Southwestern University History

The History of Southwestern University

In 1835, the publisher of the “New York Christian Advocate” received a letter from the Mexican colony of Texas. Written by Col. William B. Travis of the volunteer Texas army, the letter called for the establishment of a Methodist presence in the region where settlers were beginning to revolt against the government of Mexico.;xNLx;;xNLx;Five years later, the first of Southwestern’s four root colleges was born from the vision of Methodist missionary Martin Ruter.;xNLx;;xNLx;At Southwestern we have seen several firsts: we beat UT-Austin in the first college baseball game played in the state; three of the first five Rhodes Scholars in Texas were Southwestern graduates; the first student literary journal in the state was published here; Legendary folklorist and author J. Frank Dobie graduated in 1910 and went on to national acclaim.;xNLx;;xNLx;During World War II, Southwestern prospered from the Navy’s V-12 program and later by concentrating on the liberal arts and education of undergraduates.;xNLx;;xNLx;As Southwestern’s reputation grew, so did its enrollment through the 1960s and 1970s, up to 1,000 students by 1978. The annual Brown Symposium was established in 1977. By the early 1980s, the name “Southwestern University” began to appear in national college guidebooks. In 1988, US News & World Report named Southwestern as the top regional liberal arts college in the nation. US News & World Report has since included Southwestern in its more competitive “National Liberal Arts College” category.

1840-05-08 22:54:55

Rutersville College Chartered

Answering the call of Col. William B. Travis that a Methodist presence in Texas was needed, Martin Ruter set about founding the university in 1837. Martin Ruter was a prominent Methodist and educator in Texas, author of "The Juvenile Arithmetick and Scholar's Guide," published in 1928. His school, Rutersville, received its charter in 1840 and was located in La Grange.

1841-06-30 13:39:45

John McKenzie Starts School

Prior to McKenzie College, John McKenzie operated a preparatory school out of his home in Clarksville. This was the start of what would later become the college.

1844-05-08 22:54:55

Wesleyan College Chartered

With the support of the Texas Methodist Annual Conference, Wesleyan College was opened in San Augustine.

1846-11-07 07:33:20

McKenzie's School Expands

McKenzie added a collegiate department and a department for women to his prep school named the Itinerant Retreat. The school had one of the most complete campuses in the area after McKenzie built a second and third building to accommodate the size of the student body.

1847-06-30 13:39:45

Wesleyan College in Fast Decline

The town of San Augustine held two universities - the University of San Augustine and Wesleyan College - and the rivalry between the two was fierce. Both institutions were having financial problems, and when a duel broke out between the presidents, it was the final straw. The citizens of San Augustine no longer supported either institution and both went under.

1854-06-02 12:49:28

Great Success for McKenzie

1854 began a period of many successful years for McKenzie College. The number of students was high and drew from many states, there were graduates each year, and the students wrote of being content in college life. Literary societies were the equivalent of Greek life, and other organizations formed as well.

1856-05-08 22:54:55

Soule University Opens

Sponsored by the Texas Conference, Soule University opens in Chappell Hill.

1856-06-30 13:39:45

Rutersville Board Meets for Last Time

It had been a decade of decline for Rutersville College, with budget problems, the resignation of the president, and an unexpected scandal diminishing the student body. By 1856, Rutersville had become home to a military institute.

1859-06-28 00:37:51

Soule University in Decline

Already in a period of financial trouble and having difficulties keeping students and leadership, Soule decided to build a university building. It was a disaster. The costs were overwhelming and the building itself had an unsafe foundation. It was the beginning of the end. With the start of the Civil War, Soule University couldn't recover.

1860-01-31 07:33:20

McKenzie College Officially Chartered

After more than a decade of teaching, McKenzie sought out a charter with the state that would reflect its Methodist leanings. The charter was granted in 1860.

