Skip to Search Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content
Show/Hide University Links

History of UTSA

Founded by the 61st Texas Legislature on June 5, 1969, UTSA was commissioned as a university of the first class.

Until then, 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 as a major American city, 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. Today, the university has more than 112,000 graduates.

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 academic excellence and community involvement. A native of San Antonio, Romo expanded the university's commitment of providing access to education. Today, UTSA offers 165 degree programs including 71 bachelor's, 70 master's and 24 doctoral programs. The student population is comprised of nearly 29,000 students, of which more than 4,100 are graduate students. It is a university of first choice for students from Texas, across the nation and from 94 countries.

Underrepresented minorities make up 63 percent of UTSA's student body. The university also serves more first-generation students than ever before. Nearly half of UTSA's undergraduates will be the first in their families to earn a degree.

Under President Romo, the university's footprint substantially increased from 1.8 million square feet to 5.4 million square feet. UTSA launched new projects at the Main Campus including an expanded University Center, a Recreation Wellness Center, additional classrooms and laboratories, and new student housing that accommodates more than 4,000 on-campus residents. The Downtown Campus increased to 18 acres.

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 – an estimated $30 million from the estate of Mary E. McKinney that will fund UTSA scholarships in perpetuity.

The UTSA faculty includes international research leaders in health, cybersecurity, energy, sustainability, and human and social development. The university is pioneering new research initiatives in brain health, infectious diseases and data analytics. Today, UTSA conducts more than $83.5 million in external research and sponsored programs, including $56.8 million in research expenditures.

UTSA marked its inaugural football season in 2011 and broke NCAA start-up program records for first-game attendance (56,743) and average attendance (35,521). In 2013, the university accepted an invitation to join Conference USA, where it continues to play today. Most recently, the university acquired 125 acres near the Main Campus, with the financial support of Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, to accommodate new athletic facilities at UTSA Park West.

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.

The UTSA Institute for Economic Development is recognized as the nation's leading Small Business Development Center, and has received critical acclaim for its initiatives throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2009, UTSA launched its inaugural capital campaign, We Are UTSA – A Top-Tier Campaign. The university's initial goal was to raise $120 million to support student scholarships, faculty and research initiatives, campus activities and community outreach programs. After reaching its goal two years early, UTSA set a new goal to reach $175 million. By the conclusion of the campaign, the university had received more than $200 million in gifts and pledges.

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. For four years, the university has been ranked among the top 400 universities in the world, according to Times Higher Education.