In 1959–60 the founders of Texas Instruments, John Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott, and Cecil Green, with the help of Lloyd Berkner, president of Associated University, established the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest in Dallas. Chartered on February 14, 1961, the center concentrated on education and research in science and technology and was initially quartered in the Fondren Science Library at Southern Methodist University. In 1962 land for the center was acquired by Jonsson, McDermott, and Green in Richardson, on the boundary of Dallas and Collin counties. In 1967 the name of the center was changed to the Southwest Center for Advanced Study, and in 1968 the coordinating board for the Texas College and University System recommended an upper-level state university in Dallas. The board called for opening the school as a commuter school for juniors, seniors, and graduate students, and the legislation authorized the University of Texas at Dallas. On September 18, 1969, the first students enrolled at the university. From 1969 to 1975 only graduate students were taught. In September 1975 juniors and seniors began to be admitted, and enrollment grew from 700 graduate students in the fall of 1974 to 3,333 students, only 45 percent of whom were graduate students in the fall of 1975. UTD has seen substantial growth; enrollment was 6,369 in 1980, 7,637 in 1989, and 8,980 in 1992. The typical UTD student is thirty years old, married, and has children. Most students work and take at least one evening class. In keeping with the nontraditional nature of the student body, there are no social fraternities and no intercollegiate sports at UTD.
In 1989 there were 200 full-time faculty members, 92 percent of whom held Ph.D. degrees. One fourth of the faculty had received degrees from either Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Chicago, Stanford University, or Columbia University. UTD had 400 faculty members in 1992. UTD emphasizes research as well as teaching, and its annual research expenditures now top $14 million. It has consistently ranked third in Texas in sponsored research per full-time equivalent faculty member. The university is organized into seven schools: Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Computer Science, General Studies, Human Development, Management, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Social Sciences. Each of these schools is headed by a dean. Undergraduate programs within each school are headed by a college master, and graduate programs are headed by directors of graduate study. The university encourages interdisciplinary studies by dispensing with discipline-based departmental structures. There are fifty-nine degrees offered at UTD; Ph.D. degrees are offered in ten academic disciplines. Also offered are nineteen master's degrees and twenty-nine baccalaureate degrees.
The physical plant includes the Eugene McDermott Library, which has 750,000 catalogued materials. It is also a depository for United States government publications and for state government publications. Special collections held by the library include the Translation Library, the Arnold A. Jaffe Holocaust Collection, the History of Aviation Collection, and the Art Photography Collection. The Callier Center for Communications Disorders, a major center specializing in speech and hearing disorders, is part of the School of Human Development, although it is not located on the main university campus. The center maintains its own library on speech and hearing disorders. Another off-campus university library is the University of Texas at Dallas Geological Information Library, which holds the world's largest collection of petroleum well logs and geological data. The Academic Computer Center provides mainframe and microcomputing services for the university. Also associated with the university are the Center for Continuing Education, which provides conferences, seminars, and short courses for members of the community, and the Southwestern Legal Foundation, which sponsors seminars and short courses for government officials, attorneys, and businesspeople. UTD is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Its main campus in Richardson has eleven buildings on nearly 500 acres. Four hundred acres of land are now being used for Synergy Park, an industrial park which focuses upon businesses that can interact with the university. This land currently represents the major endowment of the university with an estimated value of more than $100 million. By 1989 the university had a cash endowment of $6.7 million. Its operating budget in 1989 was $56,429,458, which was more than a $19 million increase over its 1983 operating budget and nearly a $10 million increase over its 1986 operating budget.