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‘Honor the Past, Claim the Future’

Date of release: 09/09/03


September 9, 1903 through September 9, 2003

We stand here in the midst of change, but we stand in front of a symbol of stability. Old Main has been synonymous with this institution since 1903. One hundred years ago, on this date, these doors first opened to 303 students and 17 faculty members. It is fitting that this building serve as our backdrop because it reminds us of both past and future. And, as we head into our Texas State University future, Old Main will be right there with us. In fact, as we peer into what may be ahead, Old Main will no doubt be there waiting for us, dressed in yet another repainted roof.

Others — students, scholars, teachers, staff — of different names will walk these steps, but they will still be like us: eager to learn and eager to share learning, able to provide opportunity, and rewarded by seeing potential fulfilled.

  Celebrating 100 years, former Presidents Robert Hardesty (left) and Jerome Supple (right) flank current President Denise M. Trauth following the ceremony recognizing 100 years of classes at Texas State University-San Marcos. Classes began September 9, 1903.

Four other times, those who belonged to this Hill faced the change symbolized by a new name, and four other times they went on to transform this university into the next chapter of its life. We do so today.

San Marcos, too, has been a pillar of stability for the university through all of its changes. It is appropriate that the city’s name is now officially part of the university’s name because the two have been partners for over a century. In fact, the city gave birth to the university by giving it Chautauqua Hill, the hill where we stand today.

Let’s take a brief look at the historical chapters that opened with different names:

In 1903 Southwest Texas State Normal School opens to 303 students who come to receive certificates to be public school teachers. Also in that year, Teddy Roosevelt is president and the first Teddy bear in America makes its debut. S.W.T. Lanham is sworn in as governor of Texas. The Wright Brothers obtain an airplane patent. Pierre and Marie Curie win the Nobel Prize for physics for their discovery of natural radioactivity. A loaf of bread costs 4 cents.

In 1918 Southwest Texas State Normal College welcomes 900 students and celebrates the end of World War I. The first bachelor’s degree is about to be conferred. Woodrow Wilson is the first American president to visit a foreign country. The Red Sox win the World Series with the aid of a pitcher named Babe Ruth. Bread is 7 cents a loaf.

In 1923, almost 1,500 students enroll at what is now Southwest Texas State Teachers College. King Tut’s tomb is discovered, and Time magazine hits the newsstands. The nation is feeling the effects of women going to the polls, and Texas is on the verge of swearing in the nation’s second female governor, Ma Ferguson. Bread soars to 9 cents a loaf.

In 1959 the word ‘Teachers’ is dropped from the name of the college, signifying the broadened role and scope of the curriculum but causing much consternation among alumni who love the old name. Fidel Castro takes over in Cuba. Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states. NASA names its first seven astronauts for Project Mercury. A loaf of bread is 20 cents.

As its status continues to build and its curriculum broaden, the college becomes a university in 1969. Enrollment is almost 10,000 students. Southwest Texas State University suspends ten students for their protest of the Vietnam War in the Quad. Apollo 11 lands on the moon. Alumnus Lyndon Johnson ends his presidency and returns to Texas. Yasser Arafat is appointed head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Sesame Street premieres. A loaf of bread costs 23 cents.


And so we come to 2003 and another new name reflects another change in status. Texas State University-San Marcos is a doctoral granting institution. Princeton Reviews says it is one of the best universities in the West. Its academic reputation has matured, and with 26,300 students, it is one of the largest universities in the nation. We live in a world with fewer and fewer boundaries. Our world is colored by extremism and self-centeredness that require more than ever that we teach cultural appreciation, communication and service to each other as much as our traditional disciplines. News is yet to be made in this calendar year, but we do know that Fidel Castro, Time magazine and Sesame Street are still around. NASA is still in the news. Some things change and some things don’t. And a loaf of bread is $1.02.

In 1999 we celebrated the decision to build a college on this hill in San Marcos. We have over a century of the past on which to predict our future. We know that in the years to come, education will still be vital, though the means of teaching may be the stuff of today’s science fiction.

We can also see the beginning of a mega-city, stretching along Interstate 35 perhaps from Laredo to Oklahoma City but certainly from San Antonio to Austin and Dallas. As our reach and service expand across the U.S. and extend to the world, this area we call home will also be growing and demanding more of us.

We will serve the people of Texas, as we always have, but we will increasingly serve ALL the people of Texas. This university has been, from its beginning, home to those who were the first in their families to seek the transformation of higher education, but this will be even more true as we seek to close the gaps and serve those who did not include a university education among their dreams before. What we do won’t change as much as for whom we do it and how we do it.

We who stand here today should remember that the shores of Spring Lake down the hill from us were the home of some of the earliest human inhabitants of North America. We are stewards of this place as much as we are stewards of the minds we stimulate and mold here. We are what we have been and what we will become because of our roots in this place, on this hill and with this city.

In the words of the eighth president of this college on the hill, Jerry Supple, when he came to interview for the position: “This is a gem, I can feel it.” May we all have that same feeling today.


And I can imagine the first president, Thomas Harris, standing right here in 1903, ready to pronounce Southwest Texas State Normal School open. He must have had visions of what his little school would be like in 10 or 50 or maybe 100 years. I think he would be as proud as we are of Texas State University.

We pay tribute to him and the other first faculty members, as well as to all who have loved this place and still love it, as we honor the past this day and claim the future.