Faculty

Paden Neeley

Paden NeeleyLuther Paden Neeley, 88, Denton, Professor Emeritus of accounting and founding director of the Professional Development Institute, died May 31.

A native of Arkansas, he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting at Arkansas State University and was a Distinguished Military Graduate of its ROTC program. He served in the National Guard and on active duty during the Berlin crisis. He then went on to earn an M.B.A. at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and became the first person to earn a Ph.D. in accounting there.

He joined the business faculty at UNT in 1960 and became a pillar of what is now the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. During his more than 40 years with the university, he was recognized for excellence as an educator and wrote numerous accounting textbooks and other materials. He was named a Faculty All-Star Teacher in 1967 and an Outstanding Professor in the business college in 1975.

From 1973 to 1999, he served as the founding director of PDI, a not-for-profit education corporation specializing in continuing education and certification for business professionals. He also served as a vice president for the American Institute of CPAs.

He was a member of the Chilton Society and received UNT’s Honorary Alumnus Award in 2002 for his outstanding devotion, service and support to the university. Former students established The Paden Neeley Professorship for Teaching Excellence in Accounting at UNT in 2006 as a testament to his lasting impact.

A longtime deacon, he was active in churches in Denton for decades, and was known as “Doc” to his grandchildren and many friends.

A funeral service is set for 2 p.m. June 4 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 300 W. Oak St. in Denton. A graveside service will take place at 11 a.m. June 6 at Wiles Cemetery in Ash Flat, Arkansas.

Rollin “Rollie” A. Sininger

Rollin “Rollie” A. Sininger, 93, Canton, began at North Texas in 1971 as vice president of students and retired as a Department of Psychology faculty member. He served in the U.S. Air Force, teaching pilots to fly fighter planes during the Korean War, and also played third base on the Air Force’s softball team the year it claimed the world championship title. While in the military, he moved to San Antonio where he met his wife, Barbara. Rollie earned a doctor of education from the University of Texas, where he was assistant dean of students prior to joining North Texas. In his free time, he enjoyed improving his home and land and was involved in the lives of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Leslie Rae Roberts

Leslie RobertsLeslie Rae Roberts, 62, of McKinney, principal lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, died April 30.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa, she worked in Liechtenstein as an attorney for Hilti Group and then returned stateside to work for Mary Kay Inc. as an attorney and lobbyist. She practiced law for more than 20 years and had more than eight years’ experience working as a mediator in business, probate, employment, education and family disputes.

She joined UNT in 2006 as an adjunct to support and build the alternative dispute resolution program and then joined the faculty full time in 2011, continuing to use her law degree to teach dispute resolution courses while developing and teaching public administration courses in UNT's Coursera B.A.A.S. program. 

Named the UNT Foundation Outstanding Lecturer for 2021-22, she was known for meeting students where they were to help them succeed and excelled in advising graduating students on their next steps. 

A memorial service is scheduled at 10 a.m. May 10 at Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Chapel, 2525 Central Expressway North, Allen.

Pete A.Y. Gunter

Dr. Pete A.Y. Gunter, 87, Professor Emeritus and founding chair of UNT’s philosophy department, died March 6 in Dallas. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1958, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Cambridge University in 1960 and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 1963. During the 1960s, he taught at Auburn University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and joined Civil Rights marchers in Alabama and Tennessee.

He joined the UNT faculty in 1969 as the first chair of the philosophy department. His work to bridge the gap between philosophy and ecology/environmentalism helped lead to UNT’s graduate programs in environmental philosophy. He also was instrumental in establishing the Big Thicket National Preserve, the nation’s first biological preserve, in Southeast Texas and continued to add to and advocate for it.

Pete was internationally recognized for his scholarship on Henri Bergson and published articles and books about the French philosopher’s work. His last book on Bergson, Getting Bergson Straight, was published in 2023. He also wrote books about the Big Thicket, novels and historical writings, as well as music, including folk songs and classical piano compositions. For the better part of 50 years, he served as chair of the board for the Foundation for the Philosophy of Creativity and its societies. Survivors include his wife, Liz ('85 Ph.D.), and daughter, Sheila ('12 M.A.).

A celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. May 25 at UNT’s Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, Room 110, and will be streamed on Zoom.

