UNT friends

A.M. "Monk" Willis

A.M. ‘Monk’ Willis, Longview, former regent for whom Willis Library was named, died Jan. 14. He served on the Board of Regents from 1965 to 1983, including 10 years as chair. Willis was a graduate of Washington and Lee University and the Harvard Business School. He was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and had served as an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson. He operated an insurance business in Longview before joining the staff of U.S. Rep. Ray Roberts in 1972. In 1976, he was appointed staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee, retiring in 1983.

Known as an advocate for social justice, he was involved with many community organizations in Longview. He was the co-recipient of the first Unity Awards presented in 2005 by the Longview Race Relations Committee. He also was involved with the Texas State Commission on Mental Health, Texas Commission for Better Schools and Texas Committee of Governing Boards. Memorials may be made to the A.M. Willis Jr. Scholarship at UNT.

Francis Stroup

Francis Stroup (’29), DeKalb, Ill., composer of “Fight, North Texas,” died Dec. 1 at 101. He wrote the fight song in 1939 as an entry in a contest for a new marching song. As a student, he was a member of the basketball team, played football and was a swimmer and diver. He was inducted into the UNT Athletics Hall of Fame in 1987. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and earned his master’s and doctorate from the University of Southern California. He was a faculty member at the University of Wyoming and Arkansas’ Southern State College before joining Northern Illinois University, where he wrote the words to the fight song and was the first swimming and diving coach. His teams won 13 NCAA championships. After retiring as a professor of physical education, he continued to enjoy composing and playing music. His mother, Mina Gist Stroup, and brother, Malcolm Stroup, also were alumni. Read a fall 2008 North Texan story about Francis, and listen to his memories of the Depression.

Gayla Tekell

Gayla Tekell (’90 M.A.), Denton, lecturer in Spanish since 2003, died Aug. 16. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Baylor University before earning her master’s in Spanish from UNT. In addition to teaching at UNT, she was involved in weekly ministries to the Hispanic community, working with needy families and teaching English as a second language. She also coordinated her church’s summer mission trips to the Valley, where she worked with Hispanic churches and taught Bible studies in Spanish.

Billie Joyce Keathley Johnson

Billie Joyce Keathley Johnson (’64), Denton :: She attended North Texas in the ’40s and left school to marry returning veteran William M. Johnson (’42). After they returned to Denton, she earned a journalism degree. She was a Girl Scout executive and owned business properties and travel agencies. The Johnsons were avid North Texas sports fans, holding season tickets in football and basketball for many years.

Edmund Pillsbury

Edmund P. "Ted" Pillsbury, Dallas, former director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth who was awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts from UNT in 1996, died March 25. He earned his bachelor’s degree in art history from Yale and a doctorate from the University of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art.

A specialist in Italian Renaissance art, he was the founding director of the Yale Center for British Art. He led the Kimbell to recognition as one of the nation’s outstanding small art museums as its director from 1980 to 1998, adding European masterworks to the collection and mounting major exhibitions. Pillsbury was a partner and CEO in Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art in Dallas, directed the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University from 2003 to 2005 and went on to chair the fine arts department of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas. He also was a consultant to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas.

He was a longtime supporter of the arts at UNT, serving as a member of the advisory board for the College of Visual Arts and Design since the board’s inception in 1992 and collaborating with the UNT-based North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts.

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