Marking a Trail : The Quest Continues, A Centennial History of the Texas Woman's University Page: 41
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John Alonzo Guinn
John Alonzo Guinn became the sixth President of the Texas State College for
Women on September 1, 1950, at the age of 44. Guinn completed the BA and
MA degrees at the University of Texas at Austin and then studied at Heidelberg
and the University of Chicago before returning to the University of Texas to
complete the PhD in English in 1939. Dr. Guinn was an intelligence officer in
combat for the United States Navy during World War II. He attained the rank of
lieutenant commander and was awarded five battle stars and two citations for
combat in the Pacific. Following his military service, Dr. Guinn was appointed
superintendent of schools for the Alice Independent School District, where he
led the district to model status in only three years. After his work as superintendent,
Dr. Guinn was named President of San Angelo College, where he served for one
year before accepting the presidency of TSCW. The new president arrived in
Denton with his wife Bessie Alice Mitchell Guinn and their son John, age 6, and
their twin daughters Denise and Diana, age 4. The inauguration of Dr. Guinn on
April 27, 1951, was a key moment in the history of the college. Delegates from
150 colleges and universities attended the inaugural ceremonies along with
hundreds of civic leaders from across the state. Members of the senior class
hooded Dr. Guinn in Stoddard Hall and then joined the processional with him
down Redbud Lane to the Auditorium for the formal investiture. President and
Mrs. Guinn received guests at an afternoon reception in the Student Union
Building Ballroom. In the evening the Modern Dance Group premiered a special
dance program in honor of the Guinns. A new presidents home was planned for
Dr. Guinn and his family. Completed in 1954, the home was designed by Arch
Swank, who had worked on the Little Chapel-in-the-Woods, and was landscaped
by Fred W. Westcourt, who had worked on the botanical gardens.
As he took office, Dr. Guinn faced many demanding challenges. The enrollment
at TSCW had declined by more than one third in the five years preceding his
arrival. In the 1951 legislative session, funding for the college was sharply reduced
because of the declining enrollment The faculty at TSCW had the lowest salaries
in Texas higher education.
Dr. Guinn brought tremendous energy and determination to the tasks before him. He began immediately a campaign to take the name of TSCW
throughout the state. He made 30 speeches in communities throughout Texas in his first year in office. He boldly predicted that enrollment would increase
by the fall. Even though the college took a drastic reduction in appropriations which required some cutbacks, academic offerings and standards attracted
new students. Dr. Guinn's prediction of an increase in enrollment came true beginning in 1953. For the next quarter of a century while Dr. Guinn led the
college, the enrollment increased every single year. He also battled for faculty salaries. Although TSCW was at the bottom in faculty compensation when
he took office, the University was near the top when Dr. Guinn completed his service as president
Just as the college was approaching its golden anniversary celebration in 1952-53 with increasing enrollment and renewed vigor and a new vision for the
future, TSCW was threatened with the prospect of merger. State Representative Bert Hall of Rio Vista, a former student of North Texas State College,
introduced a bill on January 24, 1953, to combine TSCW and North Texas State College into a school to be called North Texas University. It was the
contention of Representative Hall that such a combination would create an institution that could share, along with the University of Texas and Texas A&M,
in the resources of the Permanent University Fund.
Alumnae and friends ofTSCW reacted to the merger plan with strong opposition. Dr. Guinn marshaled the loyal alumnae and other supporters throughout
Texas to resist the move for merger. Dr. Guinn wrote that Representative Hall's proposal reflected "an utter lack of understanding of the program, character,
atmosphere, objectives, services, and achievements of the Texas State College for Women." Guinn also wrote, "Fortunately the majority of our state
legislators are more farsighted and better informed on the broad aspects of economy and the necessity of building, not tearing down, the state's higher
educational system." With vocal and organized assistance from alumnae across the state, who were urged by President Guinn to "heed the call when it
comes to let the Legislature know how they feel about the need for a woman's college in Texas," and with an editorial from the Denton Record-Chronicle
objecting to the combining of the two Denton universities, and a poll showing overwhelming opposition to the merger, Dr. Guinn began to turn the tide
against Hall's bill. Governor Alan Shivers praised the "glorious history and record of achievement" of TSCW and noted its special place in the higher
education system of Texas. Governor Shivers wrote, "I have never favored the merging or closing ofTSCW - and it is not my intention to do so now, nor in
the future. To the contrary, I stand ready to help build a bigger and better TSCW." The merger bill did not pass. Years later, the son of Governor Shivers, John
Shivers of Fort Worth, worked with Dr. Guinn and served TWU as a member of the Board of Regents.
With the fight for the continuation and autonomy of the college concluded successfully, Dr. Guinn turned his attention and energy to increasing the
resources and advancing the programs. As the college celebrated its golden anniversary, the bulletin called attention to many accomplishments. TSCW
was the first college in Texas to offer credit and degrees in Advertising, Art Education, Commercial Courses, Costume Design, Drawing, Health and Physical
Education, Interior Decorating, Household Arts and Sciences, Kindergarten-Primary Education, Occupational Therapy, Painting, and Public School Music.
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Bridges, Phyllis. Marking a Trail : The Quest Continues, A Centennial History of the Texas Woman's University, book, 2001; Denton, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth542311/m1/47/: accessed June 7, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.