Although she is “a sixth-generation Galvestonian,” Gayle Strange (’67) could argue that Denton is now her hometown. She arrived in the city 50 years ago, drawn by the University of North Texas’ (then North Texas State College) interior design program, one of the only undergraduate programs of its kind in Texas at the time. She has called Denton home ever since.
After graduating and marrying a fellow North Texas alumnus, Virgil Strange (’68), Strange made her career in writing, ranching and designing. She and her husband started Axiom Construction Co., a commercial construction firm based in Denton, and Strange led the company’s interior design services. While she was building a successful career, Strange stayed connected with her alma mater, and in 1997 she was appointed to the UNT System Board of Regents.
“It’s been fun to be associated with UNT in so many different ways, from being an undergraduate student finding my way to being on the Board of Regents. That’s a pretty good span, and it’s a good perspective,” she says.
Strange, who served as chairwoman of the Board of Regents from 2007 to 2009, now serves as a co-chair of The Campaign for UNT, the largest fundraising initiative in the university’s history. The campaign, she says, is about engaging with new people and showing them that the impressive things happening at UNT would not be possible without donor support.
“As state support for institutions continues to go down and costs continue to escalate, private giving is imperative,” she says. “We need to do the very best job we can do to provide that kind of funding for our institution. If we believe in it and believe in what’s going on here, we have to put our money where our mouths are.”
Strange and her husband have done just that, supporting UNT fundraising initiatives including the Alumni Center in the Gateway Building, the Shrader Pavilion and the Student-Athlete Development Center, which is dedicated in their name. Strange has a particular affinity for the Emerald Eagle Scholars program, which helps high-achieving students with great financial needs attend UNT. She and her husband have given to the program since its beginning in 2007.
“The Emerald Eagle Scholars are worthy students who need the assistance we can give them. They wouldn’t be here otherwise, for the most part,” she says. “To be able to open up that kind of world for someone who didn’t think they’d ever get to see it – that’s fabulous.”
The Campaign for UNT is about opening doors not only to students, but also to the North Texas region, Strange says. UNT has shown the impact it has on the regional economy, but Strange says its “people effect” is just as important.
“The UNT alumni who have been successful in their field and have had a good life, a great job and are committed to what they’re doing and their university — that’s what it’s all about,” she says. “UNT is about making life as good as we can make it and giving all our students the chance to achieve.”
But the end goal of the campaign — of all the university’s endeavors — is creating a superior learning experience for UNT’s students, Strange says.
“We’re here to provide the very best potential to every student who walks through our door,” she says. “The intrinsic, inherent value that’s here, the attitude about student success and bringing in marvelous faculty – we’re proving that we want to be the very best we can be.”
Above, Gayle Strange (’67), center, with fellow campaign co-chairs Frank Bracken (’63) and Janet Bracken at the campaign steering committee meeting in May 2013.