Margaret C. Berry

Margaret C. Berry smiles after being surprised by Alpha Phi Omega with a giant Texas flag at the AT&T Conference Center Friday night. Berry was honored earlier that day as the namesake of the ground floor atrium of the Student Activity Center.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

After her many contributions to the University, Margaret C. Berry’s presence will now be permanently ingrained on the Forty Acres.

On Friday, President William Powers Jr. announced that the ground floor atrium of the Student Activity Center will be named after Berry. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered outside the activity center to commemorate the event.

Berry, who has been involved with UT for more than 50 years as a staff member, alumna and dedicated mentor, was choked up and at a loss for words.

“I’m overwhelmed. It’s just too much, too much,” she said. “I’m so grateful to all of you for coming, to all of you who’ve done so much.”

Berry said her belief that everyone is capable of succeeding allowed her to play a positive role in so many students’ lives throughout the years.

“Don’t ever count someone out,” she said. “Give them another chance. Don’t ever give up on somebody.”

Berry said the possibilities at UT are endless when we all work together.

“This is a great place to be,” she said. “You make your own place in it when you come, and we can all do the little things that help others.”

Powers said although many superlatives describe Berry, most are insufficient.

“Admiration, respect, gratitude. All of these are accurate, but inadequate descriptions of what is in our hearts this afternoon,” Powers said.

However, Powers said there is one word that is appropriate.

“We thank you Margaret for everything you’ve done and all that you’ve meant for generations of Longhorns,” he said. “But let it be said more plainly. Simply, we love you.”

Several distinguished members of the UT community spoke on Berry’s behalf. This included Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who proclaimed April 13, 2012 as Dr. Margaret C. Berry day.

“This place is named for a woman who is not only one of Austin’s most worthy citizens, but one of UT’s greatest treasures,” Doggett said. “Someone who has never forgotten that the eyes of Texas are upon her.”

Later that night, while Berry was attending a dinner with friends and family at the AT&T Conference Center, she was led out onto its balcony for a surprise. Waiting below the balcony was a giant Texas flag being held by members of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity singing “The Eyes of Texas.”

Following the surprise, Berry said words could not fully describe how she felt. “Incredible,” Berry said. “It was just something else. The whole thing has been hard to believe.”

Kyle Walker, an anthropology and geography senior, has been in APO since last spring and the experience was unique.

“It was very special,” Walker said. “We don’t get to do flag events for personal individuals very often, and Margaret C. Berry was actually an advisor to APO years and years ago.”

Printed on Monday, April 16th, 2012 as: Ceremony at SAC honors Berry's lifetime of contributions to UT

The University is dedicating the ground floor atrium of the SAC to one of the schoolÂ’s distinguished alumni, Margaret C. Berry. President Bill Powers announced the desicion in early January, and the dedication will take place today in the SAC at

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

After her lifetime of dedication to the UT community, the University is honoring one distinguished alumna in a very special way.

Today marks the dedication of the ground floor atrium of the Student Activity Center to 1937 UT alumna Margaret C. Berry. The dedication comes after nearly 80 years of Berry’s University involvement, in which she was an administrator, teacher, historian and mentor to thousands of UT students. Berry’s accomplishments include writing 10 books and her doctorate dissertation about UT-related topics, earning her the nickname of UT’s unofficial historian. The festivities will consist of a ceremony outside of the SAC, which begins at 11:30 a.m., a luncheon reception following the ceremony and a private dinner with Berry and some of her former students.

Rick Potter, 1977 UT alumnus and volunteer with Students for the Margaret C. Berry Student Activity Center, said the honoring of Berry comes after an extensive and widespread campaign.

“She touched so many parts of the campus,” he said. “So, about two years ago a number of current and former students started discussing the idea of honoring her contributions to the University, and they soon began a grassroots campaign to encourage the UT administration to recognize her by naming some portion of the University after her. Over 5000 students, faculty, alumni and friends endorsed the initiative, and in early January UT President Bill Powers announced the decision.”

The SAC seemed like a logical choice in honoring Berry due to her extensive campus involvement, Potter said.

“It’s really the nucleus of the campus,” he said. “This makes it an ideal place to honor someone so involved in the UT community.”

Berry said she was deeply touched by the initiative and all the support it received.

“This whole thing has overwhelmed me,” she said. “I’m pretty emotional and I hope I can hold up. It’s not going to be easy.”

Thomas Jenkins, 1960 UT alumnus and former colleague of Berry’s, said the commemoration is well-deserved.

“In the 42 years that I have spent in public higher education, I have never known a more student-oriented person,” he said. “She was the best student advocate on campus and always in the student’s corner. I think she’s just a marvelous lady who has lived a nice, long life and deserves all the honors that can be bestowed upon her.”

Berry said at age 96 she is still learning, as she is active on campus through participation on scholarship committees, guest lecture appearances and reading The Daily Texan.

“We always continue learning,” she said. “We just never stop.”

Leslie Cedar, CEO and Executive Director of Texas Exes, said the commemoration couldn’t be more fitting.

“Margaret C. Berry is the quintessential UT alumna,” Cedar said. “She has dedicated her life to promoting, preserving and celebrating the University of Texas. Renaming the student activity center atrium in her honor is a fitting tribute for a woman who has made such a profound and lasting contribution to the University of Texas.”

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: Student Activity Center honors alumna

Dr. Margaret C. Berry encouraged students to get involved and to make positive changes within the university during her interview at the Alumni Center on Friday evening. Students are petitioning for the SAC to be renamed Margaret C. Berry Student Activity Center to honor all her efforts as an alumni.

