By Jeremy Schwartz
Southwest Texas State University soon will be no more. With a pen swipe Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry gave the school its sixth name in its 100-year history: On Sept. 1, it will become Texas State University-San Marcos.
The signing of Senate Bill 1942 marks the end of a bitter debate that pitted some alumni against student leaders, who bypassed the administration and board of regents by taking their plea for a name change directly to the Legislature.
" It's a great day for the university and a great day for students in Texas," said Robert Doerr, a former Student Government president. "It's time to move forward and put this issue behind us."
Supporters of the name change say it will help the school recruit student athletes and give it the prestige to go along with its 25,000-student body and six doctoral programs.
Alumni who opposed the change of their alma mater's moniker mounted stiff resistance. However, a plan to flood the governor's office with calls against the Texas State University name was unsuccessful. By Wednesday, the governor's office had received 189 pieces of correspondence in favor of the change and 256 against it.
Some alumni were considering whether to take legal action to stop the name change, which goes into effect Sept. 1, though it is unclear what the basis of such a lawsuit would be.
" The only native-born president from Texas -- LBJ -- was from SWT, and the Republicans are destroying his memory," said Dick Simmons, a class of 1984 alumnus and a network administrator in Austin. "SWT is my alma mater. That means 'soul mother.' "
Other schools in the Texas State University System complained that the name change gives SWT unwarranted flagship status. Still others say Texas already has two TSUs -- Texas Southern University and Tarleton State University. Name-change promoters have been adamant that the new name should not be abbreviated to TSU. Instead, the school's nickname should be Texas State.
Although the name has been officially changed, it will take months, if not years, to erase the SWT logo from the San Marcos landscape. The university estimates it will cost $350,000 to change signs and has received written pledges from sympathetic alumni to cover those costs. The bill does not allocate any pubic funds for the change. The school has set up a committee to oversee the physical changes as well as a fund to manage donations.
University President Denise Trauth, who was hired last year and preferred to have more time to mull a name change, said Thursday that she will embrace the new name.
" Your name doesn't cause you to become prestigious," she said. "But as you grow in pursuit of excellence, the name Texas State will help."
The school will celebrate its new name at a ceremony Sept. 9, the 100th anniversary of the first day of classes at Southwest Texas State Normal School.