Dr. Bertina Hildreth Combes


Dr. Bertina Hildreth Combes, 62, vice provost for faculty success and professor of special education who had worked at UNT since 1989, died Feb. 19 in Denton. She also had served as coordinator of special education programs and as associate and interim dean of the College of Education.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University, she worked as an elementary school teacher specializing in learning and intellectual disabilities and emotional and behavior disorders while earning a master’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin and served as an assistant professor at Texas Tech University before joining the UNT faculty.

In UNT’s Department of Educational Psychology, she focused on preparing professional educators to meet the needs of diverse students receiving special education services, including those with learning disabilities. She was the director for Project TELL: Training Effective Leaders for High-Needs Schools Through Local Partnerships, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help train future leaders of special education programs.

Her honors at UNT included being named a Student Association Honors Professor and a Mortar Board Top Prof, as well as receiving the first Ulys and Vera Knight Faculty Mentor Award and a President’s Council Teaching Award. She also was honored for her leadership in supporting inclusion and diversity at UNT and was known as a guiding light and mentor to her colleagues on campus and beyond. She was active in numerous professional organizations through the years, including the International Council for Learning Disabilities. She also was an active member of Delta Sigma Theta.

Students remember her as an understanding mentor who shaped their interest in the field of special education and encouraged them to turn possibilities into plans. She was a deeply religious person who also believed in the power of education to transform lives. The child of college educators, she created the Drs. Eddie and Gladys Hildreth Scholarship at UNT, named for her parents. This scholarship is now endowed because of her dedication and commitment to it.

Survivors include her two children, Ashley ('17) and Julius ('19), both UNT alumni, and her mother, who also taught at UNT.

To honor Dr. Combes' legacy as an educator, a scholarship has been created in her name. Memorials to the Dr. Bertina H. Combes Scholarship fund may be made through University Advancement, 1155 Union Circle #311250, Denton, TX 76203-5017. For more information about the scholarship, contact Shelly Lane, senior director of development in the College of Education, at or 940-891-6860.

The UNT community will celebrate Dr. Combes' life at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, in a virtual recognition on UNT's YouTube channel.


Dr. Bertina Hildreth Combes

Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher, Denton. She was an administrative assistant in the College of Science since 2012. In her free time, she was an artist, and received an honorable mention for her drawing in the On My Own Time exhibit.

Daniel Johnson

Daniel JohnsonDaniel Johnson, 80, former dean of what is now the College of Health and Public Service who went on to become president of the University of Toledo, died July 1 in Washington Township, Michigan. His higher education career spanned more than 40 years and brought him international recognition. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Christian University and his doctorate from the University of Missouri. He worked in various leadership roles at Virginia Commonwealth University, then served at UNT as a professor of sociology and dean of the then-called School of Community Service from 1991 to 1997. His research specialties included urban poverty and diverse student retention, and he received the university’s Equal Opportunity Award for his support of increased campus diversity. He wrote about and advocated for metropolitan universities, with a focus on applied research and serving the needs of their regions. In 1994, he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards to the newly formed Texas State Commission for National and Community Service, to support volunteer participation in government and community-based programs. He also assisted with the merger of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine with UNT. He created the Daniel M. Johnson Award for Community Service, first presented in 1998 to Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. Dan left UNT to become provost at the University of Alaska. He then led the University of Toledo from 2001 to 2006 and served in various other positions before retiring as distinguished university professor of public policy and economic development. He also was provost and chief operating officer of Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011.

Betha "Beth" Lee Miller Nance

Betha NanceBETHA “BETH” LEE MILLER NANCE, 81, former assistant director of housing, died May 19 in Corinth. After leaving UNT after 30 years of service, she worked as an independent insurance broker until she retired at 78. She was active in her church and the Ariel and Shakespeare Clubs of Denton. Survivors include her son Roy Nance, associate director of UNT’s Printing and Distribution Solutions.

Clarence Jefferson 'Woody' Wood

CLARENCE JEFFERSON ‘WOODY’ WOOD (’49), Denton. He served as a U.S. Navy petty officer at Pearl Harbor during World War II. He then studied music instrument repair at the Conn Musical Instrument factory in Elkhart, Indiana, before coming to North Texas, where he was the lead alto saxophonist and founding member of the One O’Clock Lab Band in 1947. Woody repaired instruments for his own stores in Texas City; Shreveport, Louisiana; Sherman; and Denton. As a lifelong musician, he repaired instruments long after retirement and also created a flute for one-handed players. He continued playing in jazz bands until a month before his passing. He is survived by his wife Mary Wood (’52) and daughters Christie Wood (’78), and her husband George D’Ascenzo (’78), and Candis Wood Kimball (’80) and her husband Robert Kimball. Donations may be made to the Woody Wood Scholarship in the College of Music.

