Sam Houston State University
Former names
Sam Houston Normal Institute (1879–1923)
Sam Houston State Teachers College (1923–1965)
Sam Houston State College (1965–1969)
Motto"The measure of a Life is its Service"
TypePublic research university
EstablishedApril 21, 1879; 144 years ago (April 21, 1879)
Parent institution
Texas State University System
Endowment$152.3 million (2021)[1]
PresidentAlisa White
ProvostMichael T. Stephenson
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

30°42′50″N 95°32′50″W / 30.71389°N 95.54722°W / 30.71389; -95.54722
CampusDistant Town, 272 acres (110 ha)
NewspaperThe Houstonian
ColorsOrange & White[3]
Sporting affiliations
MascotSammy Bearkat

Sam Houston State University (Sam Houston, SHSU or Sam) is a public research university in Huntsville, Texas. Founded in 1879, it is the third-oldest public college or university in Texas. It is one of the first normal schools west of the Mississippi River and the first in Texas. The school is named for Sam Houston, who made his home in the city and is buried there.

SHSU is a member of the Texas State University System and has an enrollment of more than 20,000 students across over 80 undergraduate, 59 master's, and 10 doctoral degree programs. The university also offers more than 20 online bachelor's and graduate degrees. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity."[4]


19th and 20th centuries

The Sam Houston State University campus was originally home to Austin College, the Presbyterian institution that relocated to Sherman, Texas, in 1876. Austin Hall was constructed in 1851 and is the oldest university building west of the Mississippi still in operation. It was renovated in 2012 and is used today for special meetings and events. Notably, Sam Houston himself attended and participated in the original dedication of the building.[5]

Created by legislation signed by Governor Oran M. Roberts on San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1879, Sam Houston Normal Institute's dedicated goal was to train teachers for the public schools of Texas. It was the first teacher-training school in the southwestern United States. On October 10 of the same year, the first class of 110 students and four faculty commenced instruction. The first president of the school, Bernard Mallon, died eleven days after the institute opened.[6]

The one-room Peabody Memorial Library was the first free-standing campus library in Texas; it was constructed in 1901 with funds provided by the George Peabody Foundation. According to the Normal Institute's catalog, the library was "a very handsome structure, and specially designed for the purpose for which it is to be used. It is said that no school of this kind in the South has a Building equal to it."[7] Fully restored, it is now used as a venue for special university events.[citation needed]

When the university first opened, students received a certification to teach in the state's elementary and secondary schools. After 1919, the university began to award bachelor's degrees. In 1936, the school awarded its first postbaccalaureate degree.[citation needed]

Steps to the Old Main, with a view of Austin Hall.

21st century

SHSU celebrated its 125th year of operation in 2004.[citation needed]

The university launched its first capital campaign in March 2016 with a $50 million goal and closed the campaign's books on August 31, 2010, with $61.2 million in commitments. The university has 110,000 living, addressable alumni and an active Alumni Association with 10,000 members, holding 200 meetings and events annually.[citation needed]

On 30 May 2012, SHSU-The Woodlands Center opened on the Lone Star College-Montgomery campus. The facility includes 144,164 square feet (13,393.3 m2) and has a five-story parking garage. The university also operates SHSU-University Park on the property of Lone Star College-University Park in unincorporated Harris County near Tomball.[8]

Name changes

Throughout its history, Sam has undergone several name changes:[citation needed]

In April 2007, Texas House Bill 1418 passed without objection in the Texas Legislature, preventing The Texas State University System's Board of Regents from changing the university's name to Texas State – Huntsville.[9]

Contrary to a popular joke—repeated by alumnus Dan Rather in his 1978 autobiography, The Camera Never Blinks—the school was never known as "Sam Houston Institute of Teaching" or "Sam Houston Institute of Technology." This joke was expanded in 2006 into an entire feature film, Accepted, which takes place on the campus of the fictional South Harmon Institute of Technology.

Main campus

Welcome sign.

The oak-studded rural main campus sits on 316 acres (128 hectares) in the central area of Huntsville. Two large agricultural complexes feature a 1,600-acre (650 ha) teaching and research farm and a rodeo arena. The campus also features a planetarium, an observatory, a body farm, and an 18-hole golf course named The Bearkat Course. The mall area of the main campus includes Blatchley Bell Tower and Clock and a fountain.[citation needed]

The campus stood in for the fictional Austin University in the motion picture The Life of David Gale.[citation needed]


