Thursday, March 21, 2013

Prepared for takeoff

Thank President Harry S. Truman in 1946 for giving TCU the chance at a national championship.
Not in football. In the sky.
Fresh off defeating the Axis in World War II and capitalizing on a surge of aviation-related nationalism, Truman signed Public Law 476, which incorporated the Civil Air Patrol as a nonprofit organization. It was an act of thanks to the group’s thousands of volunteers who had answered America’s call to national service by performing critical wartime missions in the days after Pearl Harbor, including more than 500,000 flying hours, sinking two enemy submarines and saving hundreds of crash victims. Not bad for a bunch of civilians.
When the war ended, the nation understood that these everyday aviators could continue to provide valuable services to local and national agencies, so Truman established the United States Air Force a year later. Soon after, the Civil Air Patrol became an official auxiliary of the military.
At TCU, patriotism was swelling, too. A local chapter of the American Legion had formed and veterans were arriving on campus — with them, the urge to fly.
In the spring of 1947, the university had an unofficial aviation “ground school” that taught basic cockpit controls in an old BT-13a training plane that wasn’t even flight-worthy. It was more a restoration project that class instructor Troy Stinson had taken on. But he had to abandon the effort after too many neighborhood boys pilfered the plane’s movable parts.
 The time had come to start something official.
In April, Stinson sent out inquiries to aviation companies about buying a plane at cost and then organized a student group — made up of Civil Air Patrol members and Army and Navy reservists — patterned after the National Intercollegiate Flying Club. He called it Flying Frogs.
Nineteen students signed up at the first meeting, appointed officers and formed a G.I. committee to seek government funding.
Two weeks later, a few of them rented a plane and competed for the first time at an air meet in Columbia, Mo., earning a second-place and a third-place finish in two events.
It was a start.
But the Flying Frogs were about to take off. Their next competition wouldn’t come until seven months later at the Intercollegiate Air Meet in Denver. This time, 17 students and Stinson hopped a Douglas C-47 Skytrain military transport at Fort Worth Army Air Field. The TCU Skiff ran a photo of the group at the top of the front page of its Nov. 7, 1947, edition.
Five universities competed in contests called bomb dropping, speed dash, spot landing and airplane scavenger hunt.
The Flying Frogs swept them all, led by sophomore Mary Helen Rattikin ’49 of the Civil Air Patrol, who was the flier of the meet, setting a national collegiate record in spot landing and taking third in speed dash.
PhotoThe squad became the talk of the school, with the results of their meets covered in similar fashion as the football and baseball teams. Stinson led a drive for more members, advertising that students could acquire a pilot’s license and complete a 40-hour course for about 50 bucks, which was quite a bargain. Normally, lessons and airfield fees would cost about $300, but Stinson had arranged access to a Porterfield trainer for only $2.50 an hour. Stoney Henry, owner of Fort Worth’s Russell Field, reserved one of his own planes for team practice.
By January 1948, the Flying Frogs had grown to 21 members, each paying $2 in dues, but more important, the group had gained official recognition by the National Intercollegiate Flying Club and awarded the host site for the 1949 national meet. Newspaper advertisements bombarded students with calls to jet off to away football games or consider a future with the U.S. Army or U.S. Air Force, further evidence of the club’s popularity and the growing market for commercial aviation and leisure travel.
By May, the Flying Frogs were nearing the end of their maiden season. They  had swept another air meet and hosted their own competition at Eagle Mountain National Guard Air Base, which attracted a record 13 schools. With the sport’s national stage, TCU turned the whole affair into a party, including swimming, boating and free barbecue. Four P-51s from nearby Hensley Field in Grand Prairie performed an aerial show.
Best of all, the purple fliers won easily, taking first in three of the six events.
They were the favorites to win the national meet in Michigan in June, if they could afford the travel. Expenses from their own meet had depleted the club’s treasury, and unless a benefactor helped, the Flying Frogs were going to stay grounded.
It was a rescue mission for the Civil Air Patrol. Area fliers learned of the students’ woes and helped find enough money for six Flying Frogs to make the trip to Ann Arbor.
But the team suffered by not being at full strength. They managed a second-place finish overall, led by Royce Livingston ’49, who garnered third in spot landing, and Jim Bollinger ’50, who took third in bomb dropping. Rattikin placed sixth in spot landing and was honored as the top female pilot.
“Although we have no planes of our own with which to practice and no home field as many of the other schools have, it is clear that we do have some top fliers,” Stinson told the Skiff. “Our hopes are that we can do better next year.”
Still, the TCU contingent was instrumental in other ways, leading a charge to change the name of the national organization to National Intercollegiate Flying Association, a moniker that remains today, and organizing their own four-state district.
The next season, the club had grown to nearly 35 members and the Flying Frogs had swept through the regular season undefeated. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force engaged four fliers in a ferrying job, escorting a DC-3 from New York to Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. TCU also was selected to become home of the first Civil Air Patrol squadron on a college campus.
PhotoBut the best news of all came in March 1949 when the group bought its own plane. Under a government war surplus program, the Air Force sold the group a single-engine, two-seat L-4 from San Marcos Air Base for $50, just to cover clearance charges. The craft, which students dubbed “Bucket of Bolts,” needed $400 worth of reconditioning, but it was theirs. Stinson believed that was all that stood between the Frogs and a national title.
Unfortunately, government bureaucracy kept “Bucket” earthbound until the spring of 1951. Because the plane was a part of the surplus program, no bill of sale was issued, and the Civil Aeronautics Board wouldn’t give clearance until TCU obtained one.
By then, the flying craze was waning. The sport was expensive and the club’s numbers were dwindling. The Flying Frogs also suffered a streak of bad luck at nationals. In 1949, the team hosted the title meet on its home runway but had an off day and finished a disappointing fourth. In 1950, at Oklahoma, the team managed only one point after “Bucket” nosed over while on the ground and cracked its propeller. Though a  national power, the team never did win a national title.
The club re-emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the tutelage of Serge Matulich, an associate professor of accounting. Besides flying, the group went on field trips to area airports, control towers and aircraft manufacturers, including General Dynamics.
“They say that race car drivers have gasoline in their blood,” then-sophomore Karen Campbell ’85, a one-time president of the club, told the Skiff in 1983. “Well, pilots have jet fuel in theirs.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Catching air at KTCU

