Alt Text

History of UTSA

Founded by the 61st Texas Legislature on June 5, 1969, UTSA was commissioned as a university of the first class. Today, UTSA offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees through nine colleges and The Graduate School. In 2015, the university celebrated its 46th anniversary.

Until UTSA was established, San Antonio was the only major city in the nation not served by a public university. Leaders, legislators and the public knew that if San Antonio was to achieve its full potential, a top-tier university was needed to offer a comprehensive array of courses and degrees.

The university's first two presidents, Arleigh B. Templeton and Peter T. Flawn, worked diligently to hire faculty, develop a curriculum and library, and finalize plans for a campus to be built on 600 acres near the junction of Interstate 10 and Loop 1604 in northwest San Antonio. At the time of construction, from 1972 to 1976, the campus was the largest university construction project in the country, comprising seven major buildings.

In summer 1973, UTSA admitted 671 graduate students and began classes taught by 52 faculty members in leased facilities at the Koger Center. Master's degrees were offered in business administration, education, bicultural-bilingual studies, English as a second language, environmental management, Spanish, biology, mathematics and systems design. In 1974, UTSA's enrollment reached 1,171, and 82 students received master's degrees in the first Commencement in August.

In September 1975, UTSA began classes at the Main Campus with more than 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The first Commencement ceremony with both undergraduate and graduate students took place in May 1976 with 46 receiving bachelor's degrees and 184 receiving master's degrees. In spring 2014, the university marked the graduation of its 100,000th student.

Throughout the 1980s, UTSA experienced rapid growth while James W. Wagener served as president. New buildings were added and new degree programs were developed. In February 1986, the UT System designated the Institute of Texan Cultures a UTSA campus.

In 1990, UTSA's fourth president, Samuel A. Kirkpatrick, began a new phase of university history by initiating a comprehensive strategic planning process and securing funds for construction. In 1997, UTSA opened the Downtown Campus adjacent to Interstate 35 and historic Cattleman Square.

In 1999, Ricardo Romo became UTSA's fifth president and ushered in a new era of community involvement and academic excellence. A native of San Antonio, Romo expanded the university's commitment to providing access to higher education, while guiding UTSA to better integrate the Main, Downtown and Hemisfair campuses.

In recent years, UTSA acquired 125 acres near the Main Campus, UTSA Park West, to accommodate athletics facilities, and increased the Downtown Campus to 18 acres. The university also expanded its University Center and student housing. Today, campus activities and programs are hosted by more than 330 student organizations. Four thousand students live in on-campus residence halls.

In 2010, the university installed one of the world's most powerful electron microscopes, and opened the first bookless library on a U.S. college or university campus. Also, UTSA received its largest gift from an individual – now an estimated $30 million from the estate of Mary E. McKinney that will fund UTSA scholarships in perpetuity.

UTSA now offers more than 160 degree programs to almost 30,000 students, including more than 4,000 graduate students. It is a university of first choice for students from Texas, across the nation and 94 countries. Nearly 60 percent of UTSA students are from underrepresented groups, and 45 percent are first-generation college students.

The UTSA faculty includes international research leaders in health, cybersecurity, energy, sustainability, and human and social development. Ninety-eight percent of UTSA's tenured and tenure-track faculty members have doctorates or terminal degrees.

With research as diverse as its students, the university receives grants from federal, state and local agencies and from private foundations supporting research, public service and training. During fiscal year 2015, UTSA research and sponsored program expenditures totaled more than $73 million. UTSA's cybersecurity program is also ranked number one in the nation according to a Ponemon Institute survey of IT professionals conducted for Hewlett-Packard.

Since its inaugural season in 2011, UTSA football has become a Saturday staple for San Antonio sports fans. The team broke NCAA start-up program records for first-game attendance (56,743) and average attendance (35,521) during its inaugural season in 2011. In 2012, Roadrunner football celebrated a winning season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, and the university accepted an invitation to join Conference USA in 2013, where it continues to play today.

Community service is a hallmark of UTSA. In January 2015, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected UTSA to receive its prestigious Community Engagement Classification. The honor acknowledges UTSA's "dynamic and noteworthy" community outreach efforts in San Antonio and its impact on the global community through teaching and research, public service, volunteerism, civic partnerships and economic development.

In August 2015, UTSA announced that it had received $180 million in gifts and pledges during its inaugural capital campaign, We Are UTSA – A Top-Tier Campaign. The campaign was launched in 2009 with an initial goal of $120 million to support student scholarships, faculty and research initiatives, campus activities and community outreach programs. In early 2013, the university surpassed that goal and, with two years left in the campaign, set and exceeded a new goal of $175 million. The support is already boosting UTSA closer to Tier One status.

