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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 Park 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 almost 90 countries. About 60 percent of UTSA students are from underrepresented groups, and 46 percent are first-generation college students.

UTSA’s football 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. Today, UTSA football is a Saturday staple for San Antonio sports fans.

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 2014, UTSA research and sponsored program expenditures totaled more than $61 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.

Community service is also 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 public U.S. 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.