An enlarged yearbook photo hung for many years in the studios of KTCU. The young man in the frame was Luther Adkins ’49. The label under the portrait refers to him as the station’s founder.
The funny thing about the man they dubbed the founder is that his voice never graced the KTCU airwaves — at least not in his student days. There was that time in 1981, at the grand opening of KTCU’s new digs in the Moudy Building, when folks convinced Adkins to sit at the console and ham it up like a morning-show disc jockey.
But Adkins, who speaks even in casual conversation with the clarity and confidence of a broadcast professional, is not associated indelibly with TCU’s campus radio station for something he did on the station. It’s about what he did for the station. “I got them on the air,” Adkins says. “That’s why they call me that.”
Adkins could not have known what the station he helped launch in the fall of 1948 would become. FCC-licensed since 1964, KTCU 88.7 FM “The Choice” has helped kick-start the careers of scores of aspiring media professionals. The format has changed many times over the decades but not the mission: KTCU remains an outlet for students to hone their broadcasting skills in a setting that closely mirrors a major-market commercial radio station.
“I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do career-wise because of KTCU,” says Scott Blusiewicz ’08 (MS), who is part of the radio broadcast team for the Houston Astros’ Class A affiliate in Lancaster, Calif. “They have some really unique and creative on-air programs for college radio. It’s created a lot of opportunities for students.

