UNT friends

Robert LaForte

Robert Sherman LaForte, 80, Professor Emeritus of history, died July 11 in Galveston. LaForte joined the history faculty in 1968 and served as chair of the department, retiring in 1998. He established the UNT archives in 1975. LaForte co-wrote several books about World War II — Remembering Pearl Harbor: Eyewitness Accounts by U.S. Military Men and Women, Building the Death Railway: The Ordeal of American POWs in Burma, 1942-45 and With Only the Will to Live: Accounts of Americans in Japanese Prison Camps, 1941-45 — as well as an authorized history of UNT’s first 100 years, Down the Corridor of Years: A Centennial History of the University of North Texas in Photographs, 1890-1990. In 2002, he donated his collection of hundreds of books by and about World War II prisoners of war to UNT’s archives. In 1994, he received the ’Fessor Graham Award, which students give to outstanding faculty members. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pittsburg State University and a doctorate from the University of Kansas and later added a master’s degree in library science from the University of Texas. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1956.

George Cook

George L. Cook, 64, former scene shop supervisor for the Department of Dance and Theatre, died July 31. He retired in 2011. He spent much of his career behind the scenes of productions in Austin and North Texas. He built sets for movies such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Silkwood, served on the staff of the TV show Austin City Limits, worked as a stagehand for concerts in Austin and Dallas and helped on productions at UNT and the University of Texas at Austin.

Hugh Ayer

Hugh Ayer, 90, Professor Emeritus of history and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, died July 14 in Denton. Ayer taught American history at North Texas from 1958 to 1986. His duties included serving as chair of the division of social science and, in 2004, he received the Honorary Alumni Award, given to individuals who were never students at UNT but showed outstanding devotion to the university. A scholarship was set up in his name that supports entering freshmen. Ayer was active in many organizations outside UNT, serving on the Denton City Council and Planning and Zoning Board. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University and his master’s degree and doctorate from Indiana University. He taught at Culver Military Academy before coming to North Texas. As a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1945, he served as a radio operator in the Pacific Theater, intercepting Japanese naval communications. He also served in the reserve from 1950 to 1959.

Gerard O'Donovan

Gerard A. O’Donovan, 76, professor of biological sciences, died Feb. 19. He had taught at UNT since 1984, serving as chair of the biology department from 1984 to 1999. He supported many students as a member of the Pre-Professional Advisory Committee and served as a mentor to more than 200 master’s and doctoral students during his career. He taught courses in microbiology and medical bacteriology and received numerous teaching awards.

A native of Ireland, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at University College Cork and his doctorate at the University of California, Davis. He began his lifelong study of pyrimidine metabolism in bacteria as a postdoctoral researcher at UC-Berkeley. His research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Welch Foundation and NATO, among other organizations. Prior to joining UNT, he served on the faculty at Texas A&M University. A celebration of his life was held at UNT’s Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building.

Carolyn Kern

Carolyn W. Kern, 61, Denton, associate professor of counseling who had worked at UNT since 1991, died Nov. 2. She joined the faculty after serving as a senior clinical counselor at the University Counseling Center at Oklahoma State University and also had worked as a mental health and school counselor. Her areas of expertise included college counseling, coun­selor supervision, adventure-based counseling and resilience, and she had researched suicide prevention with a grant from the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Services. She received numerous distinguished service awards from professional counseling organiza­tions and was the immediate past president of the Texas Counseling Association and a fellow and former board member of the American Counseling Association. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the Uni­versity of Kansas, a master’s from Emporia State University and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University. Memorials may be made to support future counseling stu­dents’ scholarships through the Carolyn & Doug Kern Scholarship Fund at UNT.

