Alumni

Phyllis George

Phyllis George, 70, the Denton native and North Texas alum who went on to become Miss America, a groundbreaking sportscaster, actress and First Lady of Kentucky, died May 14, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Phyllis George was a pioneer and an American icon,” UNT President Neal Smatresk says. “Our UNT community was proud she was a member of our flock as she was an incredible example for women everywhere. We appreciated her support, and we will miss her.”

George was a student at North Texas from 1967 to 1970 – where she was a Yucca beauty in 1970, and active in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and Angel Flight, the women’s auxiliary of Air Force ROTC.

She was crowned Miss America in 1971. Her ceremony was memorable because the crown dropped from her head.

“Stones went flying, the banner dropped, my hair was sticking up; I looked like a ragamuffin,” she told Randy E. Pruett (’77) in the book 75th Miss Texas Celebration: A Dream As Big As Texas – but noted that it served as a good introduction to the public.

The campus was excited about the news, too. Roy Busby (’59, ’66 M.B.A.), Regents professor of journalism, remembers when she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1971 – and the News Service department decided to congratulate her by listing every student’s name in the telegram.

“At that time, we had 7,000 to 8,000 students, and we stayed up all night typing the names,” Busby says.

She then co-hosted the TV show Candid Camera and went on to become one of the first women in TV sportscasting when she co-hosted The NFL Today from 1975 to 1978 and from 1980 to 1984.

She became First Lady of Kentucky when her then-husband John Y. Brown Jr. served as the state’s governor from 1979 to 1983. She also anchored CBS Morning News in 1985 and appeared in the 2000 movie Meet the Parents. She even had her own food line, Chicken By George, and a makeup and skincare brand. She was named a Distinguished UNT Alumna in 1977 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Media Arts in 1998. George most recently visited the UNT campus in 2014, when she was honored as an Emerald Eagle for a Lifetime of Contributions to the American Landscape. She was an honorary lifetime member of the UNT Alumni Association.

George was well-known on campus, and alumni shared their memories following her passing.

“She was not only a beauty, but always the nicest person on campus,” Emily Klement (’92, ’94 M.Ed., ’12 Ed.D.), chairwoman of the UNT Alumni Association, wrote on Twitter. “She greeted everyone with that stunning smile and warmth.”

Phyllis George receiving Emerald Eagle honor

Elida Tamez

Elida TamezELIDA TAMEZ (’81), 59, of Denton, a former developmental officer in the College of Music, died June 9, in Denton. She is remembered for her courage during her 20-year battle with cancer, even being arrested for protesting against fracking in the city of Denton while in the midst of chemotherapy. After working at North Texas’ bookstore, she ran her own regional sales book firm, McLemore and Tamez. She worked at UNT from 2000 to 2013. She and her husband, Theron Palmer, were strong supporters of UNT — from making donations to hosting music students and visiting faculty in their home. Memorials can be made to the Elida Tamez Endowment for Choral Conducting.

Craig Andrew Stovall

CRAIG ANDREW STOVALL, Denton. He was a junior business major and worked at Denton Pep-Boys. Growing up, he played soccer, basketball, baseball and ran track. He was known for his kindness to people and animals, and his organs helped save three lives.

Charlie Cole

CHARLIE COLE (’78), Bali. He won the World Press Photo in 1990 for his iconic picture that he took of a Chinese man protesting in front of tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. The New York Times called it one of the most famous photos in history. According to The Washington Post, he took the picture from the upper balcony of the Beijing Hotel after he and another photographer had been abused by Chinese police earlier that day. He told the Times he hid the film in plastic in the hotel room toilet tank so the Chinese police wouldn’t confiscate it — which they had with other film he had taken. Cole had worked as a freelance photographer since 1980 when he moved to Japan.

Orion Dwain Smith

ORION DWAIN SMITH (’69), Duncanville. He served as an Army medic in the Vietnam War, assisting servicemen who had been affected with post-traumatic stress disorder. He worked as a veteran’s representative for the Texas Workforce Commission for 35 years and served as a customer service representative for the Texas Rangers for 10 years. He enjoyed camping, fishing and watching sports. He is survived by his wife Marilyn Moffett (’68).

Larry Smith

LARRY SMITH (’68, ’70 Ph.D.), Richardson. He was a chemist who worked for American Hoechst Co. and Sun Oil Co. He also served as director of research administration and technology management and was an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University. After retiring in 2008, he ran Knotsmith, in which he made custom braided lanyards. While at North Texas, Larry was a member of Alpha Chi Sigma and served as president his senior year. He also met his wife Lee Ellen (’66) during chemistry lab their freshman year. Larry taught Chemistry 131 during his last year of graduate school at North Texas.

John Kramer

JOHN KRAMER (’62), Kingsbury. He played football at North Texas for three years on a scholarship. He was a member of Geezles fraternity. He spent 32 years teaching and coaching in the San Antonio and Houston areas. He retired in 1999 from Converse Judson ISD in San Antonio.

Bruce Bullock

BRUCE BULLOCK (’62, ’71 D.M.A.), Shreveport, Louisiana. He was a longtime clarinetist who performed with symphony orchestras across the nation and as principal clarinetist of the Amarillo Symphony. He also served as a faculty member at Amarillo College, the University of South Florida, Northeast Louisiana University, University of Iowa and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where he worked for 22 years until he retired in 2005. At North Texas, he studied under Lee Gibson and worked on his dissertation on Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto. He earned his master’s degree at Yale University.

John Rivers Roden

JOHN RIVERS RODEN (’50), Bedford. In 1943, he joined the Navy and served in WWII. An industrial arts major, he worked as a pneumatic temperature control pipefitter and belonged to the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union No. 146. He was part of the Hurst Amateur Radio Club and was an avid fisherman. He and his wife traveled across the U.S. in their RV.

Mildred Collier Lancaster

MILDRED COLLIER LANCASTER (’50), Troy. While a physical education major at North Texas, she played piano for dance classes and entertained troops during WWII. She was one of the first female coaches in central Texas and spent 32 years teaching and coaching in Troy, Rock Springs, Holland and Temple schools. She created the Temple High School girls athletic programs, fought for equality for girls sports, and provided leadership with school integration during the 1960s. Her track, volleyball and basketball teams competed in district, regional and state championships. In 2005, the Temple High School girls fast-pitch softball field was dedicated to Coach Lancaster to commemorate 50 years of support for athletics. She also enjoyed playing the piano, organ and accordion and performed at nursing homes. She was a member of the UNT Alumni Association.

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