Joseph Malchus Ray
Joseph M. Ray, professor of political science, became the sixth president of Texas Western College, serving from August 15, 1960, until September 1, 1968. He established the institution´s first strategic planning committee, Mission ´73, which aimed to expand and improve the school, including changing its name from Texas Western College to The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). During his eight years as head of the university, the thirty-thousand seat Sun Bowl stadium was built with $1.5 million in bond funds, and the college ranked among the nation´s top ten in basketball under the leadership of Coach Donald H. Haskins. After eight years as president, Ray also wrote a memoir discussing his accomplishments and his reasons for retiring and returning to the classroom.
Early Life and Education
Ray was born October 14, 1907, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After graduating from high school, he attended Bowling Green Business University from 1925 to 1926. At the University of Texas at Austin he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in 1932, and both a master’s and Ph.D. in political science in 1937. While a graduate student, Ray served as an instructor of government from 1934 to 1937. After earning his Ph.D., Ray obtained a teaching position at North Texas State University in Denton as an associate professor of government. In 1942, he moved to Alabama to take a job as associate professor of political science and as assistant director of the Bureau of Public Administration.
In 1946, Ray accepted a position as professor and head of the department of government and political science at the University of Maryland. From 1952 to 1957, he served as chief of the U.S. Air Force Education and Libraries Branch in Washington, D.C. In 1957, Ray returned to Texas as president of Amarillo College.
Ray became president of Texas Western College in 1960, and shortly after his arrival, the college hosted the training of the nation´s first Peace Corps group, which served in Tanganyika. In 1961, the Kidd Memorial Seismic Lab was opened and Coach Donald H. Haskins, who achieved the historic 1966 NCAA championship against Kentucky, was hired to coach the men´s Miner basketball team.
The following year, the Mission ´73 Committee was established by Ray to make recommendations on the future of TWC. In 1966, the board of Regents adopted a resolution that allowed Texas Western College to change its name to The University of Texas at El Paso, effective March 13, 1967. The School of Arts and Sciences was divided into the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Science, and the School of Liberal Arts, with the School of Engineering continuing; the Graduate Division was renamed the Graduate School. Enrollment surpassed 5,000 for the first time and salaries improved considerably; the average was up from $5,175 in 1958-59 to $7,670 in 1966-67. The library also grew from almost 92,000 volumes in 1959 to 161,000 in 1964. After Ray complained that the school´s mascot was a “sorry-looking, pot bellied” creature not suited to represent the Miners, a new and leaner Henry the Burro became the official mascot. During Ray´s tenure, the college celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, having developed the college from its original status as a small state mining school into a vigorous liberal arts college, clamoring to be university.
Ray stepped down from the presidency in 1968, and joined the graduate faculty of UTEP as the H.Y. Benedict Professor of Political Science until his retirement in 1975. He wrote and edited several books and articles during his lifetime, including On Becoming a University in 1968, which deals with issues that are important not only in the history of UTEP, but for college administrators everywhere. The first ten chapters treat subjects such as citizen committees, organization, the excellence program, the library, academic freedom, students, the Inter-American Institute, athletics, and buildings and grounds, among others.
Ray also edited The Coattailess Landslide, a collection of speeches, panel discussions and scholarly papers on the 1972 presidential campaign, printed by Texas Western Press. Ray was the first president to live at the Hoover House, located at 711 Cincinnati. He died on June 20, 1991, at the age of 83.
Sources: El Paso Herald Post (April 11, 1983, September 3, 1968); Fugate, Frontier College: Texas Western at El Paso, The First Fifty Years, 123-134; Hamilton, UTEP: A Pictorial History of the University of Texas at El Paso, 86-89; Joseph M. Ray Papers, MS148-Box 27, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, University of Texas at El Paso Library.
Back to Presidents