TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas

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TMI-The Episcopal School of Texas
Nihil Supra Mores
Ducit qui Servit
San Antonio, TX, USA
Type Preparatory, Boarding
Religious affiliation(s) Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Established 1893
Founder James Steptoe Johnston
Chairman of the Governors The Rt Revd Gary R. Lillibridge, DD
Headmaster John Cooper, PhD
Faculty 46
Enrollment approximately 475
Average class size 12 students[1]
Student to teacher ratio 7:1
Campus 80 acres (320,000 m2)
Song For the Splendor of Creation
Athletics 19 Interscholastic Sports
Mascot Primo the Panther
Accreditations Independent Schools Association of the Southwest
Annual tuition $19,625.00 (day students)/ $37,740 (American boarding students)/ $39,900 (international boarding students).[2]

TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas (in full Texas Military Institute) is a selective coeducational Episcopal college preparatory school in San Antonio, Texas for boarding and day students. It is the flagship school, and sole secondary school, of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. TMI is the oldest Episcopal college preparatory school in the American Southwest. Until the 1980s, TMI had sent more graduates to West Point and Princeton than any other school in Texas history.[citation needed]


TMI was founded in 1893 by the Rt Revd James Steptoe Johnston, DD, Second Bishop of West Texas in the Protestant Episcopal Church. Johnston was a native Mississippian of the planter class who had participated in twelve engagements in the Civil War. He fought most of these battles with the Eleventh Mississippi Regiment. Johnston's earliest name for his school in San Antonio was "The West Texas School for Boys," which was quickly changed to "West Texas Military Academy" (WTMA). In 1926, the name was changed to Texas Military Institute. At the time of the school's foundation, San Antonio lay on the edge of the American frontier. There were still forts all along the high ground east of the Rio Grande. Though Bishop Johnston wanted his boys to receive as good an education as boys anywhere in America, he knew that a New England-style prep school was not going to fly in West Texas; so he created a premier academic school with a full-fledged military discipline. (It is not often considered that the specifically Southern boarding school tradition was largely military.) Bishop Johnston saw the need for a school to provide young men with a classical liberal and scientific education that would enable them to go on to careers in business, agriculture and ranching, the Church, the civil service, and the officer corps of the United States Army. He was setting out to develop "the Christian character amongst the rising generation ... for character is the only true wealth." He assumed that "the best use of wealth is to coin it into character." The quotation shows that WTMA was part of the "church school movement" of the nineteenth century, which featured character formation as the means to personal success in many areas, including academic pursuits. Hence, WTMA may be counted among other church schools such as Saint James in Maryland (1842), St. Paul's in New Hampshire (1856), the Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Minnesota (1858), St. Mark's in Southborough MA (1865), Groton School in MA (1884), and St. George's School in Rhode Island (1896). The first Rector and Headmaster of WTMA/TMI, the Rev. Allan Lucien Burleson, had been prepared at the Shattuck School founded by J. Lloyd Breck (1818-1876) in 1858. Breck was a protege of the great William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877), "father" of the church school in America. Burleson served as the head of school between 1893 and 1900. WTMA was largely funded by donations from wealthy residents of the eastern seaboard, many of whom had been inspired by speeches Johnston had given on the importance of academic and moral education for all young men.[3] When the school first opened, there were just six teachers and twelve students.[4]

Bishop Johnston, the founder of the school.

One of the great educators in Texas history took over WTMA in 1926. Dr W. W. Bondurant changed the name to "Texas Military Institute." In 1936 Bishop Capers, feeling the pinch created by the Great Depression, sold TMI to Bondurant, who sold the school back to the Episcopal Church in 1952. Back in 1926 Bondurant merged the Upper School of San Antonio Academy with TMI. Bondurant was a strong Presbyterian layman, yet the chaplain remained an Episcopal priest and the Book of Common Prayer continued to be used in daily chapel services.[5] By the 1930s, the school was considered by some to be one of the best schools in America.[6] Although Bishop Johnston had, in part, intended the school to train young men for seminary and eventual ordination in the Episcopal Church, the school has always been open to students of any religious faith or lack thereof. The JROTC, or Corps of Cadets, has been optional for girls since their admission in 1972, and for boys since 1974. Since 2005, the school has presented itself by the current name of TMI: The Episcopal School of Texas.

Three Presidents of the United States have visited the school. The first was William Taft. The next was John F. Kennedy, who visited on November 21, 1963, the day before his assassination. The most recent was George W. Bush. Future President Theodore Roosevelt also visited when he was in San Antonio recruiting for the Rough Riders.

In the Summer of 2009, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, visited the school and gave a speech on the importance of Episcopal schools to the overall mission of the Church.[7]


TMI has moved three times, each time moving to the edge of an expanding city. The first campus was on Government Hill (next to Fort Sam Houston), the second in Alamo Heights, while the current campus, dating from 1989, is in far northwest San Antonio, on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. The campus is modern in architecture and built almost entirely from local limestone. Features on the campus include:

  • The Frost Athletic Center, a large gym, incorporating two basketball/volleyball courts, two squash courts, a rifle range and a natatorium with a half-olympic length pool, as well as the school infirmary and offices for athletic and JROTC staff
  • Coates Hall, the main academic building, incorporating most of the classrooms, labs and faculty offices. It is build around two courtyard gardens with open-air hallways. There is a small greenhouse built alongside Coates hall, used for lessons in botany.
  • The All Saints' Chapel, a 500 seat modern chapel, used for daily service of Morning Prayer and for Eucharistic services on the first Wednesday of every month as well as for quarterly school Evensongs, choral concerts and the annual baccalaureate Mass. The chapel, designed by almnus Chris Carson of Ford, Powell & Carson, recognized as one of the best religious buildings of 2009 by the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, a knowledge community of the American Institute of Architects.[8]
  • The Johnston Amphitheatre, used for graduation and for some school assemblies during fair weather
  • Ayres Hall incorporating administrative offices, a black box theatre, kitchens and refectory, as well as the school library, which houses music, archived newspapers and magazines for much of the 20th century as well as 17,000 books, including a rare books conservation section.
  • The Butterfly Garden, built and maintained by the environmental science class.
  • Houses and Dormitories, boarding students and some residential faculty live in purpose-built dormitories, while the headmaster, chaplain, school physician and other resident faculty live in detached houses.

Student life[edit]

There are currently around 400 students. Students come mostly from South Texas and Mexico, but others also from other areas of the United States, including but not limited to Michigan and Tennessee, and from foreign countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Nigeria, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Honor Code[edit]

TMI had an informal honor system from the beginning, with the current formal system originating in 1908. All students sign their name to the school's Honor code at the start of each term, and from then on write the word "pledge" on all their tests and papers, signifying their pledge to uphold their promise. The Honor Code reads, "Because I believe integrity is essential, I promise not to lie, cheat, or steal." Students suspected of being in violation of the Honor Code are sent before the Honor Council, which is an elected body of students that holds confidential hearings and, where appropriate, assigns disciplinary measures, including community service. It can also require that the student write a letter of apology. Repeat offenders may be referred to the headmaster.


Like most prep schools, TMI has developed a not insubstantial canon of traditions and idiosyncrasies. These include:

  • Chapel Talks: Every final year student must give a speech on a moral or spiritual topic before the entire student body, faculty and administrative staff during a daily chapel service. Chapel talks are diverse and may be based upon personal experience or reading, but must promote positive ethical values. Although conducted within the context of a chapel service, such talks need not be, and usually are not, on explicitly religious subjects. Final year students prepare their speeches under the guidance of the English faculty and are graded by a faculty panel. A passing grade is required to graduate although, in practice, all students who stick to a previously approved message are given passing grades. In addition to senior talks, members of the faculty occasionally give their own chapel talks. The Burleson Prize, named after the school's first headmaster, is given every year for the best student chapel talk.
  • Daunt Lectures: named for the Revd Canon Nelson Daunt, a former headmaster, the annual Daunt Lectures in Church and Society explore the religious dimensions of contemporary moral, social and public issues. Speakers come from diverse religious backgrounds and the invitation to speak at the school does not imply an endorsement of the speaker's views. Previous speakers have included Peter Kreeft as well as members of the theology and philosophy faculties of universities from around Texas and the United States.
  • Founder's Day: every year, students have one day off of class in commemoration and celebration of the school's founder, Bishop James Steptoe Johnston. Part of the day is dedicated to speeches, but the majority of it is spent in a school wide competition in which teams of costumed students from various years, led by those in their final year, compete in a serious of tasks of varying levels of farcicality.
  • Homecoming Tailgate Party: the annual homecoming tailgate party, which always features local Kiolbassa Sausage, was covered by the Food Network show Unwrapped in 2008.
  • Military Ball: An annual formal ball hosted by the corps of cadets at a local hotel to which all members of the school community— students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents— are invited. The event includes dinner and a guest speaker, usually a military officer of general officer rank or equivalent. The dress code mandates mess dress for cadets and all serving or retired military personnel with semi-formal evening dress or national costume for all other attendees.
  • The Steptoe: a cheer in honor of Bishop Johnston, used at athletic events and on other occasions, which consists of the person cheering taking two exaggerated steps forward and motioning with a partially open hand to simulate the paw of a big cat whilst shouting "Steptoe! Steptoe! Rah, rah, rah!".

Corps of Cadets[edit]

Shoulder insignia from cadet uniform

Approximately one third of TMI students are members of the corps of cadets. The TMI corps, under the command of Major Douglas D McVey (USA, Ret) and Sgt. First Class William Partridge (USA, Ret), is affiliated with the United States Army's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps and is ranked as an Honor Unit with Distinction, the highest ranking for a school JROTC program.[9] Due to its high ranking, TMI cadets can apply for places at United States Service academies without the congressional recommendation usually required. The battalion is organized into four companies: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Delta company was added in the 2014-2015 school year. Companies are completely organized by the students. Each company has a senior company commander and a junior first sergeant. The companies are divided into two platoons with two or three squads in each platoon. The corps is run by a staff consisting entirely of junior and senior cadets and sponsors a bagpipe band, a color guard, a saber guard, a drill team and a rifle team.


Academia and Science[edit]

The Arts[edit]

  • Dan Blocker, actor and producer, co-star of the “Bonanza” television series
  • Julian Onderdonk Painter, primarily known for Texas landscapes, called the "Father of Texas Painting"
  • Justin Blanchard, actor (Broadway ("Journey's End"), television ("Law and Order:SVU") and film)
  • "Wammo", DJ, beat-poet and lead vocalist for the Asylum Street Spankers[10]


The Church[edit]

Government and Politics[edit]

Gen. MacArthur, class of 1897, as a student


Recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross

  • Lieutenant James Siman, class of 1912
  • Captain Tobin Rote, class of 1913
  • Major Edgar Tobin, class of 1914, First World War air ace, pioneer of aerial mapping
  • Brigadier General David Lee "Tex" Hill, class of 1932, air-ace, member of Flying Tigers


  • Ross Youngs, Hall of Fame professional baseball player

Notable Members of Faculty[edit]


  1. ^ "TMI -The Episcopal School of Texas Profile | San Antonio, Texas (TX)". Boarding School Review - College-Prep & Jr. Boarding Schools | Boarding School Review LLC. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ John A. Coulter II, "TMI Bugle Notes". Published Privately: 2002. Pg. 4
  4. ^
  5. ^ Coulter, Op. Cit.
  6. ^ Eugene Wigner, Biographical Note on Cresson Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills, Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1979, pg. 13
  7. ^ (opens as PDF, free subscription required)
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Dunham, Richard. "Obama names San Antonian as social secretary". San Antonio Express News. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 

External links[edit]