Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

About Southwestern

Our History

It all began in 1835. The publisher of the “New York Christian Advocate” received a letter from the Mexican colony of Texas. Written by 26-year-old Col. William B. Travis of the volunteer Texas army, the letter called for the establishment of a Methodist presence in the region where settlers were beginning to revolt against the government of Mexico.

Five years later, the first of Southwestern’s four root colleges was born from the vision of a single Methodist missionary: Martin Ruter.

At Southwestern we have seen several firsts: we beat UT-Austin in the first college baseball game played in the state; three of the first five Rhodes Scholars in Texas were Southwestern graduates; the Southwestern Magazine, the first student literary journal in the state, was founded here; Legendary folklorist and author J. Frank Dobie graduated in 1910 and went on to national acclaim.

Saved from financial ruin in 1937 by Elizabeth Carothers Wiess, a Houston benefactor, Southwestern went on to prosper from the Navy’s V-12 program, and later by eliminating its graduate programs and concentrating on the liberal arts and education of undergraduates.

As SU’s reputation grew, so did its enrollment through the 1960s and 1970s, up to 1,000 students by 1978. The annual Brown Symposium was established in 1977. By the early 1980s, the name “Southwestern University” began to appear in national college guidebooks. In 1988, US News & World Report named SU as the top regional liberal arts college in the nation. US News & World Report has since included Southwestern among its more competitive “National Liberal Arts College” category.