Academic rankings
THE / WSJ[11]206
U.S. News & World Report[12]249 (tie)
Washington Monthly[13]76
U.S. News & World Report[14]1627 (tie)
Student body composition as of May 2, 2022
Race and ethnicity[15] Total
White 48% 48
Hispanic 26% 26
Black 18% 18
Other[a] 5% 5
Asian 2% 2
Foreign national 1% 1
Native American 1% 1
Economic diversity
Low-income[b] 45% 45
Affluent[c] 55% 55

Sam Houston State's academic departments and programs are organized into eight colleges:[citation needed]

Additionally, the university enrolls more than 350 high-achieving undergraduate students in the selective Elliott T. Bowers Honors College.[citation needed]

Programs within the College of Criminal Justice were recently ranked by the Journal of Criminal Justice in the top five nationally. The theater and dance programs were ranked by Dance Spectrum Magazine in the top 25 nationally, and according to the National Dance Association, SHSU is home to a quality athletic dance team.[24] The university offers the only Professional Golf Management program in Texas, one of 17 in the country affiliated with the Professional Golfers' Association of America.[25] SHSU also has one of the oldest speech and debate programs in the nation.[citation needed]

As of May 2016, the university offers:[citation needed]

College of Criminal Justice

SHSU's College of Criminal Justice is the largest and one of the oldest criminal justice programs in the nation. Huntsville has long been associated with criminal justice, being the co-headquarters of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the home of several prisons, including the Texas State Penitentiary, nicknamed the "Walls Unit" which houses the state's execution chamber, located about two blocks north of the campus.[citation needed]

In 1970, the college became one of the first programs in the U.S. to offer a Ph.D. in criminal justice, and it was the first institution in the State of Texas to offer the Master of Science in Forensic Science. SHSU's Ph.D. in Clinical Science with a Forensic emphasis is one of seven such accredited programs in the U.S. The college faculty were recently recognized as the 4th most productive nationally in their field in terms of research, and their areas of expertise range from serial murder, hate crime, and terrorism to policing, law, corrections, and security.[citation needed]

The College of Criminal Justice includes the headquarters of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.[27] It also houses the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, which specializes in training for local, state, and federal law enforcement officers in the area of management and supervision. The college also houses a working courtroom where students can observe and analyze real trials.[citation needed]

Texas Studies

The university has been commended as of late for offering courses that encourage the study of the lore, the lure, and the history of the Lone Star State.[28] In 2012, digital archivists at the university library worked with officials at a local veterans museum to launch the Texas Military Veterans Oral History collection.[citation needed]


Main article: Sam Houston Bearkats

Sam Houston State's colors are bright orange and white[29] and their nickname is the Bearkats. Sam Houston sports teams participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) as a member of Conference USA. The Sam Houston Bearkats won the 2020 NCAA Division I (FCS) Football Championship over South Dakota State by a score of 23–21 and finished with a perfect 10–0 season record. The victory was the first Bearkat football national championship since the team won a share of the 1964 NAIA Championship. The 2020 season marked Sam Houston's third trip to the championship game in ten seasons.

SHSU's athletic teams have been nicknamed "The Bearkats" since 1923 when the university's name was changed by the Texas State Legislature from Sam Houston Normal Institute to Sam Houston State Teachers College. Before 1923, the varsity sports teams were nicknamed "The Normals".[citation needed]

It is doubtful those who coined the "Bearkat" nickname had a particular animal in mind. More likely, the name came from a popular local saying of the time, "tough as a Bearkat!" The late Reed Lindsey, who was a student/athlete in the 1920s and later retired as University registrar, once said that "it was a good fighting name of the time." Since the animal in the saying was thought more mythical than real, the spelling settled upon was "Bearkat." However, there are some arguments that the Sam Houston Bearkat is modeled after either a Binturong or a Kinkajou.[30]

In the late 1940s, then SHSU president Harmon Lowman attempted to change the SHSU mascot from Bearkats to "Ravens" (after General Sam Houston's Cherokee nickname). Mrs. Vernon Schuder reported that the alumni were polled and she voted for the Raven but that "all those old Bearkats beat us out!"[citation needed]

A Sammy Bearkat mascot character began appearing at SHSU sports events in 1959, with the addition of a Samantha character in 1986. Samantha retired in 2005.[31]


SHSU's primary rival is Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) and tensions between the two schools can run high before major sporting events that pit one against the other. SHSU and SFA are separated by 90 miles and both schools are located in the Piney Woods. The annual football game between SHSU and SFA named the Battle of the Piney Woods, dates back to 1923. Since 2010, the series has been played at NRG Stadium in Houston. The game was not scheduled for the 2023–24 season after conference changes were announced. SHSU holds a 60-34-2 lead in the series and has won the last 11 meetings.

