Looking back at UNT president Alfred Hurley

Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer

Alfred Hurley, UNT’s 12th president and first full-time chancellor, died Saturday of Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 84.

Hurley first came to UNT as a vice president for administrative affairs in 1980. Two years later, he became president and chancellor. He would remain in both positions for 18 years and was chancellor for two more years after that. His tenures in both positions are the longest in UNT’s history. Before that, he spent 30 years in the Air Force, serving in the Korean War and spending 14 years as head of the Air Force Academy’s history department.

“The UNT family has experienced a profound loss,” said current president Lane Rawlins in a press release. “I know from many who worked with Dr. Hurley and from my own interactions with him that he believed passionately in UNT and cared deeply for its people. A former regent once said of him, ‘Al lives and breathes the university.’”

Hurley will be remembered primarily for overseeing the name change to UNT from North Texas State University in 1988 and establishing the TAMS program for high-achieving high school students in 1987. TAMS dean Richard Sinclair, who became TAMS first full-time dean in 1992, said he will mostly remember Hurley for how intimidating he was.

“He looked me right in the eye and asked me, ‘Dr. Sinclair, where did you learn your leadership skills?’” Sinclair said about his interview with Hurley for the position. “And I said, ‘The Marine Corps.’”

Sinclair said during their time working together, Hurley was such a powerful presence he almost felt like he was back in the military with Hurley as his commanding officer.

During Hurley’s administration, many of UNT’s colleges advanced academically. The College of Public Affairs and Community Service launched it’s disaster management degree program, a national first, in 1983. The College of Businesses accounting program and many programs in the Mayborn School of Journalism were accredited during this time period (Mayborn’s news-editorial sequence had been accredited since 1969, but all other parts of the college was accredited by 1986).

Also, the honor’s program was reconstituted in 1994, and UNT was officially recognized as a college system by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 1999.

Hurley’s involvement continued after his retirement. College of Music dean James Scott said Hurley remained active in supporting the college of music, and would regularly host dinners before special concerts.

“The virtuosity with which he would talk about each person as he went around was just stunning,” Scott said. “It was as if each one of those people were his best friend.”

Sinclair said he’d remember Hurley’s tenure at UNT for general growth, as well as the culture shift toward becoming a research university. UNT was the fourth largest university in Texas by the time Hurley retired.

“The university grew and prospered under his leadership and he certainly set the stage for where UNT is going to go in the future,” Sinclair said. “He was a great leader. He was just a great leader.”

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