Berry. Rather, the resolution supported the exploration of naming the SAC for Berry or a similar candidate.

 

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