SHSU is also rivals with Texas State University (formerly SWT). SHSU and TXST have met 92 times, with the Bobcats leading the series 50-37-5. The game was played every year from 1946-2011. SHSU and TXST are members of the TSUS. Both schools formerly competed in the Southland Conference. The schools are scheduled to meet at NRG Stadium in 2024.


Main article: Sammy Bearkat

Sam Houston's Bearkat is represented by Sammy Bearkat, a costumed mascot, who has entertained and led crowds in cheers during sporting events since 1959.[citation needed]

Club sports

Club sports are very popular at SHSU. Some available to students include powerlifting, ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, rugby, martial arts, trap and skeet, inline hockey, basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, and baseball. In 2013, the Sam Houston quidditch team won the IQA World Cup VI Division II Championship.

The Spirit Programs, cheer, dance, and mascots, of Sam Houston hold the most National titles out of all of the sports and recreational activities at Sam Houston.[citation needed]

Campus media

The SHSU School of Mass Communication operates KSHU, a student-run radio (90.5 FM) and television (cable channel 7) station, broadcasting news, sports, and entertainment programming for the campus and community. "The Houstonian" is the student-published twice-weekly campus newspaper.[32] Broadcast studios and offices for all three media are located within the Dan Rather Communication Building.[citation needed]

The Alcalde was the university's annual yearbook, published from 1910 to 1998 and 2003 to 2006; it was named in honor of Texas Governor Oran Roberts, whose nickname was "The Old Alcalde".[33]

Affiliated institutions

The university operates a charter school network: the administrative offices are on the university grounds in Huntsville, but all of the charter schools are in Greater Houston.[34] The network began in 2017 as laboratory schools. The university chose to use space in daycare facilities to host its charter campuses.[35]

Notable alumni

See also

Steamboat House


  1. ^ Other consists of Multiracial Americans & those who prefer to not say.
  2. ^ The percentage of students who received an income-based federal Pell grant intended for low-income students.
  3. ^ The percentage of students who are a part of the American middle class at the bare minimum.


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2021. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ "Sam Houston State University sees slight drop in enrollment". The Huntsville Item. September 20, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  3. ^ "Sam Houston State University Color Palette". Sam Houston State University Brand Guide. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  4. ^ "Carnegie Classifications | Institution Lookup". American Council on Education. 2023. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  5. ^ Austin Hall. SHSU Campus Map. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  6. ^ SHSU. SHSU History. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  7. ^ Peabody Memorial Library. SHSU Campus Map. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  8. ^ "SHSU To Showcase New Campus With Open House". Sam Houston State University. March 29, 2011. Retrieved on September 18, 2011-09-18 from
  9. ^ "Kolkhorst bill would protect SHSU name". The Huntsville Item. February 21, 2007. Retrieved on April 18, 2023 from
  10. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  11. ^ "2024 Best Colleges in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  12. ^ "2023-2024 Best National Universities". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  13. ^ "2022 National University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  14. ^ "2022-23 Best Global Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  15. ^ "College Scorecard: Sam Houston State University". United States Department of Education. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  16. ^ "College of Business - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  17. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  18. ^ "College of Education - Sam Houston State University - Huntsville, TX". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  19. ^ "College of Fine Arts & Mass Communication - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  20. ^ "College of Humanities and Social Sciences - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  21. ^ "Colleges - Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  22. ^ "College of Health Sciences - Sam Houston State University - Texas". Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  23. ^ "Colleges - Sam Houston State University". Sam Houston State University. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  24. ^ About SHSU. About SHSU. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  25. ^ "Participating Universities". Professional Golfers' Association of America. Retrieved on April 18, 2023 from
  26. ^ "Degrees Offered". Sam Houston State University. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  27. ^ "Contact Us Archived 2011-05-14 at the Wayback Machine." Texas Forensic Science Commission. Retrieved on July 23, 2010.
  28. ^ "Texas Studies". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
  29. ^ "Student Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  30. ^ "(Archived) Truth Be Told--A Bearkat is NOT a Kinkajou OR a Binturong". Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  31. ^ "The Building of Sam Houston State University". Retrieved 2023-03-28.
  32. ^ "The Houstonian - Independent Student Newspaper of SHSU". The Houstonian. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Alcalde". The Buildings of Sam Houston State University. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2006-05-24.
  34. ^ "SHSU Charter School". Sam Houston State University. Retrieved 2022-09-22.
  35. ^ Santana, Tamra (2017-06-01). "Sam Houston State opens elementary charter schools in Spring, Klein". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2022-09-22.
  36. ^ "Ashley Etienne Stephens '00". Sam Houston State University. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  37. ^ Wolfe, Dusty (February 7, 2016). The Wrestling Journeyman: Life and Times of an Indy Wrestler. ISBN 978-1523915149.