UNT Dynasty

Written by: 
Jill King
Photography by: 
Michael Clements

From left, Don Dawson ('80), Catherine "Katy" McCarty Dawson ('48, '49 M.A.) and Nathan Dawson ('17). Don and Katy hold photos of her mother, Mildred Masters McCarty (1913), and grandfather, W.N. Masters, founder of the chemistry program in 1910.


Wallace N. and Lula Masters with granddaughter KatyWallace Newton Masters founded more than a chemistry department when he came to campus in 1910 -- he founded a UNT dynasty. This May, when his great-great-grandson Nathan Dawson ('17) earned his degree, he represented the fifth generation of the Masters family with ties to the university.

In Masters' 31 years as chemistry professor and chair, he also helped launch the Campus Chat newspaper and Avesta literary magazine, edited the Yucca yearbook, wrote poetry and served as president of Denton's First State Bank.

"When I first heard the term 'Renaissance man,' I thought, 'That's my grandfather,'" says Catherine "Katy" McCarty Dawson ('48, '49 M.A.), whose mother, Mildred (1913), was Masters' daughter.

Mildred studied Latin at what was then North Texas State Normal College, along with her sisters, Ethel (1911) and Hilda (1911). She taught at the University of Kansas before marrying W.A. McCarty.

As a child, Katy would visit her grandparents each summer and go to the outdoor pool on campus or the Science Building, later replaced by Masters Hall.

"There's a certain smell of a chemistry lab. Granddad would come home every afternoon smelling like the lab and wrap me up in a huge hug," she says. "Anytime I smell that now, I remember him so well."

Her choice of college was easy.

Katy, right, with her mother, Mildred Masters McCarty"I would never have dreamed of going anywhere but North Texas," she says.

When Katy enrolled in 1945, she didn't want anyone to think she was getting special treatment, so she took classes only from professors she didn't know. When Masters' former colleague, L.P. Floyd, asked her grandmother to have Katy visit his office, she waited until no other faculty member was around -- just a student with his back to the door, grading papers.

"And that student turned out to be David Dawson, my future husband," she says. "He told me later it was his first impression of me, 'toadying up' to the person he assumed was my teacher."

Katy became engrossed in her Spanish classes, while David ('47, '48 M.S.) studied math. Both were members of the W.N. Masters Chemical Society. In 1959 they returned to campus, where David served on the math faculty for 27 years. After their children were grown, Katy taught Spanish as an adjunct.

All six children earned North Texas degrees -- Dan ('77 M.A., '92 Ph.D.) in math, David R. ('75, '81 M.S.) in industrial arts and computer science, Sharon ('80) in art, Don ('80) in computer science, John ('82) in geography and Catherine ('85) in drama.

Don also remembers swimming in the outdoor pool as a kid and going to the Union with his dad for a plate of fries. When his turn came to attend North Texas, he wasn't sure what to study.

Katy ('48, '49 M.A.) and David Dawson ('47, '48 M.S.), seated, with children, from left, Sharon ('80), Dan ('77 M.A., '92 Ph.D.), David R. ('75, '81 M.S.), Don ('80), Cathi Prather ('85) and John ('82)"But as soon as I took my first computer science courses, I knew," says Don, co-owner of Voice Ring, a phone company geared toward small businesses using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

Nathan, Don's son, says he was excited to carry on the family tradition at UNT.

"I would sometimes be walking across campus and I could really picture my father here in the 1970s," he says.

Nathan majored in media arts with a minor in music. A dual U.S.-Mexico citizen, he's now in Oaxaca planning his next documentaries and short films. His grandmother could not be prouder.

"North Texas has been the best gift any of us could have had," Katy says.