Sam Houston State University

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Sam Houston State University
SHSU seal.svg
Former names
Sam Houston Normal Institute (1879–1923)
Sam Houston State Teachers College (1923–1965)
Sam Houston State College (1965–1969)
MottoThe measure of a Life is its Service
Established1879; 141 years ago (1879)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$116.9 million[1]
PresidentAlisa White
ProvostRichard Eglsaer
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

30°42′50″N 95°32′50″W / 30.71389°N 95.54722°W / 30.71389; -95.54722Coordinates: 30°42′50″N 95°32′50″W / 30.71389°N 95.54722°W / 30.71389; -95.54722
CampusCollege town, 272 acres (110 ha)
ColorsOrange, white[3]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division ISouthland
MascotSammy Bearkat
Sam Houston State University logo.svg

Sam Houston State University (colloquially known as SHSU or Sam) is a public university in Huntsville, Texas. It was founded in 1879 and is the third-oldest public college or university in Texas. It is one of the oldest purpose-built institutions for the instruction of teachers west of the Mississippi River and the first such institution in Texas. It is named for Sam Houston, who made his home in the city and is buried there.

SHSU is a member of the Texas State University System and has an enrollment of more than 20,000 students across over 80 undergraduate, 59 master's, and 10 doctoral degree programs. Its programs are ranked 230-301 by U.S. News & World Report.[4] The university also offers more than 20 online bachelor's and graduate degrees. It was the first institution classified as a Doctoral Research University by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education within the Texas State University System.[5]


19th and 20th centuries[edit]

The Sam Houston State University campus was originally home to Austin College, the Presbyterian institution that relocated to Sherman, Texas, in 1876. Austin Hall was constructed in 1851 and is the oldest university building west of the Mississippi still in operation. It was renovated in 2012 and is used today for special meetings and events. Notably, Sam Houston himself attended and participated in the original dedication of the building.[6]

Created by legislation signed by Governor Oran M. Roberts on San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1879, Sam Houston Normal Institute's dedicated goal was to train teachers for the public schools of Texas. It was the first teacher-training school in the southwestern United States. On October 10 of the same year, the first class of 110 students and four faculty commenced instruction. The first President of the school, Bernard Mallon, died eleven days after the institute opened.[7]

The one-room Peabody Memorial Library was the first free-standing campus library in Texas; it was constructed in 1901 with funds provided by the George Peabody Foundation. According to the Normal Institute's catalogue, the library was "a very handsome structure, and especially designed for the purpose for which it is to be used. It is said that no school of this kind in the South has a Building equal to it."[8] Fully restored, it is now used as a venue for special university events.[citation needed]

When the university first opened, students received a certification to teach in the state's elementary and secondary schools. After 1919, the university began to award bachelor's degrees. In 1936, the school awarded its first postbaccalaureate degree.[citation needed]

Steps to the Old Main, with a view of Austin Hall.

21st century[edit]

SHSU celebrated its 125th year of operation in 2004.[citation needed]

The university launched its first capital campaign in March 2006 with a $50 million goal and closed the campaign's books on August 31, 2010, with $61.2 million in commitments. The university has 110,000 living, addressable alumni and an active Alumni Association with 10,000 members, holding 200 meetings and events annually.[citation needed]

On 30 May 2012, SHSU-The Woodlands Center opened on the Lone Star College-Montgomery campus. The facility includes 144,164 square feet (13,393.3 m2) and has a five-story parking garage. The university also operates SHSU-University Park on the property of Lone Star College-University Park in unincorporated Harris County near Tomball.[9]

Name changes[edit]

Throughout the course of its history, Sam has undergone a number of name changes:[citation needed]

  • 1879 (April 21): founded as Sam Houston Normal Institute
  • 1923: Sam Houston State Teachers College
  • 1965: Sam Houston State College
  • 1967: Sam Houston State University

In April 2007, Texas House Bill 1418 passed without objection in the Texas Legislature, preventing The Texas State University System's Board of Regents from changing the university's name to Texas State-Sam Houston.[citation needed]

Main campus[edit]

Welcome sign.

