UNT dedicates statue April 25 to honor longtime biology professor

J.K.G. Silvey
Dr. J. K.G. Silvey, who served as the chair of the Department of Biological Services from 1952 to 1973.
Dr. J. K.G. Silvey
'Doc' would often have fish fries when he took students into the field to do research.
Friday, April 18, 2008

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The University of North Texas is dedicating a life size, bronze statue in honor of Dr. J. K.G. Silvey, who served as the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from 1952 to 1973.

The statue will be unveiled during ceremonies April 25 (Friday) at 4 p.m. in front of UNT's Environmental Education, Science and Technology building, located on the northwest corner of Avenue C and West Mulberry streets. Gayle Strange of Denton, chair of the UNT Board of Regents and a former student of Silvey's, and members of the Silvey family are expected to speak.

David Iles, a UNT alumnus who sculpted a series of Texas wildlife that grace the grounds of the EESAT building, sculpted the Silvey statue. It features the professor examining the contents of a beaker. He is surrounded by a tackle box and microscope, water sampler and fishing net containing a large-mouth bass. Money for the $40,000 statue was jointly raised by the Department of Biological Sciences, the Institute of Applied Science and the J. K.G. Silvey Society.

Silvey joined what was then known as North Texas State Teachers College in 1935 as an assistant professor with a specialty in limnology, or the study of freshwater conditions. His reddish hair and bow tie made him instantly recognizable to students of the day. Silvey retired in 1977 as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He died in December 1989.

In addition to his service to UNT, Silvey served as associate dean of basic sciences for what was then known as Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine from 1971 to 1975. He played a key role in TCOM becoming the UNT Health Science Center, and received the Founder's Award from TCOM in 1989.

Dr. Ken Dickson, Regents Professor of Biological Sciences at UNT, is a former student of Silvey's. He said Silvey had a profound impact on the lives and careers of countless students.

"‘Doc' Silvey, as he was known, excelled as a teacher, researcher, administrator, motivator, mentor and friend. He was incomparable as an educator, did research for practically every water utility in this part of Texas, and helped to mentor scores of today's medical professionals and environmental researchers," Dickson said.

Silvey's accomplishments during his 42-year career include:

  • Establishing a nationally and internationally recognized water research program;
  • Founding the Center for Environmental Studies in 1970, which became the Institute of Applied Sciences in 1973;
  • Serving as chair of the university's pre-medical and pre-dental advisory committee, writing recommendations that led hundreds of alumni to gain entrance into medical and dental schools; and
  • Becoming the holder of two patents for processes to improve the palatability of water.

Dickson said the biggest joy of Silvey's life was mentoring thousands of students, encouraging them with "wise counsel and kindness," to pursue careers in medicine, dentistry, biology, environmental science and teaching. Former students and colleagues established the J. K.G. Silvey Society in 1965 to recognize his exceptional contributions to their lives.

A fish fry and tribute to Silvey will be held on the EESAT grounds after the dedication ceremony. Dickson says, "‘Doc' would often have fish fries when he took students into the field to do research, and this will be a fitting way to honor his legacy."

In addition, visitors can see several of Iles' statues on display in the Eagle Exhibit Hall of the EESAT building. One of the statues features an animal skull with tree branches growing where the horns would be.  

Silvey earned his bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University, and both his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Michigan.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108