1862-05-08 18:11:46

McKenzie's Last Graduate

Enrollment had severely diminished due to potential students leaving to fight in the Civil War. The last man to receive a degree from McKenzie College did so in 1862.

1868-01-31 07:33:20

McKenzie College Closes

After years of running his school alone and problems throughout the Civil War, McKenzie College was closed for good. McKenzie joined Dr. Francis Asbury Mood's effort to unify the Methodist institutions of Texas.

1868-05-08 22:54:55

Mood Begins Unification Work

Dr. Francis Asbury Mood was selected as president of Soule University. In 1868, he began work to unify the five Texas Methodist conferences behind one university.

1869-10-04 00:00:00

Meeting of the Soule Trustees

Dr. Francis Asbury Mood called a meeting of the trustees of Soule University on October 4 to present a resolution that a convention be called for the following June to begin proceedings for the organization of a university for the Southwest.

1870-01-29 10:14:43

Georgetown Prepares for a University

The leaders of Georgetown, Texas, decided that a good school would be an advantage in drawing settlers to the area. On January 29, they organized a stock company, appointed committees, prepared a constitution, and elected trustees for the proposed college, requesting that it be built immediately southeast of town. They proposed constructing a building worth $8,000 to $10,000. When they encountered difficulties in collecting subscriptions, they leased to the State Board of Education the unfinished building, which would become a public school.

1870-04-20 00:00:00

Educational Convention of Soule University

The meeting of the Educational Convention took place in Galveston, Texas, on April 20 with Dr. Robert Alexander as chairman of the convention and Dr. Mood as secretary. The delegates to the convention considered a plan of organization, a name, a method of endowment, details of a charter, the appointment of financial agents, the amount needed to establish the University, and the least amount with which the location and opening could be attempted.

1871-04-07 08:04:52

Educational Convention of the Methodist Church

The Educational Convention of the Methodist Church met on April 7 in Waxahachie, Texas, and decided that the University should be located within the specified boundaries, including Bell, Williamson, Burnet and Travis Counties. A committee called the Commissioners of Location was appointed. By November 1, when the Convention met in Corsicana, 10 communities were bidding for the University.

1871-08-01 08:04:52

Georgetown Enters Bid

In August 1871, the stockholders of Georgetown College decided to bid for the new university. In October, they "tendered" their college building and land to the five Texas Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for a permanent location for the University. In November, the offer was submitted to the Corsicana convention.

1872-04-01 07:17:17

Georgetown College Property Offered to Texas University Company

In April 1872, representatives from the stockholders of Georgetown College offered the property valued at $70,000 in exchange for the location of the University to be in Georgetown. They presented the offer to the directors of the Texas University Company. The Methodist Conference adopted a plan for two boards to govern the new university; a Board of Trustees to handle the financial concerns and a Board of Curators to confer degrees and oversee the discipline, moral conditions and efficiency of the University.

1873-03-06 11:28:11

Literary Societies at SU

Southwestern's student life was characterized by several literary societies that functioned much like fraternities or sororities in the way they shaped their members' school identities. Ultimately, the University had four main societies: the San Jacinto (Apr 25, 1875) and the Alamo (Mar 6, 1873) for the men, and the Clio (Feb 22, 1885) and Alethean (Apr 28, 1881) for the women. Each society had meeting rooms and a library, and worked together to bring lecturers to campus. Intrasociety debates were held on the weekends, and the annual debate between the Alamo and San Jacinto societies was a major event each spring.

1873-08-21 07:17:17

Georgetown Chosen as University Location

Among the communities vying for the University were Fairfield, Calvert, Fort Worth, Salado, Waco, Owensville, Corsicana, Kosse, Belton, Austin and Georgetown. On August 21, it was formally announced that Georgetown would be the location for the new university.

1873-10-06 07:17:17

Texas University Opens

The University was named Texas University and opened Monday, October 6, 1873, with 100 individuals. Of the 100, 33 were classed as students; the others received instruction in basic courses in preparation for college. Dr. Mood and two additional professors made up the faculty.

