Volume 16 • Issue 3
Southwestern @ Georgetown

Alumni Profile

Donald Bricker ’81

Part of IT from the early days

Twenty-five years ago, computer technology at Southwestern University consisted of room-size computers and plenty of air-conditioning. Despite their size, these machines typically had the same amount of power as today’s cell phones. When Donald Bricker ’81 made the move from Lubbock, Texas to Southwestern University, this was the extent of computer technology available at Southwestern. Bricker enrolled at Southwestern because it “had the best pre-med program in the state.” Although he received degrees in biology and chemistry, he decided to take the plunge into the new and changing field of information technology during his senior year. Today, Bricker serves as Vice President of Information Systems and Technology for the Houston Chronicle.

Prior to joining the staff at the Chronicle Bricker worked as director of information technology at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His expertise and that of the IT team ensure that the paper gets to its readers every day. Bricker explains, “We do a great thing. Every day we start with a blank page and by 5:30 a.m. the next morning, not only are we complete, but we’ve also delivered 700,000 copies. To my knowledge, newspapers are the only manufacturers that do this. Computers are integral. Every page is created, stored and manipulated on the computer. Technology is now the driving force behind today’s newspaper.”

Bricker also believes that technology will soon change the way that we receive our news. He predicts that newspapers as we know them may cease to exist within the next 15 years. By that time, news may be provided largely to personal computers via wireless networks so that, throughout the entire day, people will be able to read news about their world. Regardless of the future format of news delivery, Bricker is passionate about the field. He notes, “I love what I do because it makes a difference. Our product is a need. We report news so people can live their lives. So many countries do not have a free press. With ours, we enjoy daily freedom.”

Southwestern University played an integral role in developing Bricker’s skills as an information technology professional. He credits Southwestern for giving him much more than a textbook education. “The small class sizes allowed me to deal with professors one-on-one. I felt more comfortable probing (instructors with) questions.” Bricker says Southwestern taught him to question decisions and information, not just to accept everything as it is presented to him. It is a lesson he still makes use of nearly everyday.

Helen Rogge Archer ’27

Southwestern @ Georgetown

Escaping the ladies’ annex fire

“It was right after Christmas break. We didn’t stay up too long. We went to bed and I don’t know what time it was, but my roommate woke me up. She said, ‘Helen, get up! This place is on fire!’ The ceiling was just all ablaze. I guess that I would have burned to death if she hadn’t woken me.”

The cold, gray dawn of January 8, 1925, created a memory that Helen Rogge Archer ’27 vividly recalls nearly 80 years after the fact. That morning, Archer and many other Southwestern women survived a fire that destroyed their Southwestern home, the Ladies’ Annex.

Archer and her roommate, Katie, awoke to find their second floor dormitory room on fire. She remembers, “We got out of there. I had my housecoat on, one walking shoe and one bedroom slipper.” She and her roommate ran down the hall to the lobby, along with the other women residing in the Annex. Miss Laura Kuykendall, dean of women, awaited their arrival. Archer recalls, “I believe that she called roll about three times to be sure that everybody got out.” They all got out. Luckily, no one was killed in the fire.

With their dormitory destroyed, the women were welcomed into the homes of professors and their families. Archer lived with one of the most favored professors of Southwestern at that time, William D. Wentz, professor of public speaking and dramatic literature. Archer was taking public speaking with Wentz at the time and was familiar with his family. Fortunately, Archer and Mrs. Wentz were about the same size and she was able to borrow some clothes to replace those destroyed in the fire.

Imagine hundreds of women, away from home, losing all their possessions. “First of all, the telephone lines were busy. Everybody was calling home. And there was a girl from Yoakum, Dorothy Gustwick. Dorothy called her parents and got through before I did. So they called my parents.” The next day, Archer’s parents in China, Texas, sent her money to go shopping. Stores in Georgetown welcomed the women, providing credit so that they could purchase dresses, shoes and underwear.

The Southwestern men also felt the effects of the fire. After a week of living with professors, the Annex women moved into Mood Hall, the men’s dormitory. In turn, the men roomed with different families around town. This was the case for the entire 1925 spring semester. Kuykendall kept the women together during this stressful time period. The 1925 yearbook honored her efforts, stating, “Dr. Bishop never did a better thing for Southwestern University than when he made Miss Kuykendall Dean of Women, and if this had been the only thing that he did, his administration was worthwhile.”

Archer attended Southwestern largely because it was the thing to do in the 1920s. She and her friends, Johnnie Ponton ’26 and Stella Blohm ’25, enjoyed dressing for the May Fetes and also took advantage of the days when uniforms were not required. Unfortunately, the Annex fire adversely impacted Archer’s educational experience and attendance at the University. She did not return for her junior year. Archer went on to teach the third grade for four years in the town of Dilworth, until she married Jules Archer. In 1986, Helen Rogge Archer moved to Portland, Texas, where she still shares her stories of Southwestern.