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Sam Houston State University (known as SHSU or Sam) was founded in 1879 and is a public university located in Huntsvillemarker, Texasmarker. 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. It is named for one of Texas' founding fathers, Sam Houston, who made his homemarker in the city. SHSU is part of the Texas State University System and has approximately an enrollment of 16,000 students. The institution is classified as a Doctoral Research University by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education and is the only university classified as such within the Texas State University System.


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 Collegemarker.

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 1936, the school awarded its first post-baccalaureate degree.

The university celebrated its 125th year in 2004.

Name Changes

Throughout the course of its history, Sam has undergone several name changes.
  • April 21, 1879, founded as Sam Houston Normal Institute
  • 1923: Sam Houston State Teachers College
  • 1965: Sam Houston State College
  • 1969: Sam Houston State University

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 the university's name.

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.


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

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

Image:SHSUWelcome.jpg| An Entrance to SHSUImage:OldMainPit.jpg| The Old Main PitImage:Raven Village in 2007.jpg|Raven Village DormitoryImage:SHV2007.jpg|Sam Houston Village Dormitory


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

Sam's programs in criminal justice are particularly strong given the school's long relationship with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which is headquartered in Huntsville, also housing the state's death row. 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 12/2008 and 10/2009), the university offers:
  • Seventy-eight undergraduate degree programs
  • Fifty-four masters' programs
  • Six doctoral programs (Clinical Psychology, Counselor Education, Criminal Justice, Educational Leadership, Special Education, and Reading)


Sam Houston State Bearkats logo
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.marker Austin State Universitymarker and tensions between the two schools can run high before major sporting events that pit one against the other. Texas State University–San Marcosmarker is also another rival in the Southland Conference.


Sam Houston's Bearkat is represented by Sammy Bearkat who entertains and leads 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. Also appearing alongside Sammy at select events is Airkat Bearkat. In the past, Samantha Bearkat has also appeared alongside Sammy.

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 KSHUmarker, 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. Broadcast studios and offices for all three media are located within the Dan Rather Communication Building.

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."

Notable alumni

Arts and media


Politics and religion

Armed Services


External links

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