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Pioneers in TWU History: John Guinn

Inside TWU is taking a look at the people who shaped Texas Woman’s University in a new series called “Pioneers in TWU History.” There are many who made a mark on the university since its founding more than 120 years ago, and we’ll learn more about them in this occasional series.


The longest-serving leader of the women’s college to date led the institution through threats of a merger, the addition of campuses in Dallas and Houston, and a new name.

John Alonzo Guinn became president of Texas State College for Women in 1950 and served until his death in 1976. His years as president were marked by a dramatic increase in enrollment, the opening of new campuses and expansion of facilities on the Denton campus, and the creation of new programs and expanded research.

The size, scope and quality of programs at TSCW led Guinn to seek a new name for the college. On Aug. 19, 1957, the institution officially became Texas Woman’s University, the first woman’s college in the nation to achieve university status.

Guinn’s tenure as president was not without challenges, however. As the college approached its golden anniversary celebration in 1952-1953, it faced the prospect of a merger with North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas). A bill to combine the two colleges was introduced in January 1953.

Guinn organized alumni and other supporters throughout Texas to voice their opposition to the merger. One powerful supporter, Gov. Alan Shivers, wrote, “I have never favored the merging or closing of TSCW – and it is not my intention to do so now, or in the future.”

The merger bill did not pass.

With that fight ended, Guinn focused on increasing the college’s resources and expanding its programs. Always looking for areas in which women could advance, Guinn became determined to develop the college’s nursing program. A professional nursing program – a joint venture between TSCW and Parkland Hospital of Dallas – launched in September 1954. After conducting classes in Parkland Hospital for several years, the university opened its own instructional building and residence hall in Dallas in 1966.

Space at the Dallas Parkland campus quickly reached capacity, and the need for more nurses was great. The TWU Board of Regents accepted an invitation from representatives of the Texas Medical Center in Houston to establish a permanent program and campus. The Houston campus opened in 1960.

In time, programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and health care administration joined the nursing programs at the Dallas and Houston campuses. In 1974, TWU and Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas reached an agreement to allow health sciences students to train at the hospital. Guinn planned to build a second Dallas center at the hospital complex, but TWU’s Presbyterian campus would not open until 1977 following his death. The facility housed programs in nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The two campuses were combined in the TWU T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences – Dallas Center, which opened in 2011. A new TWU Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center opened in 2006.

Guinn led an all-out effort to establish a medical school for TWU, but his plan was not approved by the Coordinating Board or Legislature. He was determined to continue the effort. but suffered a stroke backstage at the Redbud Pageant in March 1976. He died five days later.



Information for the article is gathered from online searches, Marking A Trail: A History of the Texas Woman’s University, and Marking A Trail: The Quest Continues, A Centennial History of the Texas Woman’s University.


Previous features:

In the beginning

Helen Stoddard

Cree T. Work

Jessie Humphries

Louis Hubbard