The oak-studded rural main campus sits on 316 acres (128 hectares) in the central area of Huntsville. Two large agricultural complexes feature a 1,600-acre (650 ha) teaching and research farm and a rodeo arena. The campus also features a planetarium, an observatory, a body farm, and an 18-hole golf course named Raven Nest. The mall area of the main campus includes Blatchley Bell Tower and Clock and a fountain.[citation needed]

The campus stood in for the fictional Austin University in the motion picture The Life of David Gale.[citation needed]


University rankings
Forbes[10] 581
U.S. News & World Report[11] 281
Washington Monthly[12] 173

Sam Houston State's academic departments and programs are organized into eight colleges:[citation needed]

Additionally, the university enrolls more than 350 high achieving undergraduate students in the selective Elliott T. Bowers Honors College.[citation needed]

Programs within the College of Criminal Justice were recently ranked by the Journal of Criminal Justice in the top five nationally. The theater and dance programs were ranked by Dance Spectrum Magazine in the top 25 nationally, and according to the National Dance Association, SHSU is home to quality athletic dance team.[21] The university offers the only Professional Golf Management program in Texas, one of 20 in the country.[citation needed] SHSU also has one of the oldest speech and debate programs in the nation.[citation needed]

As of May 2016, the university offers:[citation needed]

  • Eighty-eight undergraduate degree programs
  • Fifty-nine masters' programs
  • Eight doctoral programs (Clinical Psychology, Counselor Education, Criminal Justice, Developmental Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Forensic Science, Instructional Systems Design & Technology, and Literacy)
  • Twenty-one certificates[22]

College of Criminal Justice[edit]

SHSU's College of Criminal Justice is the largest and one of the oldest criminal justice programs in the nation. Huntsville has long been associated with criminal justice, being the co-headquarters of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the home of several prisons, including the Walls Unit which houses the state's execution chamber, located about two blocks north of the campus.[citation needed]

In 1970, the College became one of the first programs in the U.S. to offer the Ph.D. in criminal justice, and it was the first institution in the State of Texas to offer the Masters of Science in Forensic Science. SHSU's PhD in Clinical Science with a Forensic emphasis is one of seven such accredited programs in the U.S. The College faculty were recently recognized as the 4th most productive nationally in their field in terms of research, and their areas of expertise range from serial murder, hate crime, and terrorism to policing, law, corrections, and security.[citation needed]

The College of Criminal Justice includes the headquarters of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.[23] It also houses the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, which specializes in training for local, state, and federal law enforcement officers in the area of management and supervision. The College also houses a working courtroom where students can observe and analyze real trials.[citation needed]

Texas Studies[edit]

The university has been commended as of late for offering courses that encourage the study of the lore, the lure, and the history of the Lone Star State.[24] In 2012, digital archivists at the university library worked with officials at a local veterans museum to launch the Texas Military Veterans Oral History collection.[citation needed]


Sam Houston State's colors are bright orange, royal/bright blue and white[25] and their nickname is the Bearkats. Sam Houston State sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision for football) in the Southland Conference. The top-ranked Bearkat football team was defeated by North Dakota State University in the 2012 NCAA Division I Football Championship.[citation needed]

SHSU's athletic teams have been nicknamed "The Bearkats" since 1923 when the University's name was changed by the Texas State Legislature from Sam Houston Normal Institute to Sam Houston State Teachers College. Prior to 1923, the varsity sports teams were nicknamed "The Normals".[citation needed]

It is doubtful those who coined the "Bearkat" nickname had a particular animal in mind. More likely, the name came from a popular local saying of the time, "tough as a Bearkat!" The late Reed Lindsey, who was a student/athlete in the 1920s and later retired as University registrar, once said that "it was a good fighting name of the time." Since the animal in the saying was thought more mythical than real, the spelling settled upon was "Bearkat." However, there are some arguments that the Sam Houston Bearkat is modeled after either a Binturong or a Kinkajou.[26]

In the late 1940s, then SHSU president Harmon Lowman attempted to change the SHSU mascot from Bearkats to "Ravens" (after General Sam Houston's Cherokee nickname). Mrs. Vernon Schuder reported that the alumni were polled and she voted for the raven but that "all those old Bearkats beat us out!"[citation needed]

