Steve Howard Worrell
Steve Howard Worrell, an alumni of the University of Texas and chemist, became the first chief administrator of the State School of Mines and Metallurgy, serving as dean from September 1, 1914, until September 20, 1923. He also served as a professor of mining and metallurgy. He recruited the school´s first faculty and students, and launched the institution in 1914.
Early Life and Education
Steve H. Worrell was born in Houston, Texas, on August 14, 1875. For his secondary education, he attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, for two years, leaving in 1893. In 1896, Worrell moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he enrolled as a freshman at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). He left at the end of his freshman year.
Returning to Texas in 1898, Worrell enrolled in the chemistry department at the University of Texas in Austin and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1901, followed by further studies at the Colorado School of Mines from 1904 to 1905, and the California School of Mines from 1908 to 1909. He returned to Austin for more postgraduate studies (1903 and in 1910) while working for the University's Mineral Survey and later with the Bureau of Economic Geology, both under the direction of William Battle Phillips.
Worrell worked as an analytical chemist for the State Mineral Survey and taught analytical chemistry. He also became an assayer and mine superintendent at locations in Idaho and in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. At the time he was chosen to head the State School of Mines and Metallurgy, he was the chief of the testing laboratory under the Bureau of Economic Geology and Technology in Austin, investigating Texas coals and ignites. With the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, William Phillips, Worrell coauthored The Fuels Used in Texas (1913), a comprehensive examination of mineral and petroleum fuel resources found within the state.
In April of 1914, the UT Board of Regents formally appointed Worrell the first dean of the School of Mines following the acceptance by the Board of the deed of title to the former El Paso Military Institute--the first home of the school. Within a month, Worrell traveled to El Paso. Classes began at the first campus, east of what was then a much smaller Fort Bliss on September 28, 1914. Twenty-one students from seven states and Mexico attended classes on the opening day, with enrollment for that first year reaching 27. The city was the home of the second largest smelter in the world and abundantly supplied with equipment for the most modern methods of treating such ores of copper, lead, gold, and silver as are suitable for smelting.
During his period as the first Dean of the College, the premier issue of The Prospector debuted in magazine format (1915), later becoming a newspaper in 1919. The first female students arrived on campus in 1916. During the same year, on October 29, a devastating fire of unknown origin swept through the main building destroying classrooms, lab equipment and most of the school´s records. The fire in the 34-room Main Building, located on a land now part of Fort Bliss, made a move imperative. This left him to lead the administration in search of relocating the school, which found a new home on a 22.9 acre area near the Rio Grande River in the western foothills of the Franklin Mountains. Dean Worrell’s wife, Kathleen, persuaded him that the unique architecture of the Kingdom of Bhutan would suit the rugged terrain of El Paso and the first buildings were patterned after pictures in the April 1914 issue of National Geographic Magazine. The new site remains the current location and the initial buildings became the nucleus of the present UTEP campus. Within one year, construction began at the new location and required eight months and 20 tons of dynamite. By January 1918, the buildings were ready for occupancy. Contributing to the building boom, albeit in an unofficial way, dean and Mrs. Worrell built a bungalow just east of the campus in 1921, which is known today as the UTEP Heritage House. They sold the house and the property to the University of Texas in January 1922, but continued to occupy it until he left the school in 1923.
Early in his administration, Worrell conducted business of the school as completely independent of the University of Texas in Austin, going so far as to report directly to members of the state legislature. The Regents objected to this line of reporting given their statutory oversight of the school. In 1915, they voted to appoint the president of the University of Texas as the executive in charge of the school, with Worrell reporting directly to the president--a protocol that remained in place until the appointed of John Barry as the school's first independent president in 1931. In 1919, the legislature passed a bill reestablishing the school as a department and branch of The University of Texas, as originally recommended by Worrell's old boss, William Phillips.
Despite being a mining school, Worrell emphasized the need for liberal arts. In his first year, he established Spanish as a required course for all students. Over the next several years, additional liberal arts courses in English, history, and economics were added. In 1917, Worrell, with the blessing of the Regents, associated the school with the new College of the City of El Paso--a nonprofit institution that shared resources with the School of Mines. This relationship remained until the Board of Regents ordered the relationship ended in 1920. The College of the City of El Paso folded in 1923 following the establishment of the El Paso Junior College by the El Paso School Board.
Worrell remained dean of the school through 1922, when he asked for and was granted a leave of absence to survey mining properties in Mexico in which he had recently invested. In January 1923, while still on leave, he learned from UT president Robert E. Vinson that he would not be reappointed dean, but would remain as professor of chemistry. Upon his return to El Paso in September and before the beginning of the 1923-24 academic year, Worrell resigned from the faculty.
After he left the College of Mines, Worrell spent two years in Mexico in engineering work. In 1925, he went into construction business in Hawaii and constructed a cottage home at the base of the hills overlooking Honolulu. Worrell remained interested in the affairs of the College of Mines and kept informed through correspondence with John Kidd and with subscriptions to various El Paso newspapers. In 1930, during a period when the city of El Paso debated the future of the school, Worrell exchanged a series of letters with the president of the University of Texas, Harry Benedict, in which the two discussed the legal history of the school, along with the legality of the school offering Bachelor of Arts degrees, which it eventually would do in 1933.
Worrell died of throat cancer on March 20, 1938. Following her husband’s death, Kathleen Worrell moved to Fresno, California, where she died in 1951.
In 1941, a men's dormitory (built in 1937) was renamed Worrell Hall in memory of his roles in establishing the school, in its relocation, and providing administrative leadership during UTEP’s formative years.
Steve or Steven? Worrell's given birth and legal name was Steve Howard Worrell. Throughout his adult life Worrell typically signed documents "S. H. Worrell," as was the practice of the time. Legal documents, such as his transcripts, diploma, and even UT publications, listed him as Steve. Upon arrival at the School of Mines, he began to refer to himself as Dean Worrell, and when university publications listed his full name, it was either Dean S.H. Worrell or Dean Steve H. Worrell. It was mainly newspapers and other secondary sources that referred to him in print as Steven or Stephen.
Civilian Pilot Training Program [papers of Eugene Thomas], C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections, UTEP Library.
Richard F. Burges Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center, University of Texas at Austin.
El Paso Herald Post (March 21, 1938).
Fugate, Frontier College, 10-11.
Hamilton, UTEP: A Pictorial History, 9, 17-18, 24-25.
"Minutes of the Board of Regents," University of Texas.
Registrar's Office, Case Western Reserve University.
Registrar's Office, Colorado School of Mines.
Registrar's Office, Southwestern University.
Registrar's Office, University of Texas at Austin.
UT Presidents Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center, University of Texas at Austin.
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