March 8, 2016
Women have always been a critical part of Texas Tech University.
It may seem like an odd fact to point out in 2016, but when the university was established in 1923 as Texas Technological College, the idea of a coed higher learning institution was still relatively new. At Texas Tech, equality was essential.
“They were all in it together,” Lynn Whitfield, the university archivist at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, said. “Men and women worked together to open the university.”
In 2014, the Texas Tech University Archives began recognizing the female faculty, staff and students who have made significant contributions to the university as part of Women’s History Month. The annual exhibit, “The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech,” will open at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 9) in the University Library’s Croslin Room. Terri Duncan, wife of Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan, will speak at the opening about the importance of celebrating women’s history.
The 2016 honorees include Marsha Sharp, former Lady Raiders basketball coach; Maxine Fry, the first female student body president; Hortense Williams Dixon, the first African-American to obtain a doctorate from Texas Tech; Anne Lynch, the first female Masked Rider; and Edna Gott, the first woman to achieve tenure in the Department of Economics and a founding member of the Women’s Studies Program.
Sharp is excited to be included among other Texas Tech women she highly respects.
“I think it’s such a great group, and this is obviously such a great thing for the university,” Sharp added. “It’s really special to be honored by Texas Tech because it’s been such a huge part of my life for most of my professional life, and I’ve been so thrilled to be able to be involved in all the things I’ve had the opportunity to do.”
Part of the exhibit, located in the Southwest Collection building, will focus on the six women selected for this year’s exhibit. Another part, housed in the Croslin Room, will feature a large collection of artifacts, clothing and photographs related to the women of Texas Tech. It’s the first year that the exhibit has been expanded to two locations, Whitfield said.
“This is a culmination of three years of exhibitions,” Whitfield said. “We have enough material now that we can expand it, including biographies and photos of all the women.”
Researching and verifying information about the women and minorities at Texas Tech is not always an easy task. Finding information on early trailblazers at the university is hard when it wasn’t documented at the time, Whitfield said. But the staff in the University Archives is working diligently to fill in the gaps.
“We have a long-standing history of diversity that’s there if you can find it,” she said.
Those included in the exhibit were not only groundbreakers at Texas Tech, Whitfield said. Women like Lucille Graves, the first African-American student admitted to the university and an exhibit honoree in 2015, went on to make an impact in their local communities.
“She was determined to go to Texas Tech and get a better education,” Whitfield said. “She took that education and employed it towards the first private school for African-Americans in Lubbock, which she founded.”
The school, Mary and Mac Private School, operated from 1954 until the 1990s. Last year, a historical marker was placed at the former school’s location in east Lubbock.
“She already had her bachelor’s,” Whitfield said of Graves. “She was taking those classes to be a better educator to youths who didn’t have the same opportunities as she did.”
The exhibit runs through May and includes 11 exhibit panels featuring the honorees and six oversized posters of women who have realized major university milestones. Whitfield encourages members of the Texas Tech and Lubbock communities to walk through the exhibit, which is open during Library hours.
“I think most people don’t realize how involved women were in establishing this university,” Whitfield said. “Through the diligence and dedication of the women featured in this exhibit, Texas Tech became and remains an institution dedicated to providing an excellent education and nurturing environment for women.”
Biographies of all the women included in the exhibits are available for viewing on the Notable Women from Texas Tech History page.
The Board of Regents of then-Texas Technological College formally established the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library in 1955, but the librarys collection dates to the early years of Texas Tech.
The largest rare-book library in 130,000 square miles, the major historical repository and research center spans a 78,000-square-foot facility with climate-controlled stacks and pulls tens of thousands of individual items to answer research requests from all over the world. In total, the SWC/SCL houses 22 million historical items, including the master Coronelli globe, constructed in 1688 and once owned by William Randolph Hearst.
The SWC/SCL offers: