Commencement

History of UTSA

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 summer 2019, UTSA celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Learn more about UTSA’s 50th 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 university’s 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 for students on the Main Campus took place in May 1976 with 46 receiving bachelor’s degrees and 184 receiving master’s degrees.

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 part of UTSA. The museum is located at the university’s Hemisfair 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.

Learn more about UTSA’s academic programs.

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 350 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 157 degrees to more than 32,000 students, including more than 4,100 graduate students. It is a university of first choice for students from Texas, across the nation and 94 countries. More than 60 percent of UTSA students are from underrepresented groups, and 45 percent are first-generation college students. There are now over 131,000 Roadrunners in the UTSA alumni network.

The UTSA faculty includes international research leaders in health, cybersecurity, energy, sustainability, and human and social development. Ninety-nine 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 2017-2018, UTSA research and sponsored program expenditures totaled $69.6 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 and its graduate program in cybersecurity is ranked among the nation’s top two programs by Universities.com.

Learn more about UTSA’s research enterprise.

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. Roadrunner football celebrated a winning season in 2012 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. In 2016, UTSA football made history by playing in its first bowl game, matching the NCAA record for the fastest program to reach a bowl game.

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 2015, UTSA announced that it had received $202 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. That support is already boosting UTSA closer to Tier One status.

On September 1, 2017, Dr. Taylor Eighmy became UTSA's sixth president. Eighmy has a strong track record of advancing top-tier research universities through strategic government collaborations, public-private partnerships and community engagement. He is also highly regarded for building critical student success programs, especially around experiential learning and undergraduate research.

Today, UTSA is the university of the future located in the city of the future. As a multicultural discovery enterprise noted for research excellence, student success and urban service, UTSA is helping San Antonio solve the grand challenges of its growing community. The university is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and one of the top six young universities in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.

An emerging research powerhouse, UTSA is shining a light on San Antonio with national recognitions for its No. 1 cybersecurity program, for its military-friendly environment and for its leadership as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Through the dedication and hard work of so many, UTSA has collected a list of accolades that rivals universities twice its age.

Fifty years ago, UTSA’s founders recognized the university’s potential to create prosperity and social mobility for Texans, laying the groundwork for San Antonio to become what it is today: one of the fastest growing cities in our nation.

Timeline

1969
UTSA founded

1972

Main Campus construction begins

1973
UTSA admits 671 graduate students

1974
-82
students receive master’s degrees in the first Commencement

1975
UTSA begins classes at Main Campus

1976
UTSA conducts first Commencement with both undergraduate and graduate students

1986
Institute of Texan Cultures joins UTSA

1997
UTSA opens Downtown Campus

2006
Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Building is dedicated

2011
UTSA football team plays inaugural season

2014
University observes 45th anniversary and marks graduation of 100,000th student

2015
UTSA celebrates close of inaugural capital campaign, which drew $202 million in support

2017
Times Higher Education ranks UTSA among the top four young universities in the U.S.

2019
UTSA celebrates 50th anniversary