By Matt Flores
Break out the new T-shirts. Southwest Texas State University officially will be changing its name.
Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday signed into law a bill changing the name of the venerable public institution to Texas State University-San Marcos. The new name becomes effective Sept. 1. It will be the sixth name for the school since it opened its doors in 1903.
“ We go forth optimistically embracing our new name,” SWT President Denise Trauth said. “The larger challenge now is to get all the constituencies of the university to focus on the future and go forward together.”
Students, alumni, faculty and staff had debated over getting a new name for years before lawmakers in March introduced legislation to change it.
Proponents of the new name said it was needed to more accurately reflect the school's geography and to dispel inaccurate portrayals that the 25,000-student institution was a small, regional university. Critics opposed renaming the school because they said it would rob the school of its identity and because they wanted to maintain its historic significance.
“ I think it's a great thing,” said Shelton Padgett, a San Antonio lawyer and vice chairman of the university's development foundation. “When you can elevate a university in this area to higher status, you help the economy of the entire state — and give the university the recognition it deserves.”
Jessica Cieluch, an SWT alumna who graduated in May, had mixed feelings about the change.
“ I'm sure it'll help the university become more prominent ... but I'll still tell everyone years from now proudly that I went to Southwest Texas State University,” she said.
But Cassidy Collins, a senior public relations major, opposed the change, saying she had an emotional attachment to its current name and that changing it was unnecessary.
“ This school is still growing, so I think this was done in a hasty manner,” Collins said.
Kristi Oberpriller, a 2002 graduate now working in advertising in Austin, also criticized the name change.
“ SWT is already making a name for itself, so I don't see the purpose,” Oberpriller said.
To help address logistical challenges expected with the new name, Trauth created a 23-member committee that will oversee the physical changes at the university and develop a timetable for change.
“ We plan to have a fairly slow transition,” Trauth said. “We love our new name, but we also love our old name.”
University officials have estimated the name change will cost the institution about $350,000. Private donations have been used to establish a fund to underwrite those costs, meaning no taxpayer funds will be used to fund the name change.