Adkins is seated at a conference-room table in his Fort Worth Club office, thumbing through a thick file folder. “Now where did I put this?” the retired Carter Publications personnel manager asks himself. The “aha” moment comes soon enough and Adkins retrieves a 30-year-old newspaper clipping that references the founding of the station. He reads a sentence aloud about the role played by WBAP radio in KTCU’s inception.
 “They got the station wrong,” he says. “It was actually KCNC.”
It’s a forgivable mistake. Adkins spent much of his 50-year media career at WBAP-TV Channel 5 and its parent company, Carter Publications.  But KCNC is where it all began. Adkins, an announcer/DJ for the station, was one of just a handful of TCU students who had a paid radio gig.
The closest that members of the TCU Radio Club could get in the spring of 1948 to doing the real thing was practicing their craft over a public-address system that fed into a speaker in an adjoining room. Tired of simply playing radio, club members sought Adkins’ help in starting up an actual broadcast.
Adkins, who had been an active member of the club his sophomore year, hatched a plan to end his classmates’ frustration. He called in a favor from a KCNC engineer who liked to tinker with equipment in his spare time. Adkins recalls he was able to secure $500 from TCU to buy a turntable and pay for the supplies his engineer friend needed to construct a plywood console.
The equipment was ready by fall. Absent a transmitter, the engineer instead created a wired-wireless system that could be heard in most campus residence halls and academic buildings. The days of playing radio were over. KTCU was on the air.
It was something of a parting gift from Adkins, who graduated in the spring of 1949 as the first recipient of the newly created bachelor of fine arts in radio-television-film. Adkins returned to school briefly the following fall. He received a $50 stipend to teach a semester-long introduction-to-radio course. But he knew his path was as a practitioner, not a professor.
Photo“It was a good time to be breaking in to radio,” says Adkins, who became program director and then commercial manager at KCNC before leaving in 1951 for WBAP-TV, where he started out as director of religious, public and educational programming. He later became WBAP-TV’s administrative manager.
As Adkins’ career was taking shape, KTCU was slowly forming into a bona fide radio station. KTCU relocated in 1949 from Building Two of the Barracks to the Fine Arts Building. In the mid-1950s, the station converted to closed-circuit radio transmission. The station purchased seven specially built transmitters, allowing students to hear hi-fi music by tuning to 1025 KC’s on any campus radio.
Eight months after the Beatles debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show, KTCU received an official FCC license. The station took the airwaves as 89.1 FM (It would be several years before it slid over to its more familiar spot on the dial). On Sept. 15, 1964, a TCU Daily Skiff story boasted that the station would have an “excellent signal” within a four-mile radius of campus and an “adequate signal” within a 15-mile area.
KTCU listeners in those early years would have tuned in to hear an opera, an orchestral arrangement, or a 30-minute news update. Sports programming included live play-by-play of varsity baseball and Wog (freshman-team) football games.
 Realizing that student DJs would rather spin Rolling Stones records than broadcast Beethoven sonatas, station manager Larry Lauer (today TCU’s vice chancellor for government affairs) in 1967 changed the set list to a heavy dose of rock ’n’ roll. But by the late 1970s, the station had once again shifted back to a jazz/classical music/public affairs format.
“We are primarily a training facility for students,” station manager Constantine Bernardez told the Skiff in 1984. “Our formats don’t have mass appeal, so obviously we’re not interested in numbers (of listeners).”
Turned out, there were tons of potential listeners around town — if they could be enticed to tune in. Station manager Andy Haskett proved that in 1994 when he gave the station an edge. Patterned after popular Dallas station “The Edge,” KTCU’s commercial-free, alternative-rock format generated a buzz among local fans of The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. In one year, the audience exploded from fewer than 4,000 listeners to more than 19,000.
These days, KTCU draws an impressive 25,000 unique listeners per week. Daytime music is geared toward reaching a wide cross-section of Fort Worth listeners, explains station manager Russell Scott. Scott has also beefed up coverage of TCU athletics to give would-be sports broadcasters more on-air opportunities than they had in the past. Scott’s philosophy includes letting students run the show after dark.
“We purposely leave our nighttime music selection up to the students in order to foster their creativity and give them a better sense of ownership over their specialty shows,” Scott says.
New technology is expanding the station’s reach. Online listeners around the world stream KTCU. The station is especially popular in Denmark. KTCU even joined the iPhone revolution in April 2010 with a free app — in the first 11 months, more than 5,000 people had downloaded it.
“Our website has provided us a way to get news and information out to listeners, but what’s a bigger story, I think, is our social media and our iPhone app,” Scott says. “Both have been very successful.”
KTCU is poised for many decades of continued success. And Adkins is glad to have played a role in laying its foundation.
“I’m lucky to have been a part of a lot of history,” Adkins says. “When you get this old, you are history.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Clark Hall Spirit Marauders