Photo Credit: Julia Bunch | Daily Texan Staff

The woman widely known as the unofficial historian of the University shared her memories spanning 80 years of UT history, including the construction of the Tower, the acquisition of the Big Bertha drum and the Charles Whitman shooting in a public interview Friday.

Margaret C. Berry, who has written eight books on UT history, conducted the videotaped interview with theater and dance sophomore Leslie Powell at the Alumni Center. Powell is a coordinator for Students for the Margaret C. Berry Student Activity Center.

The group has collected more than 4,000 student and alumni signatures on a petition to name the building after Berry, said UT alumnus and Austin real estate agent Rick Potter.

Berry was a student at UT in the 1930s and became an associate dean of students in the 1950s. She recalled that the tearing down of the Old Main building and the construction of the new one, which was finished in 1937, caused controversy.

“Former students really raised Cain. They really raised heck because they didn’t want the Old Main building taken down,” she said. “But those of us who were on campus were glad to see it taken down. It was creaky and ugly. It never was built very well.”

Berry said the Charles Whitman shooting in 1966 led to the establishment of the first university-sponsored 24-hour telephone counseling service in the country in the late ‘60s, which she administered for a year.

“We saved people’s lives, I know for sure we did,” Berry said.

Berry encouraged students to work for the changes they want to see at UT.

“The shuttle bus system is one thing, the kiosks on campus, opening the Tower after it had been closed for a long time — students have done a lot of good things, and you can keep on doing good things,” Berry said.

Powell said she conducted the interview with Berry to help preserve the history of UT for posterity.

“She’s one of the oldest living alumni and has so many memories of the University,” Powell said. “There’s no one better to talk about the history of the campus.”

Powell said the building should be named after Berry since only eight campus buildings are named after women, and five of those are current or former women’s residence halls.

“No other person has had as much positive influence on the students of UT as she has,” Powell said.

Jules Villarreal, a sociology and Middle Eastern studies freshman, said the interview helped him learn about UT history.

“I really came here to UT not knowing much about the history or traditions or knowing much of anything, and listening to this interview — it’s kind of a snapshot of all the traditions and history of UT,” Villarreal said. 

Thanks to the new Student Activity Center, students can finally take refuge from Wendy’s during lunchtime. Affectionately called the NUTSAC, this one-year-old UT building offers study areas, simulated fireplaces, meeting rooms and, most importantly, Zen and Taco Cabana. The new building has found its niche on our campus and, now students feel the time has come to appropriately name the building.

You might have noticed the life-size cardboard cutout of a tiny, older lady on the West Mall recently. This tiny, older lady is Margaret C. Berry, one of UT’s highly distinguished alumni. A group of students are campaigning to rename the SAC after Berry in an effort to honor her tireless dedication and loyalty to the University. The group manages a website and other forms of social media in efforts to inform students about her. According to the leaders of the group, the main focus is spreading the word about Berry and the reasons why she deserves to be revered in this manner.

Reasons for honoring Berry are abundant and apparent. From the start of her education in Austin, she has had a unique interest in preserving and highlighting UT’s history. Berry received her bachelor’s degree in history from UT in 1937. Her doctoral dissertation on student life and customs at UT during its first 50 years, combined with four books about UT’s history, traditions, buildings and leaders, has earned her the title of UT’s unofficial historian.

Well after her education was completed, she continued to serve the University in various ways, ranging from working as a faculty adviser, an undergraduate professor and the associate dean of students. Berry further left her mark the University by encouraging the creation of a religious studies department, claiming that cultural understanding is crucial to the American public. Even today, Berry continues to speak with student groups across campus and impressively remains as involved in UT affairs as possible at the age of 96. Berry has devoted her life to not just improving UT but improving the UT student body. Her passion for the last few decades has been the students, and renaming the SAC gives us a chance to thank her for her devotion to us.

The campaign to rename the SAC after Berry began in Student Government last year. After SG instead decided to discuss other naming options, these students redeployed to the West Mall and are currently attempting to garner campus-wide support to rename the building after Berry through a petition. They launched their campaign last Monday and since then, the students have obtained about 3,000 signatures.

The battle for the name change appears, to an unknowing UT student such as myself, a superfluous struggle for a simple housekeeping issue. Noticeably, many students support renaming the SAC after Berry, and she is anything but a controversial figure, unlike the former namesake (former KKK leader William Simkins) of what is now Creekside Dormitory.

So, what’s the hold up? Why are students initiating a petition when the normal route for such a matter would be to create an official endorsement via a legislative entity, such as SG, to present to President William Powers Jr.? Inner-circle politics within our campus legislative body is seemingly creating obstacles to renaming the building and triggering a greater issue over an innocuous subject.

Furthermore, our modern campus of 161 buildings has a mere eight buildings named after women — five of which are women’s and co-ed residence halls and one of the remaining three, Anna Hiss Gym, is scheduled for demolition. The addition of the Barbara Jordan statue to our campus was a tremendous effort toward the greater representation of notable female figures on campus. Yet, we still hardly acknowledge our impressive women alumnae, and Berry is as impressive as they come. Not only will this equal the playing field for women alumnae, but it may also serve as an impetus to inspire future Longhorn women to serve UT similarly.

Evidently, Berry is an outstanding alumna who is unmistakably deserving of this honor. She has devoted her life to improving the student body, and the SAC was designed specifically for the student body. To name the SAC after Berry would not only honor a dedicated UT alumna but also a prominent female figure. By signing this petition, students may be able to pay tribute Berry and put this non-issue to rest.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.