History of integration
Making college home
A team united
Pride and tradition
Remembering the early days
Roy Wright ('64) sits in the captain's chair of his successful State Farm Insurance agency in Duncanville. His hands outline a story in the air as he shares about his days at North Texas.
In the next office, family photos and service awards surround his wife, Cora Green Wright ('65), who proudly displays the UNT Cares plaque she received for encouraging students to attend classes at the UNT Dallas Campus.
A few miles away, Mary Dunn Smith ('61, '67 M.Ed.) walks through a classroom at the Alternative Teacher Certification department of the Dallas Independent School District. A transcript evaluator and mentor for the department, Smith has worked as a teacher and leader in curriculum development for 35 years. Her face lights up when she recalls friends she made while in Denton.
Emphasizing the positive
Although today their interests are different, the Wrights and Smith share the experience of being among the first African Americans to attend North Texas.
When they tell stories about overcoming early obstacles, they emphasize the positive.
"Some professors told me when I started their course that I wasn't going to pass," Roy says. "I didn't let that bother me. I just kept focusing on getting a good education."
Roy and Cora turned another disadvantage into an advantage. With most African Americans not allowed to live on campus, long walks to school were common. The Wrights prefer to remember that they met while walking that five-mile stretch.
Cora, one of the first African American women at North Texas to major in business administration, says her course work prepared her for a job with the mortgage agency Fannie Mae and for her current work at the insurance agency. She also found many friends at North Texas.
"Some of my fondest memories are of hanging out at the Baptist Student Union," she says. "I had a part-time job there and socialized with friends."
Smith, too, was one of the first African American women in her major — health, physical education and recreation. She says African American students networked among themselves on campus.
"I have warm memories of the friends I met there and still have today," she says.
A good education
With their successful careers and good quality of life, Smith and the Wrights set an example for their children to attend their alma mater.
The Wrights' daughter Corene ('94) says her earliest memories of North Texas involve visiting Estella Garrett, her mother's landlady during college.
"I have baby pictures of me, my family and my mother's college roommate sitting on Ms. Garrett's front porch," she says. "I didn't realize until years later that I was touching history."
Like her parents, Corene focused on getting a good education at North Texas.
"I studied a lot," she says. "Some of my classes influenced me to refocus my direction from journalism to Spanish."
Since her graduation, Corene has served as a Rotary Foundation ambassador to Spain and taught elementary and junior high Spanish classes in Dallas. Today, she is a bilingual teacher at Bayles Elementary School in Dallas.
Her sister, Rebecca ('89), says that their parents prepared them for life through their attitudes and their emphasis on education.
"They were strong on tradition," she says. "They believed if you began in a place like North Texas, you should finish there."
Rebecca, who studied business administration, credits her academic training and experiences at North Texas with laying the foundation for what she's doing now. She works as a marketing manager at the insurance agency and volunteers in a ministry supporting a women's shelter.
From left: Mary Dunn Smith ('61, '67 M.Ed.), her granddaughter Marquette McGee (UNT sophomore) and daughter Cheree Carter ('82)
Like the Wrights' daughters, Smith's daughter Cheree Carter ('82) attended North Texas.
"I heard my mother talk about the fun she had," says Carter, who is dean of instruction at James Madison High School in Dallas. "It was a good experience for her, even with some of the struggles she had."
When Carter reflects on her own experiences at North Texas, she says that, like her mother, she met with some discrimination in her classes. But, also like her mother, she chose to focus on the positive experiences.
She says she enjoyed social activities without limitations and often reminisces with her college friends. She says her daughter, sophomore Marquette McGee, chose to attend UNT largely because she heard about their good experiences.
McGee has no doubts about her education and future engineering career.
"I knew UNT was a good school when I first visited it," she says. "I loved the campus and got a quick response when I applied."
Unlike her grandmother, McGee has lived on campus and dined wherever she pleases.
"I'm aware that my grandmother paved the way for me to get a high-quality education," she says. "In this time and age, I can basically do anything I set my mind to do."
>>>Class favorites from the different generations