Before there were the HyperFrogs, there were the Clark Hall Spirit Marauders. They were easy to spot at TCU sporting events, sitting in the front rows with their faces painted purple and white, cheering and shouting.

They were determined to improve school spirit.

"The whole idea behind the group is that we wanted to build some spirit around TCU and create a tradition," group leader and Clark Hall resident Mike Kerner was quoted as saying in the 1989 Horned Frog yearbook.

Among other activities, the Spirit Marauders took groups of children with cystic fibrosis to football and basketball games.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A fresh slate in 1983-84

Having graduated all eight of the seniors who truly were the Killer Frogs, the TCU men's basketball team of 1983-84 was starting with a clean slate. That became the theme of that season's media guide, shown above. It was Jim Killingsworth's fifth season in Fort Worth, and only one player remained from the previous season's 23-11 squad that finished tied for fourth in the Southwest Conference and reached the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.

Youth would be the theme and depicted by wide-eyed Tommy Carley watching Killingsworth erase the Killer Frogs tag. The new crop, which included Frog greats Jamie Dixon, Dennis Nutt, Carven Holcombe, Tracy Mitchell and Tony Papa. would struggle to an 11-17 mark that season, but they would rebound to a 16-12 mark in 1984-85, setting up back-to-back years of 20-plus wins and SWC crowns in 1985-86 and 1986-87.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Frog Blog is now Mem'ries Sweet Blog

You may have noticed that we haven't posted to our old Frog Blog very often since spring. The magazine staff has been talking about what would be a better use of this weblog space, and we have concluded that we need more nostalgia pieces that would be of interest to our audience.

TCU has begun its 140th academic year and there is lots of history from which to choose. A few times a week, we aim to share with the TCU community short items from the TCU Daily Skiff, The TCU Magazine (or its old moniker This Is TCU), the Horned Frog yearbook and stuff our readers send to us.

We invite you to comment, share, expound and add to what we post. You're a part of TCU's great history and lore. In this space, we'll celebrate it together.

If you have ideas for content, email your thoughts to and put Mem'ries Sweet in the subject line.

Go Frogs!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Emeritus professor Bill Watson active in art world.

From time to time in the late 1990s, Emeritus Chemistry Professor Bill Watson and I shared an elevator as we headed to our respective offices in the Sid Richardson building. By day, the highly respected Watson guided students through the mental maze of chemistry and conducted research on x-ray crystallography, among other areas of chemical interest.

But, as I eventually discovered, Bill Watson is quite the Renaissance man, with many interests, including art. While still at TCU, he painted an outdoor-scene on one wall of his crowded office, turned old CDs into a mobile and added graffiti-like cartoon faces to a row of gray filing cabinets.

Retired for several years, Watson — who lives in Santa Fe — is now enjoying the art scene full time. Check out his work and activities at

Here’s what Joyce Asper with the Agora Gallery recently said about Watson’s creations on display at their gallery:

“Drawing inspiration from science, shamanistic ritual and medicine and native art, Bill Watson creates dreamscapes of exploration and connectivity. Highly stylized, many compositions feature animal or spirit forms and illustrate variations on folk tales and Native American beliefs.