1874-03-11 10:59:58

First Catalog Published

Early in 1874, before the end of the first semester, the first University catalog was published. The school year ended on July 19.

1874-10-05 10:59:58

Second Year Begins

The University's second year began on October 5 with 63 students. No primary students were admitted, but a Preparatory Department was added, offering high school courses.

1875-02-06 10:59:58

Charter Granted

The charter for the University was granted on February 6. "By its terms the name Texas University was lost due to the refusal of the Texas Legislature to allow the Methodist Church to use the title being reserved for the proposed state university. It was agreed to adopt the name Southwestern University, originally suggested by Dr. Mood at the first meeting of the Educational Convention." At the end of the second session, commencement exercises were held, lasting five days. No degrees were awarded, but there were three graduates from the Commercial Department.

1876-07-06 10:59:58

First Degrees Granted

In July, there were four graduates, the first students to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. Five other students graduated from the Commercial Department.

1877-10-01 10:59:58

Enrollment Tops 100

More than 100 students enrolled in the fall of 1877. The University attributed its growth to the extension of the railroad to within 10 miles of Georgetown.

1878-09-09 17:32:14

Young Ladies' School Opened

The Young Ladies' School, a new part of the University, opened on September 9. Two graduated at the end of the session with the M.L. (Mistress of Literature) degree. Before the end of the year, a well-furnished two-story building was built for the Young Ladies' School to serve as a dormitory and recitation hall.

1880-06-21 17:32:14

Alumni Association Created

An Alumni Association was listed in the catalog for the first time.

1883-06-21 17:32:14

Ladies Annex Funded

The Northwest Texas Conference held its 1883 session in Georgetown. Dr. R.A. Young of Nashville made a plea for adequate quarters for women and a fund of $35,000 was subscribed for the building of the Ladies' Annex.

1884-05-08 22:54:55

Intercollegiate baseball

The first intercollegiate baseball game was played between Southwestern University and The University of Texas. Southwestern won 63-10.

1884-11-12 17:32:14

Death of Dr. Mood

Dr. Francis Asbury Mood died November 12, 1884. During his 11-year administration, student enrollment increased from 33 to 361 and the faculty increased from three to 15. The campus was expanded from one unfinished building to two well-furnished buildings, valuable apparatus and a library.

1885-06-11 02:51:18

Heidt Becomes Regent

Dr. John Welesy Heidt became regent in 1885. For the first time, boarding arrangements were made under the auspices of the University, and a building large enough to accommodate 42 boys was built on the north end of campus for $4,500. The University's offering of food service cut the student's cost of board in half. Steps were taken to organize a biblical department for pre-ministerial students.

1886-06-11 02:51:18

Secret Fraternities in Question

In spite of published statements against them, secret fraternities were known to be in existence at the University. The Board of Curators left it in the hands of the faculty to decide what to do, and they decided to hold the stand taken by the University against them. Punishment for membership in a fraternity was the denial of all college honors. At the time of student elections, the new officers were questioned. If found to be members of a fraternity, they were refused the position of office unless they withdrew from the fraternity. Members of Kappa Alpha Order declared that they had surrendered their charter and disbanded; members of Phi Delta Theta said they had withdrawn from active membership, although the fraternity had not disbanded. Such an arrangement did not work because the students interpreted it to apply only to the semester or year during which they were in office, not to the future. Thus pressured, the students preferred the fraternity to the honor of the office. What seemed an act of defiance was resolved when the fraternities were given 12 hours to disband. Complying were the Kappa Alpha Order, Phi Delta Theta, and Kappa Sigma fraternities. Fraternity representatives apologized to the curators for their violation of University rules and asked for the repeal of the rule. Again, faculty were asked to make the decision; this time, repealing the rule and admitting fraternities.

1886-06-11 02:51:18

School of Fine Art Opens

In 1886, a School of Fine Art (art only) was established, although it was not listed as a separate school until the Southwestern catalog of 1903.