Dr. John Baen

Headshot of Dr. John BaenDr. John Baen, 75, Argyle, a professor of real estate in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business who was the mainstay of the UNT real estate program for close to 40 years, died April 9 in Costa Rica.

Baen earned his Ph.D. in real estate from Texas A&M University in 1982 and joined UNT in 1985. He wrote more than 70 articles and five books, and had served the American Real Estate Society as a representative and director of the International Real Estate Society, as well as the Texas Land and Minerals Association as a vice president from 2012 to 2013. He lectured and delivered speeches in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, South Africa, South America and throughout the U.S. He was a much-sought-after speaker for numerous industry events. His work and views received coverage in media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, USA Today, ABC News, and various other national and regional newspapers.

In addition to his academic work, he served as a commercial real estate broker, certified real estate appraiser, certified right–of–way agent, expert witness and consultant. He was a co-founder and principal of Real Capital Investments, a retail investment brokerage firm focused on the sale and advisory of single tenant, net leased properties, shopping centers and sale-leaseback transactions nationwide. He was also the founder and principal of Baen and Company, an internationally recognized oil and gas valuation, lease negotiation, mineral management and expert witness firm.

He leaves behind a legacy of profound impact on his current and former students, colleagues and the real estate industry. He was deeply passionate about teaching, making a difference for his students and maintaining strong connections with industry. He mentored and stayed in touch with former students, many of whom became successful in the real estate industry.

Baen also was known for his deep love of family and boundless energy. He is survived by his four children: Hunter Wood Baen, Jennifer Joyce Baen, Jaxon Spencer Baen and Jaeger Roe Baen. Baen’s love for and knowledge of the great outdoors allowed him to travel widely and undertake many great adventures with his children. Baen most recently was very active in the lives of his youngest children, Jaxon and Jaeger, attending their numerous school activities and football games, while encouraging and developing their hobbies in hunting, chess and archery.

A celebration of his life is scheduled at 10 a.m. April 22 in the Murchison Performing Arts Center on the UNT campus.

Helen Leath

Helen Leath (’56, ’58 M.A., ’79 Ph.D.), 92, Denton, who taught English at UNT for more than 40 years, died March 2. She earned three degrees in English from North Texas and joined the faculty after earning her master’s degree in 1958. In 1986, she was awarded a Fulbright and spent two years teaching English in Romania.

As a faculty member, she served as a sponsor of the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society and the Junior Mary Arden honorary literary society for freshman women, both organizations she had been a member of as a student. She also was the editor of Southwest American Literature and known for writing fiction.

Following her retirement in 2000, she created wearable quilted art and was a Bernina designer whose work was shown at various conferences and galleries. She enjoyed knitting, drawing, singing and learning languages including Greek, Hebrew, Spanish and Korean. She was finishing her last novel, which her children hope to publish.

A celebration of life is scheduled at 2 p.m. March 22 at the Denton Good Samaritan Village chapel, 2500 Hinkle Drive.

Dan Haerle

Dan Haerle (’66 M.M.), 86, Denton, a Professor Emeritus who taught for 35 years in the College of Music’s jazz studies division and brought great innovations to the jazz program, died March 2.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1961. He had been teaching instrumental music at the elementary and secondary levels when he came to North Texas as a graduate student in 1963 — attracted by the jazz program he had heard about by word of mouth. While earning his master’s in music composition, he became a teaching assistant for jazz studies director Leon Breeden, directing a lab band and teaching arranging and improvisation.

After graduating, he taught, wrote music and performed in Kansas, California, Florida, New York and Arizona before returning to join the North Texas jazz faculty in 1977. He taught jazz piano, fundamentals and advanced improvisation and went on to supervise the jazz chamber music program and direct the Jazz Strings. Pioneering the concept of electronic keyboard ensembles at universities, he also formed and directed The Zebras. Among other innovations, he developed weekly meetings called jazz forums for the small jazz groups, created several jazz fundamentals courses, wrote textbooks that became widely used in other universities, established a Jazz MIDI Performance Lab and created the first online course in the college.

