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Historical Sketch

The idea of a university for Texas is as old as the state itself. The Declaration of Texas Independence includes in its indictment of the government of Mexico the charge that it “has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources (the public domain), and although it is an axiom in political science that, unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty or the capacity of self-government.” In accordance with the doctrine thus proclaimed, the first Constitution of the Republic declares it to be the duty of Congress “to provide, as soon as circumstances will permit . . . a general system of education.”

Attempts to establish a University of Texas were made by the Congress of the Republic and then by the state legislature in 1837, 1839, 1858, and 1866, but the times were unpropitious and the idea failed to become a reality. The Constitution of 1876 again called for the organization and maintenance of “a university of the first class to be located by a vote of the people of this state, and styled ‘The University of Texas,’ for the promotion of literature, and the arts and sciences, including an agricultural and mechanical department.” This constitution also established an endowment of one million acres of land in west Texas, which was increased in 1883 to two million acres. In 1881, the legislature again called for the organization and location of the University and for the appointment of a Board of Regents to be entrusted with its establishment and government. Among the provisions of the act were the limitation of the matriculation fee to $30, the admission of men and women on equal terms without charge for tuition, and the injunction that no religious qualifications should be required for admission to any office or privilege connected with the University and that no sectarian instruction should be given therein.

By popular election in September 1881, the Main University was located at Austin and the Medical Branch, at Galveston. The academic and law departments were organized, and on September 15, 1883, the University was formally opened in the incomplete west wing of the old Main Building.

Over the next century, work in other fields was added to that offered by the academic and law departments. The College of Engineering was added in 1894; in 1906, the School of Education; in 1909, the Division of Extension; in 1910, the Graduate School; in 1922, the School of Business Administration; in 1924, the College of Physical Activities; in 1938, the College of Fine Arts; in 1948, the Graduate School of Library Science; in 1950, the Graduate School of Social Work; in 1951, the School of Architecture; in 1965, the School of Communication; in 1970, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs; and in 1976, the School of Nursing. The current organization of the University is described in Organization of the University's Academic Units .

Until 1895, the chair of the faculty was the chief executive officer of the University. Professor J. W. Mallet was chair for the opening year, 1883–1884; then Professor Leslie Waggener until the summer of 1894; then Professor Thomas S. Miller for 1894–1895. In 1895, the office of president was created, and has been filled as follows:

Leslie Waggener, MA, LLD (ad interim)


George Tayloe Winston, MA, LLD


William Lambdin Prather, BL, LLD


David Franklin Houston, MA, LLD


Sidney Edward Mezes, PhD, LLD


William James Battle, PhD, DCL, LLD (ad interim)


Robert Ernest Vinson, DD, LLD


William Seneca Sutton, MA, LLD (ad interim)


Walter Marshall William Splawn, PhD, LLD


Harry Yandell Benedict, PhD, LLD


John William Calhoun, MA, LLD (ad interim)


Homer Price Rainey, PhD, LLD


Theophilus Shickel Painter, PhD, DSc, LLD, MNAS (Acting President)


Theophilus Shickel Painter, PhD, DSc, LLD, MNAS


James Clay Dolley, PhD (Acting President)


Logan Wilson, PhD, LLD


Harry Huntt Ransom, PhD, LittD, LLD, LHD


Harry Huntt Ransom, PhD, LittD, LLD, LHD (Acting President)


Joseph Royall Smiley, PhD


Norman Hackerman, PhD


Bryce Jordan, PhD (ad interim)


Stephen H. Spurr, MF, PhD, DSc


Lorene Lane Rogers, PhD, DSc, FAIC (ad interim)


Lorene Lane Rogers, PhD, DSc, FAIC


Peter Tyrrell Flawn, PhD


William H. Cunningham, PhD


William S. Livingston, PhD (Acting President)


Robert M. Berdahl, PhD


Peter Tyrrell Flawn, PhD (ad interim)


Larry R. Faulkner, PhD


William Powers Jr., JD


    1.  From 1963 until 1967 there was no office of president.



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