Jerry Dake

Jerry Dake, 80, a longtime employee in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business, died Aug. 28 in Denton. Since 2001, he served in numerous positions, including executive lecturer and managing director of the Center for Quality and Productivity, executive director and director of the Center for Decision and Information Technologies, and senior lecturer for the Department of Information Technology and Decision Sciences. He previously served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and as an assistant professor for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School from 1965 to 1967; as an assistant and associate professor of finance at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 1967 to 1971; in numerous positions at Coca-Cola from 1971 to 1987, including vice president of materials management from 1983 to 1987; and as vice president of operations for ERLY Juice Inc. from 1987 to 1989. He studied civil engineering at Purdue University as an undergraduate and went on to earn a Ph.D. in finance. In Denton he enjoyed being a part of his wine group and racquetball club. The family will receive friends from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 2 at DeBerry Funeral Directors in Denton.

Richard Alexander Harris Jr.

Richard Alexander Harris Jr. (’62), 79, former UNT associate vice president for computing and UNT System chief technology officer, of Denton, died Aug. 4 in Sparta, Ill. During his 43 years at UNT, he was instrumental in creating and leading computing and technology services.

After completing his bachelor's degree in mathematics at North Texas, he was one of the university's first computer operators and programmers when he started working as a graduate assistant in 1962. The next year, he was appointed acting director of the Academic Computing Center and taught programming courses. In 1964, he became director of computer systems and led the Academic Computing Center and the Administrative Data Processing Center, which merged in 1970 as the university’s Computing Center. He retired as associate vice president for computing and chief technology officer in 2005.

He was selected as the 2004 Dallas-Fort Worth Area Information Technology Executive of the Year by the Society for Information Management after his leadership in implementing the UNT System's web-based, multi-campus Enterprise Information System ahead of schedule and under budget.

Richard was an active supporter of UNT along with his wife, Joneel (’75 M.S., ’99 Ph.D.), who served as registrar and associate vice president for enrollment management until her retirement in 2006. Members of the President’s Council and the UNT Alumni Association, they funded the Richard and Joneel Harris Scholarship in Higher Education in the College of Education for graduate students with a minor in research or technology. In his free time, Richard ran a ranch with his brother, played Pokémon Go and enjoyed traveling in his RV, often to compete in and win trapshooting events. He was in Sparta to attend the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships when he passed away. His motto was, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

Visitation will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Mulkey-Bowles-Montgomery Funeral Home, 705 N. Locust, in Denton. A Celebration of Life is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 14 at Denton Country Club, 1213 Country Club Road, in Argyle. Memorials may be made to the Richard and Joneel Harris Scholarship.

Richard Alexander Harris Jr.

David B. Kesterson

David B. Kesterson, 81, of Denton, who served as provost and vice president for academic affairs among his many positions in nearly four decades of service to UNT, died March 12.

He taught at North Carolina State University before joining the English faculty at North Texas in 1968 and later was chair of the English department and associate, acting and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was named vice provost and associate vice president for academic affairs in 1993 and served as provost and vice president from 1998 to 2003. He then was named special assistant to the president for humanities and retired as Professor Emeritus in 2007.

An expert on 19th century literature, he wrote books and journal articles on American authors and co-founded and served as president of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society. He specialized in American humor and served as president of the American Humor Studies Association. In 1985, he received a Senior Fulbright Fellowship to teach courses in English and American literature at the University of Wurzburg in Germany.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Arkansas. Growing up in Missouri inspired his love for Mark Twain and humor. In his youth, he was a percussionist and, as a retiree, he frequently attended College of Music performances. He also was a member of the President’s Council.

Survivors include his wife, Cheryl, and sons Aubry (’89, ’89 M.S.) and Chad (’98). His memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. March 30 at DeBerry Funeral Directors. Memorials in his name may be made to the Department of English or College of Music.

Hugh Kirkpatrick

Hugh Kirkpatrick (’48, ’49 MA, ’76 Ph.D), 89, Professor Emeritus of English, died July 24 in Denton. Kirkpatrick worked at North Texas from 1961 to 1992, becoming an assistant professor of English and associate dean and acting dean of the graduate school.

He studied linguistics at Georgetown University and published articles on medieval literature and language. He served in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He later worked as a foreign service officier with the U.S. Information Service in embassies including Beirut, Lebanon; Tehran, Iran; Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

He earned his degrees in English at North Texas, and as a bachelor’s student, he met his wife, Lina Briggs Kirkpatrick (’46), who died Aug. 24. They were both founding members of the Denton Bach Society and participated in many musical organizations in the area.

Stephen Haslund

Stephen L. Haslund (’70, ’73 M.Ed., ’78 Ph.D.), Friendswood :: He studied music education and earned his doctorate in college and university teaching. He joined the Texas Chiropractic College as dean of student services in 1994 and served as vice president of student affairs and vice president for administrative affairs before retiring.