Watson’s themes are emphasized by the intense, joyous colors he uses, running through a wide range of bright earth tones juxtaposed so as to create high impact and luminous draw. The various elements of the paintings are linked — often by lines or strings of abstracted shapes — and fill the canvas organically.

Watson employs deftly blended brushstrokes that give his surfaces a warm dappled feeling and leave a light surface texture that adds depth to the otherwise linear represented forms. The overall effect is of a narrative journey — a mysterious one, but one which arouses intense curiosity, pleasure, and sometimes even amusement.”

Check out Watson’s Website— Nancy

Monday, August 24, 2009

TCU offers Web page on swine flu preparedness

As school begins here and across the country, reports of a predicted new wave of H1N1 (swine) flu this fall have begun.

In response, TCU has announced an information and resource Web page related to the virus, which includes news updates, information links and fact sheets about symptoms and ways to prevent getting sick.

TCU will work with local health authorities to monitor H1N1 in the Fort Worth-Dallas area and its impact on the university. The university also will monitor the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization for information about the progression of the flu.


The Office of Student Affairs informed the campus late Monday afternoon, that officials have confirmed that 10 students have been identified as having H1N1/swine flu. All the cases appear to be mild and all are being treated with Tamiflu.

"Because more is now known about H1N1/swine flu, the CDC recently issued new guidelines for schools and colleges on how to handle H1N1/swine flu cases," said Don Mills, vice chancellor for Student Affairs. "Unlike last spring, the CDC does not recommend closure of institutions but rather recommends that each ill student avoid interaction with the general campus population and not attend classes until fever-free for 24 hours without the assistance of fever reduction medication. Additionally, students who are ill and live in the local area may go home if they wish. In the future, any student confirmed with Influenza Type A will receive medical treatment for H1N1/swine flu. "

The university is reminding faculty, staff and students to practice good hygiene and seek medical attention for any flu-like symptoms. If faculty, staff or students become ill, they are encouraged to seek medical attention as soon as possible and avoid contact with others, Mills said. Students may go to the Brown-Lupton Health Center during clinic hours. Faculty, staff and students also may seek medical attention through private physicians or local hospitals.

Mills also noted that TCU cleans general residence hall areas with hospital grade chemicals on a daily basis.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

1,822 new students at Freshmen Assembly

They sat in the air-conditioned comfort of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in their purple Class of 2013 shirts - all 1,822 (or so) of them - future lawyers, doctors, editors, entrepreneurs, artists and who knows what else, clutching candles, belting out the alma mater and taking the first step toward their destinies.

As for the rest of the TCU Community, as English professor and keynote speaker Richard Enos put it, "We have the privilege of watching what you will become right before our very eyes."

With feelings of hope and promise and potential, a feel-good Freshmen Assembly adjourned. The school year has officially begun.

Enos, Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., Provost Nowell Donovan, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Don Mills and others spent the hour encouraging and inspiring the group with the simple charge of beginning their college careers being smart and successful.

And they're not the same thing.

"The world is filled with talented individuals who have done nothing," Enos preached. "Don't fall victim to the notion that quickness equals brilliance. Writing an A paper just before deadline or cramming the night before an exam might make you smart. But it is not a pattern for success. The cure for cancer will not be discovered in this way."

Using examples of Victor Hugo, Jean Francios Champollion and Isocrates, Enos urged students to embody three traits of individuals who can outsmart those smarter than they: talent, practice and experience.

"You are all talented," he said. "But talented unrealized is talent wasted. My hope is that as partners in the TCU learning community that we will help one another mature and teach the passion to be great and work hard."

Scharbauer Hall nearing completion

The 74,000-square-foot Scharbauer Hall is still a few months away from its December 2009 estimated completion date, but it's hard to tell from across the Campus Commons.

The behemoth structure, which looms over the east side of the Commons in front of a bubbling Frog Fountain, will house the John V. Roach Honors College and AddRan College of Liberal Arts, starting in the Spring 2010 semester in January. It will have LEED certification as a "green" building.