He received the ’Fessor Graham award, the highest award given by the student body, in 1990, and was named a Regents Professor in 1992. He retired from full-time teaching in 2002 and served as an adjunct for another 10 years. He was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Education Hall of Fame and received the Jazz Education Network’s LeJENd of Jazz Education award and the Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month Jazz Educator of the Year award.

Also a performer, he toured with the Stan Kenton Band and the Clark Terry Quintet and played with Mel Torme, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheny, among others. He was active as a jazz clinician and guest artist nationally and internationally. In 2015, he received the Sammons Jazz Artist of the Year award.

Kenneth L. Dickson

Dr. Kenneth L. Dickson ('66, '68 M.S.), 80, Professor Emeritus of biological sciences, former director of the Institute of Applied Sciences and founder of UNT's Elm Fork Education Center, died Jan. 9 in Aubrey.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in science education and a master’s in biological sciences from UNT, where his mentor was Dr. J.K.G. Silvey, he earned a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology at Virginia Tech. He served on the faculty there for seven years and was the assistant director of its Center for Environmental Studies, evaluating chemicals and their effects on aquatic organisms.

In 1978, he began a 32-year career at UNT that focused on environmental connections between water, energy, agriculture, natural resources and sustainability, as well as collaborations between the community and the university. He joined UNT as a research scientist and the next year was named the director of the Institute of Applied Sciences, an interdisciplinary research consortium founded by Silvey. Under Dickson’s guidance, the institute became widely recognized as a leader in environmental research.

Dickson pushed for the founding of the M.S. and Ph.D. programs in environmental science in the early 1990s. He also was instrumental in the creation of the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building at UNT, which opened in 1998. Bringing together experimental and educational spaces for faculty across environmental disciplines, the EESAT was the first green building on campus. And thousands of schoolchildren have experienced the excitement of scientific discovery at the building’s outdoor learning area through the Elm Fork Education Center, the environmental education outreach program that he founded and directed.

At UNT, Dickson earned distinguished research professorships, was named a Regents Professor, and received the President’s Award and Ulys Knight Spirit Award. He also later served as dean of the Emeritus College, which became the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNT.

He was involved in the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry from its beginnings, serving on its board of directors and as president. He also served on the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, worked locally with the city of Denton on wastewater treatment and other environmental issues, and was involved with the Greenbelt Alliance, the Upper Trinity Water Conservation Trust and many other organizations.

A remembrance and celebration service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 at UNT’s EESAT Building. Donations may be made in Dickson’s name through UNT’s Division of University Advancement.

Cora Ann Martin

Dr. Cora Ann Martin, 97, Professor Emerita of gerontology, died Jan. 2. She joined North Texas in 1967 as assistant director of the Center for Studies in Aging and served as the director from 1973 until her retirement in 1992.

She earned a diploma in nursing from Baylor University School of Nursing, a B.S. in nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. She did postdoctoral work through a summer Fulbright grant in Singapore, and summer seminars through the University of Southern California.

She worked as a cadet nurse at Baylor Hospital in Dallas and as a school nurse for several years in Texas and Alaska before beginning her career in higher education. At UNT, she organized study tours to 85 locations worldwide, created gerontology programs for medical students and served on initiatives that included the White House Conference on Aging. Her publications covered the social, psychological, and policy aspects of aging, and she was instrumental in the planning stages for the Good Samaritan Retirement Home in Denton, where she lived for many years.

At her retirement, the Cora A. Martin Endowed Scholarship Fund, for graduate students pursuing studies in applied gerontology, was established in her honor. She continued to enjoy traveling and her new hobbies of birding and weaving.

A celebration of life service is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Stewart Family Funeral Home, 7525 Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler. Graveside services will follow at 1:30 p.m. in Athens Cemetery on Mack Street in Athens.

D. Harland Hagler

Headshot of Dr. D. Harland Hagler

Dr. D. Harland Hagler, Professor Emeritus of history who taught at UNT for 51 years prior to his 2017 retirement, died Dec. 1, 2023, in Denton.

He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Mississippi before graduating with a master’s and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

He taught U.S. history, specializing in the history of the Old South, and created the first course at North Texas dedicated to the study of African American history. In his free time, he enjoyed dancing as well as watching and attending Texas Rangers games.

A service is scheduled at 11 a.m. Jan. 20 at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 623 Ector St. in Denton.

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