Laura Bush

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Working toward a major renovation project, the School of Architecture is in the midst of a fundraising campaign for a project, which is currently in the planning stages.

First announced in April, the project seeks to preserve Battle Hall, renovate the West Mall Office Building and construct a new addition to the school. In September, the Stillwater Foundation donated $1 million to the campaign, which hopes to raise $10-15 million.

Fritz Steiner, School of Architecture dean, and Luke Dunlap, the school’s director of development and external relations, were in Dallas on Wednesday to meet with former first lady Laura Bush to report on the progress of the project, according to Steiner.

“Battle Hall is certainly a very important resource for the School of Architecture, but it’s also a really important resource for the University,” Steiner said. “It was the first library, which is why Mrs. Bush is interested — because of its history as a library.” 

Dunlap said the project is vital to preserving historical architecture.

“It’s important to the University and the state of Texas to preserve the great architectural heritage that we have,” Dunlap said. “The other thing that it will allow us to do is create a unified School of Architecture complex within the UT campus.”

Steiner said the preservation of Battle Hall — which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is important to the University as a whole. 

Aside from enhancing the building, Steiner said the project will also address the various building codes Battle Hall currently violates in its current state, including some which could limit access in times of emergency.

“Battle Hall is one of the most important buildings in Texas; it’s over 100 years-old, and, so, it’s facing preservation issues as well as disability access issues, and it also has issues with its fire safety,” Steiner said.

Steiner said when the architecture school moved into the West Mall Office Building more than a decade ago, it was made for offices instead of classrooms.

“The space is configured for offices, not teaching,” Steiner said. “We really need to renovate that space for our teaching needs. What we really need is studios and lecture halls.”

In addition, Steiner said there are plans in place to build on an existing parking lot and loading dock. The school plans to name the new structure for alumnus John Chase.

“While we were doing all that, it was thought that doing a modest addition would be wise since there was a lot of construction going on anyway,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the project is estimated to cost about $80 million, with much of that money going toward fire safety and accessibility improvements. However, Steiner said those costs cannot be covered completely by donations.

“It’s really something that we can’t ask for from philanthropy,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the UT System Board of Regents must approve the project in its Capital Improvement Plan in order for the project to proceed with design, which he hopes will happen February. The regents must also approve the naming of the new addition.

Spanish junior Berkeley Mashburn passes by Battle Hall when she gives tours to prospective students. Mashburn said preservation of the building means a lot to her.

“It’s one of the only places I can go and remove truly from my mind everything but my studies,” Mashburn said. “Battle Hall is one of my most treasured places on campus.”

On his first night in the White House, just a week after President Nixon’s unprecedented resignation from office, Steven Ford, Gerald Ford’s then 18-year-old son, sneaked his stereo onto the roof of the White House so that he could blast Led Zeppelin. Former first lady Laura Bush would have made a different selection. Her daughter, Barbara Bush, said the 43rd president’s wife is more of a Bob Marley fan.

Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Bush’s twin sister and daughter of President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, said her mother’s musical preferences serve as just one of the many sides to her personality the media rarely portrayed.

“I think people thought of our mom as kind of a cookie-cutter mother, because it’s much easier to see people as one-dimensional,” Hager said. “She’s a very strong lady. She just happens not to shout.”

Candid revelations about musical preferences were just a few of the personal anecdotes that surfaced at “The Enduring Legacies of America’s First Ladies,” an event hosted Friday by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The event featured three generations of women in the Bush family as well as Steven Ford, Lynda Johnson Robb, President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughter and several former White House staffers.

Speakers examined the role of the first lady, a position that former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said changes with each new administration.

Ford said a major component of his mother’s legacy was the way she brought her personal struggles with breast cancer and alcoholism to public attention.

“The moment she raised her hand and said, ‘My name is Betty, and I’m an alcoholic,’ she changed the stereotypes about the nature of the disease,” Ford said.

Barbara Bush described one of her mother’s roles as “comforter-in-chief” in the days following 9/11.

Laura Bush said this role as comforter was instinctive.

“I myself wanted the comfort of my mother’s voice,” Laura Bush said. “I knew kids everywhere would want that.”

Although both Barbara Bush and Ford highlighted events specific to their mother’s personal lives and events that occurred during their husband’s administrations, certain aspects of the first lady position remain constant. Lisa Caputo, Hillary Clinton’s former press secretary, said Clinton took a very public role in working with her husband on his health care initiatives and welfare reform, but she was not the first first lady to work with policy issues.