Construction crews have completed the brick work around the perimeter and are working on the top stone harness piece the rest of August, said Harold Leeman, major projects director for the TCU Physical Plant.

Many of the interior details are being checked off the list too. The insides are all painted, save for the fourth floor. Even the ceiling tiles are in place on the first floor. No fixtures or furniture are installed yet, but that will come toward the end of the fall semester. Weather-appropriate landscaping around the building will be planted in December.

Meanwhile, the courtyard between Scharbauer and Reed Hall will be the final items completed, Leeman said. Reed's west side has new windows, but the sidewalks, garden circle and landscaping remain. Reed Hall itself will close for the Spring 2010 semester and open again in August.

In other construction efforts:
- Milton-Daniel Residence Hall, which closed in May for renovation, has gotten a new storm drain in recent weeks, and a new electrical system will be tied in possibly as soon as next week. Milton-Daniel is being renovated to house students of the Honors College. It is estimated to reopen in August 2010.
- Colby Hall will likely follow Milton-Daniel in renovations, and Sadler Hall may be in line for future upgrades.
- The Physical Plant will pursue existing building LEED certification for the Brown-Lupton University Union in September, essentially earning the "green" status on the back end, rather than prior to completion. "We're collecting data from some the meters in the kitchen and air conditioning units and what "green" chemicals are used to clean it," Leeman said. "Basically, it will get LEED status based on how the building operates, as opposed to how it was constructed."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

TCU Football scrimmages after two weeks of fall camp

The TCU football team is 17th in the preseason Associated Press poll released this morning, matching its ranking in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll unveiled earlier this month.

The Horned Frogs have their highest preseason ranking since 1960, when they were 11th. It's the fifth time since 2000 that TCU has been ranked in the preseason. The previous four occasions saw the Frogs no higher than 20th.

With an 11-2 record in 2008, the Frogs were ranked seventh in last year's final Associated Press and USA Today polls. It was the fifth time in the last seven seasons the Frogs won at least 10 games, including four 11-win campaigns.

TCU opens the 2009 season on Sept. 12 at Virginia.

The AP ranking did not cheer up an upset head coach Gary Patterson, who labeled the defensive effort as "bad."

Pressed to elaborate, Patterson rattled off a list including "enthusiasm, tackling, accountability and heart," then, when pressed more, responded to Star-Telegram beat writer Stefan Stevenson, "Just write 'bad' with a period."

Dealing with a depleted unit, Patterson has been forced to give more reps to third-, fourth-, and fifth-string players. Solid performances from defensive end Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington and Tejay Johnson did little to temper his mood.

Patterson was complimentary of the offense, saying that the group "played well" and "showed they wanted it more."

Highlights of the day:

- Jeremy Kerley had two long punt returns, one for a touchdown, that drew oohs and ahhs, but were nullified by penalties.

- Kickers Ross Evans and Kevin Sharples were sharp on their field goal attempts. Evans closed practice with a 52-yard effort that cleared the crossbar with a few yards to spare.

- Under good coverage, wide receiver Antoine Hicks hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton.

- Running backs Chris Smith, Matthew Tucker and Andre Dean had touchdown runs.

2009 Preseason Associated Press Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses and total points received)

1. Florida (58) - 1,498
2. Texas (2) - 1,424
3. Oklahoma - 1,370
4. USC - 1,313
5. Alabama - 1,156
6. Ohio State - 1,113
7. Virginia Tech - 1,054
8. Mississippi - 1,047
T9. Oklahoma State - 989
T9. Penn State - 989
11. LSU - 914
12. California - 746
13. Georgia - 714
14. Boise State - 659
15. Georgia Tech - 593
16. Oregon - 587
17. TCU - 521
18. Florida State - 307
19. Utah - 289
20. BYU - 267
21. North Carolina - 261
22. Iowa - 229
23. Notre Dame - 225
24. Nebraska - 207
25. Kansas - 134