UTSA has internationally respected academic programs, award-winning faculty and sophisticated science, technology and recreational facilities, along with recognized arts and humanities programs and diverse, dynamic student life. Increasingly, UTSA is recognized as a leader in higher education and research. In 2015, the university was one of just 66 U.S. public universities to be ranked among the top 400 universities in the world, according to Times Higher Education's World University Ranking.

As an intellectual and creative resource center and a catalyst for socioeconomic development and commercialization of intellectual property for Texas and beyond, UTSA is committed to achieving Tier One research university status, providing access to educational excellence and preparing leaders for the global environment.


June 1969

The Texas Legislature establishes a University of Texas campus in San Antonio. Gov. Preston Smith signs the act into law on the back of Rep. Frank Lombardino, a sponsor of the bill.

May 1970

UT System Board of Regents accepts 600 acres of land donated for UTSA near Interstate 10 and Loop 1604.

July 1970

UT System Board of Regents names Arleigh B. Templeton first UTSA president.

June 1971

Dewey D. Davis, professor in Division of Education, first faculty member appointed.

May 1972

Construction of UTSA at I-10 and 1604 begins. It's the largest new university under construction in the U.S. Seven buildings comprise 800,000 square feet.

January 1973

Peter T. Flawn is appointed president.

September 1973

Enrollment for the first class, which met at the Koger Center off of Loop 410, is 1,113.

August 1974

UTSA holds its first commencement ceremony. Degrees are awarded to 82 students.

September 1975

Classes begin at UTSA Main Campus for students enrolled in five colleges: Business, Fine and Applied Arts, Sciences and Mathematics, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Multidisciplinary Studies. Enrollment is 4,433.

May 1976

John Peace Library Building opens as library and administration building.

January 1978

James W. Wagener is appointed president after Peter T. Flawn resigns to return to teaching and research at UT Austin.

August 1979

Enrollment is 9,400.

February 1980

UTSA announces plans to join NCAA Division 1.

January 1981

Student newspaper The Paisano is established as the only independent student publication in the state.

February 1986

Institute of Texan Cultures becomes part of UTSA.

January 1990

Samuel A. Kirkpatrick becomes the fourth president of UTSA.

September 1991

UTSA Downtown opens at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Enrollment is 15,759.

January 1992

The first doctoral program, a Ph.D. in biology with a specialty in neurobiology is approved by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

May 1996

The first two doctoral degrees are awarded at UTSA. Recipients were James Colston and Karla Kopec, who received doctoral degrees in biology with a concentration in neurobiology.

May 1999

Ricardo Romo is named UTSA's fifth president and is the first Hispanic president in the university's 30-year history.


UTSA breaks ground and dedicates several buildings, including the University Center expansion, the Business Building, the Biosciences Building, and three phases of the Downtown Campus.

January 2003

UTSA dedicates the Recreation and Wellness Center, and new Childcare Development Center.

May 2003

The UTSA Main Campus begins construction on a new $83.7 million Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building, a 227,000 square-foot facility.

September 2004

Fall enrollment is more than 26,000 making UTSA the second largest institution among the 15 components in The University of Texas System.

September 2009

UTSA enrollment increases to 28,955

September 2011

The UTSA football team plays its first game at the Alamodome.

April 2012

UTSA kicks off We Are UTSA – A Top-Tier Campaign with an initial goal of raising $120 million in three years. The University surpasses the goal less than a year later and a new goal of $175 million is set. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Park West Athletics Facility is held. Once completed, the UTSA sports complex will offer competition and practice facilities for soccer, track and field, baseball and softball, as well as a practice facility for football.

June 2012

UTSA is named among the top 100 universities younger than 50 years old by Times Higher Education for the first time.

July 2012

The UTSA capital campaign tops $100 million in private gifts just halfway into its inaugural capital campaign, We Are UTSA -- A Top-Tier Campaign.

December 2013

UTSA receives more than $5 million in gift commitments to advance the Top-Tier capital campaign, including a gift from the 80/20 Foundation to establish Open Compute projects and fellowships.

April 2014

A three-year partnership between UTSA and Microsoft is announced to research and develop sustainable technologies to make data centers more energy efficient and economically viable.

Still have a question? Ask Rowdy

Back to Top

2015 © The University of Texas at San Antonio  | One UTSA Circle San Antonio, TX 78249 | Information 210-458-4011

Produced by University Communications and Marketing