For nearly a century UTEP has maintained a close relationship with the military through collaborative academic programs and sponsored research projects with Fort Bliss and other installations. Today UTEP leads a national network of two- and four-year colleges near military institutions that is working to help veterans, servicemen and women, and their dependents make the transition from serving our country to succeeding in college and beyond. UTEP was originally located on a site that is today part of Fort Bliss.
First Location of UTEP Campus
The State School of Mines and Metallurgy was originally located on a site adjacent to Fort Bliss in buildings purchased from the El Paso Military Institute. After a fire destroyed the classroom building in 1916, the campus moved to its present location. The original property was eventually acquired by Fort Bliss. In 2004, as part of UTEP's 90th anniversary celebration, a stone monument with a bronze plaque was installed to mark the site, near the corner of Chaffee and Pleasonton Roads (GpsLAT 31.808988, -GpsLON 106.427289).
World War I
With the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917, the School of Mines joined the war effort by offering training courses to military personnel. In addition, many faculty and students enlisted into the several branches of the military.
One student, James B. “Buster” Biggs, took a leave of absence from his studies at the school to join the Army Air Corp. Commissioned a lieutenant, he traveled to France as a pilot. During the final days of the war in October 1918, Biggs' airplane crashed, killing the young pilot. In January 1925, the U.S. Army honored Biggs by naming the airfield (and later air force base) at Fort Bliss after him. Today, Biggs Army Airfield contains the tenth longest runway in the United States and served as a layover field for transports ferrying space shuttles between Edwards Air Force Base and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
World War II
Enrollment at the Texas College of Mines dropped from 1,200 to 700 during World War II; it then nearly doubled after the war due to the G.I. Bill. Temporary housing was established on campus to support veterans and their families and the community was affectionately known as “Vet Village” from 1946 to 1963.
Veteran Recognition on Campus
In 1957, an anonymous group paid for a bronze plaque on Memorial Triangle honoring veterans who had fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. In 1989, on the occasion of the school’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the plaque was replaced with a new one that added the Vietnam War to the list.
In 1998, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the University’s ROTC chapter, a plaque was placed on Memorial Triangle commemorating students, staff, and faculty who served in the armed forces.
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