1889-06-11 02:51:18

Southwestern Expands

In early 1889, the new building was available for the Ladies' Annex, where the ladies lived together and pursued their studies in literature, music, art and elocution. In later years, the Ladies' Annex was called the Women's Building. The Preparatory Department now occupied the building vacated by the Young Ladies' School. By this time, 59 young men were provided residence in the Helping Hall, where they received board for about half the usual cost.

1890-06-11 02:51:18

Preparatory Department Becomes Fitting School

The name of the Preparatory Department (specifically for male students) was changed to the Fitting School, with E.R. Williams continuing as Principal.

1892-06-11 02:51:18

Commercial College Established

A Commercial College was formed with three schools in bookkeeping and commercial law, penmanship, and short-hand and typewriting. M.L. Mowrey headed the college.

1892-06-11 02:51:18

Student Body Continues to Grow

In 1892, there were 269 college students enrolled at the University. A comparison of a 10-year span showed that eight times as many students graduated in 1892 as in the 1882. Increased numbers of boarding students made necessary the addition of a wing to the Annex at a cost of $10,000. Now enlarged to a capacity for 80 boys, the Helping Hall had its name changed to Giddings Hall in honor of the woman who had been the chief donor to the enterprise. The Ladies' Annex came under the government of the University. College classes became co-educational, but the Preparatory classes were not merged.

1893-05-29 02:51:18

Prohibition of Alcohol

On May 29, the sale of intoxicating liquors was prohibited within the precinct in which Georgetown is situated, precluding the sale of intoxicants within 10 miles of the University.

1896-01-04 23:23:13

Theology Instruction Introduced

In connection with the School of Metal and Moral Philosophy, a one-year's instruction was given in theology and the practical and official duties of the pastorate.

1898-01-04 23:23:13

Bible Courses Offered

The 1898-99 University catalog offered courses in Bible teachings for the first time. From 1898-1900, male and female students were separated for their first two years of college work. Advanced classes were co-educational.

1898-02-08 23:23:13

School Colors Chosen

After invitations to play sports clubs from other schools, the faculty decided that school colors were in order. In the minutes of the February 8, 1898 faculty meeting, it is noted that canary and black were chosen. The colors were changed to black and gold in 1938.

1900-09-30 23:23:13

Natural Science Instruction in Question

Due to rumors of unorthodox teaching, a resolution was passed that instruction in natural science classes should be reverential toward the Bible as the revealed word of God. Instructors would show harmony between God's two books, Nature and Revelation.

1900-09-30 23:23:13

Athletics Begin

Students petitioned for permission to participate in intercollegiate athletics in 1900. The Board of Curators decided to allow intercollegiate athletics, except football, "under supreme control of the faculty." The old chapel building was used as a gymnasium.

1900-09-30 23:23:13

Adminstration Building Complete

The Administration building was finished in 1900 at a cost of $151,500. The chapel on the second floor, including smaller rooms that could be opened onto it, seated 1,500.

1900-09-30 23:23:13

Mistress of Literature Program Ended

In 1900, the degree of Mistress of Literature, which was introduced in 1879 when the Ladies' School was established, was abolished.

1901-06-12 23:23:13

Summer Institute Established for Preachers

According to the minutes of the Board of Curators, the University had established a summer Institute of Biblical and Theological Study to provide instruction for Texas preachers in order to increase their proficiency. At the time, University departments included The College, The Ladies' Annex, and the Fitting School.

1902-09-05 23:23:13

School of Fine Arts Organized

The School of Fine Arts was organized and diplomas were given in music, art and elocution.

1903-09-05 23:23:13

Addition of New Programs

In summer 1903, plans were underway for a Medical Department, there was a summer session with an announcement that professors would instruct in their respective departments as needed. The University also served as a summer normal school for Williamson County teachers.

Southwestern University History

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