“[Clinton] was the first first lady to have an office in the West Wing,” Caputo said. “We were very up front about the fact that she was going to play a policy role and be an advisor to her husband, but in reality, we look throughout history and practically all first ladies have had a role in influencing policy. It just wasn’t at the forefront.”

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: Presidents' families share insights on first lady's public, personal role 

Editor’s note: Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States, visited UT Friday evening for the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumnus ceremony, where she was honored for her accomplishments. In 1995, as first lady of Texas, Bush founded the Texas Book Festival, which takes place at the Texas State Capitol and surrounding grounds this weekend. Bush sat down with the Texan to discuss reading in college and her impressions of UT.

Daily Texan: Why  is it important for college students to study and read fiction and literature?

Laura Bush: I think the wider you read, and especially if you read fiction and literature, the broader you become as a person. For me, literature has been a part of my life for my whole life. It’s a guiding passion in my life — reading — so I just can’t imagine a life without reading literature. So I hope that students will make a real effort to read literature, and there are a lot of new terrific authors in the U.S. that write literature that are great.

But to read the classics, they become part of a whole vocabulary in your life, and an intellectual person often times knows that vocabulary because they know the different authors and characters and all the references that are in classic literature, [references] that just you hear in everyday life, really.

DT: What did you read in college that most influenced the way you think today?

Bush: I took a lot of literature courses. I was an English and education major ... I remember reading a lot of D.H. Lawrence in one course that I really liked, including poetry of his. I’ve continued going to classes in Dallas; there’s something called the Dallas Institute, which is a group of mainly women. These classes would just be six weeks long, but we’d read Faulkner or Dostoyevsky, and those authors are really great to read in a class with a great teacher.

They’re difficult to read just by yourself and get, especially Faulkner, I think, so that’s why I think it’s really important to try to take classes, if you have the opportunity — literature classes, no matter what your degree is, and then continue to do that, continue to meet with a book club where you have a good speaker that’s an expert on a certain reader or writer. If you have an expert, it makes your knowledge of it that much deeper and your  appreciation of it that much stronger.

DT: How has UT changed since you studied library science here?

Bush: The library school has changed tremendously. Now the library school is called the School of Information, and they have brought from Columbia and then developed on their own the best school for archivists in the country.

When I went to library school in 1973, it was in the HRC [Harry Ransom Center], where it is now. We were on the fourth floor, that was so great to go to library school in that building that had all the huge collections of writings. And of course the library school has changed and expanded and really become what libraries are now, which is much more information science because of all the technology. It’s still reading, and it’s still reading a lot of great books.

Editor’s note: The Texas Book Festival first took place in 1996. Former First Lady Laura Bush, whose husband at that time was Governor of Texas, founded the weekend-long book lovers’ takeover of the Texas State Capitol Building. A librarian who earned her masters in library science at UT-Austin, Bush visited the campus Friday to receive the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumni Award. She also sat down with The Daily Texan to share a list of events at this weekend’s festival, which she believes will draw UT students’ interest. They are listed below:

“A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel”
by Hope Larson
Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Texas State Capitol: Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004
“This is the 50th anniversary of ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ and there’s a new graphic novel by a writer named Hope Larson. Madeline L’Engle is obviously not living any more, but I figured a lot of students read ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ as children. I certainly did, and I read it with [my daughters] Barbara and Jenna.”

“Blood of Heroes”
by James Donovan
Sunday, 11 a.m.
Lone Star Tent
“There’s a new, terrific book about the Alamo by James Donovan called ‘Blood of Heroes.’ There hasn’t been such a comprehensive book about the Alamo in many years. George just read it and loved it, so I think Texas students might be interested in it, too.”

“The Texas Book Two: More Profiles, History, and Reminisces of the University”
by David Dettmer
Sunday, 11 a.m.
Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.010
“There’s also a book about UT, a big anthology that I think students would be interested in reading.”

“Life After Death”
by Damien Echols
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church
(1201 Lavaca St.)
“For students interested or studying social justice, there’s a book by Damien Echols, who was on death row and was proven to be innocent with DNA. I think people would be really interested in meeting him and
hearing him talk.”

“The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson”
by Robert Caro 
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Texas State Capitol: House Chamber
“I really want to encourage people to attend Robert Caro’s talk, though I’m sure it will be crowded. This is [Caro’s] fourth book about Lyndon Baines Johnson. It’s about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and what that meant for former [President Lyndon Baines Johnson] when Johnson became president. I was in graduate school in 1973 when Johnson died. His body lay in state at the LBJ Library when the library was new. I lined up with thousands of other people and Lady Bird Johnson and Lynda and Luci Johnson and stood by the casket and shook everyone’s hands. There are about 60 pages in Robert Caro’s new book about the assassination, the 50th anniversary of which is next year.”

