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SWT gets new ID for sixth time

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (09/01/2003)
By Bill Teeter

SAN MARCOS — After a lifetime of hearing complaints, Shannon FitzPatrick was ready for Southwest Texas State University’s name to change.

“ I grew up on this campus listening to faculty members bemoan the geographically incorrect and limiting name,” said FitzPatrick, the university’s attorney for students. “I grew up hearing, ‘This is not southwest Texas.’ ”

Today, the Central Texas school becomes Texas State University-San Marcos — or Texas State, for short.

The Bobcat mascot won’t change, nor will the school’s colors of maroon and gold.

According to administrators, more than geographical clarity is at issue. The new name will better convey the message that Texas State is a large, academically significant school, said Gerald Hill, vice president for university advancement.

That will mean better job placement for graduates, wider recognition, and perhaps more financial support from out-of-state businesses and foundations, Hill said.

The school is the sixth-largest college in Texas, and may pass the 26,000 mark in enrollment this year, President Denise Trauth said.

“ There are 24 states that do not have a school as large as we are,” she said.

Founded in 1899 as a teacher-training college, the school is proud of its heritage, which includes the distinction of being the only university in Texas to count a U.S. president — Lyndon Johnson — among its alumni.

The name change is the sixth in the university’s history. Complaints about the 34-year-old name “Southwest Texas State” have been heard for years, but administrators had not expected to deal with a change for at least another two years, Trauth said.

But, during the regular session of the Legislature, at the urging of some students, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, introduced legislation to rename the school.

Not everyone supports the change.

Vernon McDonald, a retired Southwest Texas coach, said his family members are happy with the name that is on their diplomas. He and his wife both graduated from the school when it was Southwest Texas State Teachers College. His three children graduated from Southwest Texas State University. McDonald’s two sons both married Southwest Texas graduates, and he has a granddaughter at Southwest Texas, he said.

“ We have a president who graduated from here, and George Strait graduated from here. It was good enough for them,” he said.

The university has a top-rated geography department, is renowned for its training of teachers and is home to the Southwestern Writers Collection, he said.

“ We’ve got 26,000 students. We don’t want any more,” McDonald said.

Some students shared McDonald’s sentiments.

“ I’m a little upset,” said Misty Lowe, a 22-year-old applied psychology major. “When I came here, I came to Southwest Texas State University, not Texas State.”

Manuel Barba, 21, a junior, suggested that the new name might give the school a chance to earn a different reputation.

“ Maybe it will get rid of the ‘party school’ image,” he said.

Changing the name on campus signage and such will cost an estimated $350,000, which will be covered by donations through the alumni association, university spokesman Mark Hendricks said.

Alumni wanting a diploma with the new name may get one free, and 2004 graduates may choose which name they want on their diplomas.

On Tuesday, the first day of classes after the change takes effect, the university plans an early-morning naming ceremony. By then, employees will have begun answering the phones by saying, “Texas State,” but, Hendricks concedes, the old name may be hard to get over.

“ I’m sure we’ll still be answering with ‘Southwest Texas’ by mistake for a while,” he said.