UT’s McCombs School Of Business Celebrates A Centennial

UT Campus in 1916. Courtesy photo

UT Campus in 1916. Courtesy photo

The McCombs School of Business is one of the oldest undergraduate business programs in the country, and in the upcoming school year, the BBA program will celebrate it’s centennial. Over the past 100 years, UT’s business school has grown from an initial cohort of just 45 students to a total enrollment of 4,700.

Last year, 6,968 applicants vied for one of its 948 freshmen seats. In its centennial year, McCombs expects to bring in a record number of new business majors.

David Platt, associate dean of the undergraduate program at McCombs, says the school will be doing a number of things to celebrate the anniversary. They’ve created an anniversary logo for the school and they’ll host celebratory events when students arrive in the fall, and again the spring.

The school is also taking a deep dive into its history, exploring stories and pieces of history often long forgotten. Jim Nicar, a historian, has been brought on to dig up old tales and digital assets.  Nicar says they’re still doing research, and they’re still uncovering stories. But they’ve already found quite a few unusual tidbits about the school’s past.

Through the years, the business school has seen two World Wars and once reached a class size of 10,000 students. Its students range from airline presidents and entrepreneurs to the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry, and two Texas governors, including current governor Greg Abbott.

Here are some of the highlights from McCombs’ past:

1912: THE FIRST BUSINESS CLASSES WERE HELD AT UT

Spurgeon Bell. Courtesy photo

Spurgeon Bell. Courtesy photo

In 1912, Spurgeon Bell was hired as the first business instructor at UT. He had graduated from UT himself, in 1903, with a degree in economics, and was was hired at an annual salary of $3,400.

Business classes began in the fall term. Then called the Department of Business Training, the classes were part of the College of Arts and Sciences, and were heavy on accounting and statistics. Nicar said there were also survey courses in banking and corporations.

In 1913, a second professor, John Treleven was hired, and classes in marketing, sales, insurance, advertising, and commercial law were added.

In the first year, 45 students enrolled in the classes.

1912-1932: BUSINESS CLASSES WERE HELD IN UNPAINTED SHACKS

1912 Business Training Shacks. Courtesy photo

1912 Business Training Shacks. Courtesy photo

For the first two decades, the business classes were held in temporary shacks. Nicar says the university was expanding faster than it’s funding allowed, at the time, so money for new classrooms wasn’t in the budget. Instead, they set up pinewood shacks. They had no fans, and only potbelly stoves for heat.

As a professor, Bell’s daily routine began by stoking the coals left by the custodian the night before, then hauling in firewood from a pile stacked behind the building. Nicar says they were purposefully left unpainted, in hopes that the state would find their appearance embarrassing, and replace them with real buildings.

April 25, 1916: THE BBA PROGRAM IS CREATED

Despite the shacks, business classes became very popular. Within four years, students enrolling had more than doubled, reaching 115, out of the 2,600 students at UT. Nicar says faculty were eager to create a new degree program, which would emphasize the professional and leadership angle of business training. So the UT president petitioned the Board of Regents, and at a meeting on April 25, 1916, the Board created the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).

1917: FRED ADAMS OF ADAMS EXTRACTS IS THE FIRST TO GRADUATE

1916-1917 was the first year of the BBA program, and the first class graduated in 1917. Of the nine BBA majors, the first to graduate was Fred Adams of Beeville, TX. His father ran a business called Adams Extracts in Beeville, which specialized in spices and extracts, like vanilla.

After graduating, Adams purchased the company from his father and moved it to just outside Austin. It has since moved again, but is still running today, and is one of Texas’ oldest businesses.