Birds of a Feather

Family time is paramount for the Nurres.
Written by: 
Heather Noel
Legacy family
From left, top: Susan Nurre, Sara Nurre Tarvin, Whitney Spivey Tarvin, Becky Nurre, Kate Tarvin Winsor.

Kate Tarvin Winsor ('06) can remember precious Sundays around the dinner table at her grandparents, Jerre ('98) and Ted Nurre's, house after church. And every Memorial Day, the whole clan would gather to celebrate the anniversary of her grandparents, who married right before Ted shipped out for service in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

The Nurres have another longstanding family tradition that spans across four generations, but this one wasn't made with intention.

Dating back to the early 1900s, eight female members of the Nurre family, along with extended family, have attended UNT.

Jerre's aunt Lucile Umphress attended the university when it was known as North Texas State Normal College. A 1923 Yucca yearbook lists her as a member of both the Cottage Cousins and Scribes clubs. Later, Jerre, her daughters -- Sara, Susan and Becky -- and granddaughter Kate all enrolled at the university.

There was never any pressure to become an Eagle, Kate says. One by one though, they found their calling at UNT.

Kate's mom Sara ('79, '83 M.Ed.) and aunt Susan ('81) enrolled at North Texas State University in the fall of 1977 as accounting majors. Sara, the oldest of her family, later switched to education in preparation for teaching in the K-12 classroom. Susan stuck with accounting all the way through, even persevering through a few computer classes she thought might not go in her favor.

"We were learning COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) and how to use the old punch cards," Susan says. "My roommate and I were taking this class, and we thought we were going to fail. We talked to the instructor, and he told us to, 'hang in there, the lightbulb will come on.' Luckily, it did, and I ended up enjoying it. At my first job with Arthur Andersen, I worked with COBOL and later taught it to new hires at the firm."

Their little sister Becky ('84, '86 M.S.) would make the trek to Denton from the family home in Sherman on the weekends to visit her sisters for sporting events, dinners at Texas Pickup Café and other fun outings. When it came time for Becky to make her own decision on where to go to college, UNT seemed a logical choice. She was interested in helping people with disabilities, which eventually led her to bachelor's and master's degrees in communication disorders followed by a career in speech pathology working with Denton ISD, Denton State School and University of Texas at Dallas, among other places.

"UNT gave me a foundational base to a bunch of different beginnings of knowledge in my field," Becky says. "While there, I also served as a graduate assistant. That allowed me to work on research projects with the professors and be exposed to different avenues within our profession."

The sisters all had their treasured fun spots outside of the classroom, too. In between classes, Becky would listen to music on record players or live music from the jazz bands performing in the Rock Bottom Lounge at the North Texas State University Union Building. Her neighbor at Maple Hall became her best friend and the two have remained in touch.

"When we talk, it's like we're 18 again going to a party at the Sammy House at the corner of Fry and Oak streets," Becky says. "We reminisce on old memories like the time someone strung a television from the tree in front of that house."

Once Susan got over her bout with homesickness, she relished life on campus, working at the Career Planning and Placement office all four years, and being an active member and president of business fraternity Phi Chi Theta.

"I was going home every weekend, but the spring semester of my freshman year we got snowed in," Susan says. "After that, I fell in love with the campus and the university community. I really felt like a college kid."

As much as the Nurre sisters were proud of their own degrees, they were even more elated when their mom, Jerre, decided to attend UNT. After watching her daughters excel in college, Jerre felt the pull to finally get her own degree in English in 1998. Since her husband, Ted, would drive her to campus, he signed up to audit classes on WWII history. Having served in that war himself, Ted offered unique, primary source perspective for his classmates.

"My mom always instilled in us that education was important," Becky says. "It wasn't if you are going to college, but when. So for her to be able to receive a degree herself was significant."

Attending Jerre's graduation was one of the handful of times Kate can remember coming to campus as a kid. She's proud to have been able to carry on the Nurre legacy by coming to UNT to study art history. Kate's sister-in-law Whitney Tarvin ('13) also graduated from UNT, and Whitney's younger sister Tori Manning is a current freshman at the university.

"I think it says a lot about the value of tradition in a society that is losing sight of that," Kate says. "It's also a testament to the education that UNT offers."