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.

Dr. Denis George Paz

Headshot of Dr. Denis PazDr. Denis George Paz (’67, ’69 M.A.), 78, Professor Emeritus of history who taught at UNT from 1995 to 2013, died Dec. 9, 2023, in Hartwell, Georgia.

He graduated from North Texas with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history and later attended the London School of Economics and the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. and lectured in history from 1974 through 1977. He also taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Clemson University in South Carolina.

He taught modern British history and served as the faculty advisor for UNT’s award-winning chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society. He published four monographs — including Popular Anti-Catholicism in Mid-Victorian England and Dickens and Barnaby Rudge: Anti-Catholicism and Chartism — as well as teaching aids, articles in scholarly journals and an edited essay collection, Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect.

Briton Hagan

Briton Hagan, 41, a lecturer in Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation from 2017 to 2023, died Nov. 22. Dr. Hagan received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees from California University of Pennsylvania, now PennWest California, and his doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico.

Gene Cho

Gene ChoGene Jinsiong Cho, 90, Regents Professor of music theory who taught at UNT from 1972 to 2016, died Oct. 27. He earned his Ph.D. in music theory from Northwestern University and was a guest professor in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

At UNT, he taught pedagogy of theory, music theory analysis and aural skills. He also taught a sequence of courses in music and culture of China and Japan and directed field study programs to Asia.

His compositions and arrangements for voice, piano, ensemble and orchestra have been performed in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He was commissioned to write incidental music for a stage play, Confucius, and a musical setting of a literary tone poem, Abraham Lincoln: The Whole Heart, for orchestra, chorus, soli and narrators.

Dr. Cho was a charter editorial board member of the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy and an editorial board member of the Journal of Music in China. His publications include theory pedagogy manuals and monographs in music theory and historical ethnomusicology, such as Theories and Practice of Harmonic Analysis and The Discovery of Musical Equal Temperament in China and Europe in the Sixteenth Century. One of his monographs, The Replica of the Ark of the Covenant in Japan: The Mystery of MiFune-Shiro, fused religion studies with Japanese cultural history for a glimpse into the interplay of new and old traditions.

He presented lectures, clinics and workshops in theory, conducting and composition in six countries outside the U.S. and was honored by the UNT International Education Committee for his distinguished service to international education. 

Outside UNT, he served as the choir director at Southmont Baptist Church in Denton and later at the Mayflower Congregational Church in Lewisville (renamed Flower Mound Community Church). He also led church programs and initiatives in the U.S. and Asia throughout his lifetime. He's remembered for his humor and wit as well as his devoted teaching and leadership.

A memorial service will be held Nov. 18 at Southmont Baptist Church, 2801 Pennsylvania Dr. in Denton. Viewing will take place at 10 a.m. and the service will begin at 11 a.m. 

James Louis Poirot

Jim PoirotDr. James ‘Jim’ Louis Poirot, 79, of Fort Worth, Professor Emeritus of learning technologies who worked at UNT from 1976 to 2014, died Oct. 17.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in mathematics from Texas Tech University and taught at what was then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos before accepting a position on the computer science faculty at North Texas. He chaired that department and later served as chair of the computer education and cognitive systems department in the College of Education (now the Department of Learning Technologies in the College of Information). He also was an associate dean of the College of Education and was named a Regents Professor in 2001.

Well-known as a computer education expert, he was the author and co-author of numerous textbooks and founded the Texas Computing Education Association, serving as its first president, and the Texas Center for Educational Technology, which he served as executive director. During his 50-year career in education, he worked with many Texas school districts, and he educated teachers from around the world to find better ways to use technology in their classrooms. He also brought in millions of dollars of grants while at UNT.

He was an avid traveler and founded the Caribbean Educational Computing Conference. He was involved in his church and the Denton community, winning a presidential award along with his wife, Peggy, for their volunteerism, and was a rancher and a Texas Rangers fan.

Memorials may be made to the James L. and Peggy A. Poirot Endowed Scholarship, UNT Division of Advancement, 1155 Union Circle, Box 311250, Denton, Texas 76203.

Harriet Aronson

Harriet AronsonHarriet ‘Harri’ June Aronson, 94, Professor Emerita of psychology who worked at UNT from 1971 to 1999, died Aug. 24 in Denton.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Douglas College at Rutgers University and completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Purdue University. She also did postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins before accepting a position at UNT, where she designed the clinical psychology program as director of clinical training.

Her research interests included assessment of verbal behavior, effects of classical psychoanalysis and the status of women in psychology. She published as “H. Aronson” to avoid editors’ biases against publishing work written by women. She also was a mentor to colleagues as well as countless graduate students.

She was known for her acerbic wit and for years wrote “Aunt Academe,” an advice column for women in academia that ran in the American Psychological Association Division 35 newsletter. It provided career strategies and political wisdom for surviving and thriving. After retiring, she traveled extensively with friends, read and continued to learn into her 90s.

A luncheon and celebration of her life will begin at noon Nov. 4 in University Union 406 (the President’s Room).