Sam Houston State University, Texas

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University, (known as SHSU and Sam, for short) founded in 1879, is a public university located in Huntsville, Texas. It is one of the oldest purpose-built institutions for the instruction of teachers west of the Mississippi River and the first such institution of its type in the State of Texas and the southwestern United States. It is named for one of Texas' founding fathers, Sam Houston, who made his home in the city. The university is part of the Texas State University System and is a comprehensive, doctoral granting university enrolling approximately 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students.


Created by legislation signed by Governor Oran M. Roberts on April 21, 1879, Sam Houston Normal Institute's dedicated goal was to train teachers for the public schools of Texas—the first of its kind in the southwestern United States. On October 10 of the same year, the first class of 110 students and four faculty commenced instruction on the site of what had once been the campus of Austin College.

When the university first opened, students received a certification to teach in the state's elementary and secondary schools, but after 1919, the university began to award bachelor's degrees. In 1923, the school was renamed the Sam Houston State Teachers College. In 1936, the school awarded its first post-baccalaureate degree. In 1965, the school was renamed, again, to Sam Houston State College, and, finally, to Sam Houston State University in 1969.

The university celebrated its 125th year in 2004.

In 2007, a proposal was briefly considered to change the school's name to Texas State University - Sam Houston (intending to associate the campus more with the Texas State University System of which it is a member). However, In April, 2007, Texas House Bill 1418 passed without objection in the Texas Legislature; the bill prevents the Texas State University System’s board of regents from changing SHSU’s name.


Sam Houston State University sits on in the central area of Huntsville, TX. Recent construction of an expanded mall area of campus will include benches, tables, wireless internet, and more greenspace in the heart of campus. The mall area also includes two clock towers and a water fountain.


Sam's programs in criminal justice are particularly strong given the school's long relationship with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, headquartered in Huntsville, and the local state prison. Recently, the Department of History and School of Music are experiencing growth, the latter attracting performers to its reputable music education program. Additionally, many students choose to go to Sam because of its traditional academic strength, its education program.

Recently, the university has become a leader in distance education, offering both bachelor's and master's degrees via the web in several areas, including history and criminal justice.

Currently (as of 12/2006), the university offers:

  • 79 undergraduate degree programs
  • 48 masters' programs
  • 5 doctoral programs (Criminal Justice, Educational Leadership, Counselor Education, Clinical Psychology, and Reading)

Academic subdivisions

Sam Houston State's academic departments and programs are organized into five colleges. Colleges at Sam Houston State University are:


Sam Houston State's colors are orange and white and their nickname is the Bearkats. Sam Houston State sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision for football) in the Southland Conference. SHSU's primary rival is Stephen F. Austin State University and tensions between the two schools can run high before major sporting events that pit one against the other.


Sam Houston's Bearkat is represented by the mascot team of Sammy and Airkat who entertain and lead crowds in cheers during sporting events. Sammy's two minute routine earned him a national championship of the mascots division at the 2005 United Spirit Association Collegiate National Championship.

What is a Bearkat?

Sam Houston State'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. Prior to 1923, the varsity sports teams were nicknamed "The Normals."

Early references to "Bearkats" spelled the name either "Bearcats," "Bear Cats," or "Bearkats." A bearcat is said by some to be a kinkajou, a small, golden, carnivorous mammal that resides in the jungles of South America. It is doubtful those who coined the "Bearkat" nickname had either a kinkajou or a binturong in mind. However, more likely, the name came from a popular local saying of the time, "Tough as a Bearkat!" Since the animal in the saying was thought more mythical than real, the spelling settled upon was "Bearkat."

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

The current Sammy Bearkat mascot character began appearing at Sam Houston State sports events in 1959.

Campus Media

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

Notable alumni

Arts and media


Politics and religion

Armed Services


  • The Alcalde is the university's annual yearbook, published from 1910-1998 and 2003-present; it was named in honor of Texas Governor Oran Roberts whose nickname was "The Old Alcalde.
  • Contrary to an underground joke, repeated by alumnus Dan Rather in his 1978 autobiography, The Camera Never Blinks (page 17), 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 mythical South Harmon Institute of Technology.
  • The campus stood in for the fictional Austin University in the motion picture The Life of David Gale.
  • Huntsville is sometimes referred to as "Huntsvegas" by attending students and many T-shirts from various social events bear the same nickname.


External links

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