By Killian Beeler
One wonders how a private Catholic liberal arts university that was not founded until the second half of the twentieth century in what is now Irving, Texas, ended up with the name the “University of Dallas.” One rumor that has floated around campus is that the school was named University of Dallas because its founders did not want a title that sounded “too Catholic.” However, in terms of accuracy, nothing could be further from the truth.
The charter for the name actually goes back to 1910, when the Vincentian Fathers, who had established the Dallas based Holy Trinity College in 1906, decided to change their institution’s name to University of Dallas. Yet by 1928, the preparatory school and college that made up the original UD had failed and the charter became dormant in 1929 and placed under the control of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
The University of Dallas we know of today really began in 1954, when the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur asked the permission of the then Diocese of Dallas Bishop, Thomas Gorman, and the service and support of local Catholic businessmen, Ed Maher and Eugene Constantin, to open a co-ed institute of higher education. They intended for it to expand upon the College of Our Lady of Victory, a girls school operated by the sisters in Fort Worth. By the end of 1955, the sisters’ idea had expanded to that of a full blown university. Bishop Gorman, after receiving the permission of the Vincentian Fathers, decided to revive the dormant University of Dallas charter for the new school.
However, the university did not stay under the control of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. The 1955 visit from the religious order’s Mother General from Belgium concluded with the sisters’ acknowledgement that a vision for a full blown university went far beyond the scope of the order’s mission.
In December, “two weeping nuns,” as Bishop Gorman described them, handed over to the Diocese of Dallas “sponsorship with ownership by a board of trustees.” When the University opened its doors to students in the fall of 1956, however, the sisters continued to pledge their services to the cause and several of them held key positions early on at UD, such as Registrar, Dean of Women, Librarian, and department of English faculty.