A Sammy Bearkat mascot character, with the later addition of a Samantha, began appearing at SHSU sports events in 1959. Samantha has since been[when?] retired.[citation needed]


SHSU's primary rival is Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) and tensions between the two schools can run high before major sporting events that pit one against the other. The annual football game between SHSU and SFA, named the Battle of the Piney Woods, dates back to 1923. Since 2010, the series has been played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The rivalry is the second-oldest Division I Football Championship Subdivision rivalry in Texas.[citation needed]


Sam Houston's Bearkat is represented by Sammy Bearkat, a costumed mascot, who has entertained and led crowds in cheers during sporting events since 1959.[citation needed]

Club sports[edit]

Club sports are very popular at SHSU. Some available to students include: Powerlifting, Ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, rugby, martial arts, trap and skeet, inline hockey, basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, and baseball. The Sam Houston Quidditch team won in 2013 the IQA World Cup VI Division 2 championship. The Spirit Programs, cheer, dance, and mascots, of Sam Houston hold the most National titles out of all of the sports and recreational activities at Sam Houston. The coed team is the reigning champions from NCA this past April. The All Girl team made school history by winning their first National Championship in April 2014.[27]

Campus media[edit]

The SHSU School of Mass Communication operates KSHU, a student-run radio (90.5 FM) and television (cable channel 7) station, broadcasting news, sports, and entertainment programming for the campus and community. "The Houstonian" is the student-published twice-weekly campus newspaper.[28] Broadcast studios and offices for all three media are located within the Dan Rather Communication Building.[citation needed]

The Alcalde was the university's annual yearbook, published from 1910 to 1998 and 2003 to 2006; it was named in honor of Texas Governor Oran Roberts, whose nickname was "The Old Alcalde".[29]

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Endowment Market Value and Change* in Endowment Market Value from FY2014 to FY2019" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
  2. ^ "Katfacts: Sam Houston State University".
  3. ^ Sam Houston State University Color Palette (PDF). Sam Houston State University Brand Guide. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  4. ^ & World Report, U.S. News. "Sam Houston State University". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Sam Houston Receives Higher Carnegie Classification". Heritage: The Magazine of Sam Houston State University. Spring 2009. p. 16.
  6. ^ Austin Hall. SHSU Campus Map. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  7. ^ SHSU. SHSU History. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  8. ^ Peabody Memorial Library. SHSU Campus Map. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  9. ^ "SHSU To Showcase New Campus With Open House". Sam Houston State University. March 29, 2011. Retrieved on September 18, 2011-09-18 from
  10. ^ "America's Top Colleges 2019". Forbes. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  11. ^ "2021 Best National University Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  12. ^ "2020 National University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  13. ^ "College of Business - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  14. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  15. ^ "College of Education - Sam Houston State University - Huntsville, TX". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  16. ^ "College of Fine Arts & Mass Communication - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  17. ^ "College of Humanities and Social Sciences - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  18. ^ "Colleges - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  19. ^ "College of Health Sciences - Sam Houston State University - Texas". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  20. ^ University, Sam Houston State. "Colleges - Sam Houston State University". SHSU Online. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  21. ^ About SHSU. About SHSU. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  22. ^ "Degrees Offered". Sam Houston State University. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  23. ^ "Contact Us Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Forensic Science Commission. Retrieved on July 23, 2010.
  24. ^ "Texas Studies". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
  25. ^ "Student Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  26. ^ 753, Texas, Sam Houston State University, SHSU. "(Archived) Truth Be Told--A Bearkat is NOT a Kinkajou OR a Binturong". Retrieved 2016-08-06.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ "International Quidditch". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  28. ^ "The Houstonian - Independent Student Newspaper of SHSU". The Houstonian. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  29. ^ "Alcalde". The Buildings of Sam Houston State University. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2006-05-24.
  30. ^ John E. Ferling
  31. ^ "John Ferling - Biography". Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  32. ^ Wolfe, Dusty (February 7, 2016). The Wrestling Journeyman: Life and Times of an Indy Wrestler. ISBN 978-1523915149.

External links[edit]