The University of Houston was founded in 1927, as Houston Junior College. It became a four-year institution in 1933. In 1934 the board of trustees changed the name to the University of Houston but the school remained in the hands of the Houston Independent School District. The school’s first session began with 692 students, at the Second Baptist Church. The campus was moved to the South Main Baptist church the next fall. In 1945 the Senate passed a bill that removed control of the school from the district.
In 1977 the University of Houston System was established, with UH as its flagship university. Governed by the Board of Regents, the network is comprised of UH and three other schools, UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown, and UH-Victoria, plus two teaching centers, UH System at Sugar Land and UH System at Cinco Ranch, that offer degrees in partnership with the universities.
In 1997 the administrations of the University of Houston System merged and Arthur K. Smith held both chancellor and UH president positions simultaneously. The school’s current system chancellor and UH president is Dr. Renu Khator. She assumed both posts in January 2008. In fall of 2007, the University of Houston celebrated its 80th birthday.
UH is a sprawling, 560-acre campus that has won awards for improvements to Cullen Boulevard, a main road throughout campus. The campus is lush and green, with many fountains and sculptures that serve as contrasts to the mostly modern facilities. The Moores School of Music, for instance, is a large rectangular concrete building with broad, dark windows that cover the front’s exterior, and the Science and Engineering Research Classroom Complex is massive and modern, with glass covering the sides.
UH students spend much of their on-campus downtime at the University Center, or the UC. There are places to eat, a bookstore, a bowling alley, banks, copy centers, and study centers. The Satellite is another hang out, equipped with TVs, comfortable sofas, pool tables, ping pong tables and video games.
For exercising or just taking a dip in the pool, students flock to the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, or CRWC, a round, sand-colored building just west of Cullen Boulevard.
Since UH is largely a commuter school transportation and parking are important to students. There are many parking garages and lots throughout campus for commuters. There is also an air-conditioned shuttle bus that travels on five color-coded routes, available to all UH community members.
The University of Houston is located right in downtown Houston, and the city is full of entertainment options. The area immediately around campus, however, has become something of an impediment to getting out and enjoying the city.
UH is located in the Third Ward area of Houston, next to Texas Southern University. While the school’s location was once a positive for students, crime is rising in the area and students do not always feel safe these days. Car theft, armed robbery, and sexual assault are prevalent on and around campus, even withstanding attempts to increase security.
However, recent developments to “clean up” the campus are giving UH students hope for the future, and will allow them to once again enjoy the pros of living downtown, including the nearby shopping, restaurants, and an exciting night life.
For students who like the club scene, downtown Houston is an ideal location. Fix, Wild West, and Red Star are favorites among UH students. Most of the popular clubs are located in the true downtown area which is only about five minutes from campus. For daytime fun, campus is also near the Galleria and Highland Village area. Besides buying books and school supplies, the Galleria is the perfect spot for anything from buying clothes, to eating at the Cheesecake Factory, or even ice skating.
Frontier Fiesta is an annual student-run event that dates back to 1940. Each spring the Frontier Fiesta committee puts on concerts, shows, booths, multicultural performances, and a BBQ cook-off. The campus is transformed into a “Fiesta City,” and the event is attended by students, faculty, staff and members of the neighboring community.
At football games, it is tradition to show support by making the “cougar sign,” by folding the ring finger of the right hand toward the palm. When the Cougars score, mascots perform pushups for each point scored.
The school’s official colors are scarlet red and white. The official seal is of the coat of arms of General Sam Houston, as handed down from his ancestors. It was adopted in 1938 as the campus was being constructed.
Shelly Berg (1977) is a Jazz pianist and educator.
Clyde Drexler (1983) was a professional basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets. He was the 1995 NBA Finals Champion, played on the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was the recipient of a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. He is currently a Houston Rockets commentator.
Julian Schnabel (1973) is a Neo-expressionist painter, sculptor, photographer, and filmmaker.
Roger Wright (1996) is a classical pianist and 2004 National Scrabble Championship winner.
Jack Valenti (1946) was president of the Motion Picture Association of America.
UH competes at the Division I level of the NCAA and is a Conference USA member. The school has won 16 national men’s golf titles, had five NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four appearances, and two College World Series appearances.
The University of Houston’s most popular team, however, is football. In the fall of 2006 UH won its first Conference Championship in over 10 years and the Cougars went on to play in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007 UH was defeated by the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in the Texas Bowl. Since the 1999 renovation of Robertson Stadium, the football team has witnessed a new and revived student attitude, with larger attendance at sporting events and overall better school spirit.
Despite football’s monopoly on the sports scene, basketball, baseball, volleyball, and softball are also some popular. The men’s basketball program has made 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and boasts Hall of Famers such as Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The 1996 Kevin Costner film Tin Cup depicts Costner and Don Johnson’s characters as former UH golf team teammates.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation.
Track and Field legend Carl Lewis attended UH.
Only a small portion of the student body lives on campus at the University of Houston, but the residence halls nonetheless foster a sense of community.
While all enrolled students are eligible for housing, only about 7% of UH undergrads actually live in college-owned and or affiliated residences. The thousands of other students commute from their homes in Houston and farther afield.
For those who do stay on campus, the most popular for freshmen are the dorms at Moody Towers or the slightly more desirable Quad. Both of these facilities provide room and board for students, however the Quad offers residents a private bathroom shared with one roommate, while the Towers has communal bathrooms.
The apartments on campus, which include Cullen Oaks, Cambridge Oaks, and Bayou Oaks are available to all students but most suited to upperclassmen. Spaces are available for singles, doubles, and four suite mates per apartment. Residents are responsible for their own food, but are no longer subject to curfews and some of the more elementary rules given to dorm residents. Each apartment is equipped with a kitchen and bedroom furniture.
There is a sense of community within each complex, with residents participating in intramural sports and social functions. Bayou Oaks, for example, puts on monthly events for residents such as the outdoor movie night, the roommate game, and dodgeball tournaments.
Bayou Oaks is considered one of the apartment complexes, it also houses fraternity and sorority housing. Twelve Greek facilities line the perimeter of Bayou Oaks and hold 14 residents in seven rooms of each house. Students regard Greek Row as one of the safer places on campus. Many students who decide to go Greek simply do so for the chance to live on campus in the safety of their affiliations’ home. All Greek residents share one common kitchen and one common study area in each house.