“Exit Interview”
by David Westin
Saturday, 11 a.m.
C-SPAN/Book TV Tent
“If there are broadcasting students, people particularly interested in the publishing trade, there’s a new biography of Walter Cronkite, who went to UT and wrote for The Daily Texan. That will be part of the festival. David Westin, himself, who was the head of ABC, has written a book called ‘Exit Interview.’”

“The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America”
by Joe Nick Patoski
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Lone Star Tent
“There are three books about the Dallas Cowboys [this year]. I think people, especially young students who are from Dallas and are Cowboys fans, would like the book.”

The Lit Crawl
“One other thing I think UT students especially would love is the ‘Lit Crawl,’ or the literary crawl, which is on the night of the 27th at 8:00. You show up on East Sixth Street and walk through the Texas State Cemetery. You stop at this bar on East Sixth and hear an author, and then you can go on to another spot on East Sixth Street and hear another author.”

The Music Tent
“Finally, the music tent is always great. It’s at 11th and Colorado, and this year Jimmy LaFave is going to be there. [Dale] Watson is going to be there, and I think people would love to go to that. I remember when we lived in the Texas Governer’s Mansion across the street [from] the Capitol [where the Book Festival takes place] that I’d always go early on a Sunday morning. I don’t know that they still do this, but there was always gospel in one of the tents, before people had really started getting there. The Book Festival was open, but people didn’t start trickling in until that time.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 as: Laura Bush lists festival favorites

Laura Bush, Julius Glickman, Charles Matthews, Admiral William McRaven, Melinda Perrin and Hector Ruiz are recognized as distinguished alumni by the Texas Exes (Photo courtesy of Mark Rutkowski).

Six of UT’s most distinguished alumni, including former first lady Laura Bush and Adm. William McRaven, traveled to campus Friday to be honored for their accomplishments.

For more than 50 years, Texas Exes, the University’s alumni organization, has annually honored as many as six UT alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to UT with a Distinguished Alumnus Award. This year, the organization recognized Laura Bush, former first lady and 1973 alumna; Julius Glickman, philanthropist, attorney and 1962 alumnus; Charles Matthews, former vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corporation and 1967 alumnus; Adm. William McRaven, commander of NATO Special Operations Command, leader of the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden and 1977 UT alumnus; Melinda Perrin, former chair of the Hermann Hospital Board of Trustees and 1969 UT alumna; and Hector de Jesus Ruiz, CEO of Bull Ventures, an education advocate who has served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and 1970 UT alumnus.

All six members were in attendance at the ceremony, along with some of UT’s most prominent figures and former Distinguished Alumnus Award winners.

UT President William Powers Jr. kicked off the ceremony by welcoming each award winner and talking about their impressive accomplishments.

“We’re just happy that we can say we knew them back when, and we are even more happy that we still know them today,” Powers said.

Each recipient gave a speech after accepting their orange blazer, a symbol of the award given to each of its recipients.

Bush talked about her time at UT in 1972, while working on her masters degree in information sciences. She said Austin was an impressive and welcoming place, even back then.

“I felt right at home, even though I was not really hippie material,” she said. “Case in point, I was a librarian who named her cat Dewey after the Dewey Decimal System.”

Perrin and Glickman chose to use part of their speeches to comment on the current debate over funding going on at UT.

Glickman said when he came to UT in the 1950s the state paid for 69 percent of the cost of his education. He said they now pay only an average 13 percent of a UT’s undergraduate’s education cost.

Both commented on UT’s need for additional funds in order to keep up its tradition of excellence.

“To prevail will require our united, passionate, engaged advocacy,” Perrin said. “Together we can help the University of Texas become the best public university in America.”

The crowd roared especially loud when McRaven accepted his award. McRaven organized and executed Operation Neptune Spear in 2011, the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

In his speech, McRaven talked about the tools that UT gave him, and the way he was able to go on and experience great success, despite his low GPA.

“The school taught me that failure was only a temporary condition,” McRaven said, citing his poor performance in UT classes.

McRaven gave some advice to UT professors with struggling students in their classes, students in the same situation he was in during the 1970s.

“For those professors out there who come across a struggling student, I would ask you to give them a break and never forget that great institutions like the University of Texas can take a common student and give them the tools they need to have uncommon success,” McRaven said.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Distinguished alumni awarded