Texas is known for many things — San Antonio River Walk, Cadillac Ranch, Kemah Boardwalk, Enchanted Rock, Schlitterbahn, The Alamo, Magnolia Market at the Silos, Space Center Houston, and much more. Throughout this great state, another noteworthy claim to fame includes universities with a rich background of academic excellence, especially when it comes to the history of Sam Houston State University located in the city of Huntsville.

The foundation of SHSU can be traced back to 1879 when a group of Huntsville citizens purchased Austin Hall — a Methodist school for boys — and converted it to the first teacher-training school in the southwestern United States. On April 21, 1879, Gov. Oran Roberts officially established Sam Houston Normal Institute, and by October 10, classes began. By the end of the first academic year, 109 students were enrolled.

A series of name changes occurred over the next century before the name Sam Houston State University was officially settled in 1969 — Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1923 and Sam Houston State College in 1965.

So who is the namesake of the university? Sam Houston is considered to be a military/political Texas hero who was in attendance when Austin Hall was dedicated in 1851, and also lived down the hill from the building: “His interest and involvement in the early history of Austin Hall are evidence that he was concerned with more than matters of war and state, but also of education.” Houston served as the first and third president of the Republic of Texas, was a U.S. representative and senator, and served as the seventh governor of Texas.

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how SHSU has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world:

  • More than 20,000 students are enrolled at the university.
  • SHSU consists of 368 acres.
  • The student-to-faculty ratio averages 24:1.
  • Students have the option to choose from nearly 200 degree programs with a plethora of options for undergraduate and graduate study, online degrees, and specialists and professional programs.
  • More than 70 countries are represented by international student enrollment.
  • Alumni encompass more than 130,000 people worldwide.

And here’s a fun fact about SHSU: The College of Criminal Justice opened in 1965 and has since become one of the most prestigious programs in the nation offering degrees in criminal justice and criminology, forensic science, and security studies. 

SHSU also has a stand-out list of notable names who have called the Huntsville campus home, including athletes, singers, celebrities, etc. — Dan Rather, Katie Rose Clarke, Michael Bankston, Richard Linklater, Allen Shamblin, and Roger Creager, just to name a few.