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Old Main

Texas State University was founded in 1899 in response to the state’s need for trained public school teachers, and while teacher preparation remains an important responsibility of the university even today, the scope of its mission has greatly expanded.

Southwest Texas State Normal School was built on the site of a “Chautauqua.” In the late 1800s, Chautauquas were held in various places across the country as a means of engaging citizens in dialog. People traveled from miles around to enjoy concerts, sermons and lectures for days or weeks at a time. For a decade, Chautauquas were conducted every summer in a wooden tabernacle on the hill where Old Main is now located. The tabernacle roof collapsed in 1895, and the City of San Marcos deeded the 11 acres of the site to the State of Texas to build a college. The founding bill was proposed in the legislature on March 3, 1899; it was passed and signed by Gov. J.D. Sayers on May 10. Gov. S.W.T. Lanham was governor when the school opened in September 1903 with 303 students and 17 faculty, including the president, Thomas Harris.


Originally conferring only teaching certifications, the college began offering bachelor’s degrees in 1918 and the name changed to Southwest Texas State Normal College. In 1937, the first master’s degree was awarded.

The school’s name was changed to Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1923. The word “Teachers” was dropped from the name in 1959, and “College” was changed to “University” in 1969. Alumni include Lyndon Johnson, Class of 1930, making Texas State the only Texas institution – and one of only 29 colleges nationwide – to have graduated an American president. Each name reflects the university's growth from a small teacher preparation institution to a major, multipurpose university.

Through its nine academic colleges, Texas State offers nearly 200 undergraduate and post-graduate degrees to serve the needs of future generations of Texans.