Edward Johnson

Edward R. ‘Ed’ Johnson, 72, died April 25. Johnson was director of libraries at North Texas from 1979 to 1987 and an adjunct faculty member in library and information sciences. He was a graduate of the University of Colorado and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin. At North Texas, he was responsible for the libraries at a time when the card catalog was being computerized and the Rare Book Room opened. He also worked at the University of Colorado, the University of Iowa and Pennsylvania State University, and he retired from Oklahoma State University, where he was Doris Neustadt Professor and dean of libraries. He published several journal articles and two books and was active in the Texas Library Association, where he was a member of the executive board, and the Oklahoma Library Association, which he served as president. OLA gave him its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, in 2004 and honored him as a Library Legend during the state’s 2007 centennial celebrations. He loved fishing, especially fly-fishing, and was interested in Southwest history and archaeology.

David Kimbell 

David A. Kimbell Sr., 83, member of the Board of Regents from 1963 to 1969, died Feb. 23 in Wichita Falls. He earned a petroleum geology degree from the University of Oklahoma and established Alan Drilling Co. before joining Burk Royalty Co. as a geologist and exploration manager. He became president of Burk in 1962. Appointed a regent by Gov. John Connally, he was involved in the development of the UNT campus, working on the university master plan and chairing the committee that studied plans for the Coliseum. He also was president and chair of the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Wichita Falls and served on various bank boards in the North Texas region. He managed and operated ranches in Texas and Oklahoma and managed a large cattle property in Queensland, Australia.

Richard Laing

Richard Harlow Laing died Dec. 23 in Greenville, N.C. Laing was recruited by Cora Stafford to join the art department at North Texas in 1960 and later served as chair of art education and developed courses in printmaking. Sculptures he created were installed in many locations around Denton and one was used in a logo for the music department. His work also was included in a 2011 exhibition at UNT on the Square, Laying the Foundation: UNT Art Faculty, 1890-1970. Laing was a member of the National Art Education Association, the Western Arts Association and the Michigan Art Education Association. After serving as head of art departments at Ball State University and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, he became dean of the School of Art at East Carolina University in 1979. In 1992, he was named Distinguished Art Educator of the Year by the North Carolina Art Education Association. He retired from East Carolina in 1999 and was named Professor Emeritus. Laing received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, a master’s from Wayne State University and his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University. During the Korean War, he joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and served for eight years. Survivors include his wife of 42 years, Penelope Gamble Laing (’66).

Robert Rogers

Robert J. 'Bob' Rogers, pianist and Professor Emeritus of music, died May 14. He never missed a note when it came to being a volunteer, philanthropist, educator, mentor and fixture in the Denton community. Rogers first arrived at North Texas in 1939 on a double bass scholarship and studied piano, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army three years later. After graduating from the Juilliard School of Music and Columbia Teachers College, he returned to campus in 1948 to teach piano pedagogy and remained until 1984, serving as assistant dean in the College of Music from 1969 to 1975. He served as chair of a committee charged with remodeling the Music Building and as a charter member, province governor and chapter advisor for the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. In 1990, the fraternity named the Robert J. Rogers Lifetime Service Award in his honor.Roger's legacy of service and volunteerism at UNT continued long after he left his teaching post. He was the pianist at countless fundraisers and campus events, and he and his wife, Daisy, were known for tirelessly volunteering at the UNT Music Library and supporting students through scholarships. In 2012, he was honored with UNT’s Outstanding Alumni Service Award, he shared that UNT also brought out the best in him. Memorials may be made to the Robert J. Rogers Piano Scholarship in the College of Music. Donate at giving.unt.edu.

Bobbie L. Wilborn

Bobbie L. Wilborn, Professor Emeritus of education who taught at North Texas from 1971 to 1994 died Nov. 10 in Denton. She was a Meadows Honors Professor and chair of the Department of Counselor Education, and then the Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Development. She previously taught high school in Bellville and Silverton and was a teacher and counselor in Dallas schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a master’s from the University of Colorado and a doctorate from the University of Missouri. Wilborn was a frequent speaker and a widely published author. She served as president of the North Central Texas Personnel and Guidance Association, the Texas School Counselor Association and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, and was active in the American Counseling Association, among many other organizations. She was a member of the Texas State Board of Examiners for Teacher Education and the National Commission for Teacher Education and Professional Standards. Memorials may be made to the Bobbie Wilborn Scholarship at UNT.

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