University mourns passing of President Emerita Huey

The Texas Woman’s University community is saddened by the passing of our seventh president, Dr. Mary Evelyn Blagg Huey on Tuesday, June 27, 2017.  She was 95 years young. Services will take place at 10:30 a.m., Saturday July 1, at First Presbyterian Church in Denton. 

The TWU Library, named in Huey’s honor, is planning an exhibit to celebrate her life and accomplishments. The exhibit is expected to open Thursday.

President Emerita Huey became the first woman and only alumna to serve as president of the university on Aug. 19, 1976. She was only the second woman ever to serve as the president of a Texas state university at the time.

Dr. Mary Evelyn Blagg Huey

Huey had served as dean of the TWU Graduate School for five years prior to her appointment as president of the university. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and Music in 1942 and a master of arts in English in 1943 from TWU when it was known as the Texas State College for Women. She earned another master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kentucky in 1947 and a Ph.D. in political science at Duke University. 

When she was appointed by the Board of Regents during the university’s Diamond Jubilee, she quickly set out her priorities:  “We shall maintain TWU’s place of leadership in preparation for the healing arts,” she said.  Enrollment at that time was a record 8,728 students.  During her decade of leadership, she sought international opportunities for TWU faculty and students, pursued the creation of a medical school because she believed women deserved more med school opportunities, and revived several university traditions, including Founders’ Day in 1978.

Construction of the Undergraduate Science Laboratory Building, the Administration and Conference Tower and the Presbyterian campus in Dallas also were completed, and major renovations of buildings in Denton and Houston brought university facilities to modern standards. 

It was also during her presidency that TWU received legislative authorization signed by Gov. William P. Clements to create a Collection of the History of Texas Women.  This collection included the records and artifacts on display from the Texas Foundation for Women’s Resources and the collection of first ladies’ gowns placed at TWU by the Texas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

One of Huey’s primary goals was providing a new library for students and faculty. The building, completed in January 1986 on the old “dorm row” site, was named in her honor.

“The library will be a lasting memorial to her,” said Phyllis Bridges, TWU Cornaro Professor of English.  Bridges, who worked closely with Huey, described her as “a tireless worker for TWU” who advocated for, and cared deeply about, the faculty and staff.

Juanita Duenez-Lazo, president of the TWU Alumni Association Board of Directors, echoed that sentiment.

“She was an important part of my personal and professional life,” Duenez-Lazo said. “She literally saved my job.”

Her son, Arthur Lazo Jr., had to stay in the NICU for several months after his birth. Duenez-Lazo, who was the director of student activities and orientation at that time, was gone half the semester while dealing with her son’s health care issues.

“She (Huey) called me and said, ‘Now, don’t you worry about your job.’” As a new mom facing the pressures of her son’s health crisis, Duenez-Lazo said it was a relief to know she would have a job to return to.

“I couldn’t have been more grateful for her leadership and support,” she said. “I always felt supported.”

After serving as president of Texas Woman’s University for 10 years, Huey retired in 1986. Upon her retirement, an endowment to support the library was established in her name.

Duenez-Lazo remained in contact with Huey throughout the years, often visiting Huey at her home in Denton and having chicken salad and black cherry ice cream from Beth Marie’s — Huey’s favorite.

Glenda Brock Simmons, former TWU vice president for student life, said Huey was “100 percent committed to the university and its students.” She remained in Denton after her retirement and frequently returned to campus for special events, Simmons said, and attended a Homecoming luncheon in April.

“She still loved being in the midst of activity,” Simmons said.

In addition to her contributions to the university, Huey served on the Board of Trustees of the National Commission for Cooperative Education and the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education. She also was chair of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

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Page last updated 3:50 PM, September 2, 2021