Presidential Inauguration

Our History and Past Presidents

Our History: A Texas First

In 1835, Colonel William B. Travis penned a letter to the New York Christian Advocate calling for the establishment of a Methodist presence in the new Republic of Texas. Five years later, in 1840, the first of Southwestern’s four root colleges was born from the vision of Methodist missionary Martin Ruter.

Not only was Southwestern the first institution of higher learning in Texas, but through the years, we have experienced several other firsts as well:

  • Hosting the first homecoming on record.
  • Defeating UT-Austin in the first college baseball game played in the state.
  • Graduating three of the first five Rhodes Scholars in Texas.
  • Founding the first student literary journal in the state.
  • Legendary folklorist and author J. Frank Dobie graduated in 1910 and went on to national acclaim.
  • Establishing the nation’s first chapter of Alpha Chi, in 1922, growing out of a Scholarship Society.

During World War II, Southwestern prospered through participation in the Navy’s V-12 program, and later, by eliminating its graduate programs and concentrating on the liberal arts and sciences and the education of undergraduates only.

As the University’s reputation grew, so did its enrollment, which reached 1,000 students by 1978. The annual Brown Symposium was established in 1977. By the early 1980s, Southwestern University began to appear in national college guidebooks, and in 1988, U.S. News & World Report named Southwestern the top regional liberal-arts college in the nation; more recently, it has included Southwestern among its more competitive National Liberal Arts College category.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, the physical campus saw many changes, including the construction of new residence halls, academic buildings, a new campus center, and a new building to house the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid. Additions were also added to the library, the fine arts building, and the science building. Renovations were made to numerous additional buildings.

Financially, Southwestern was the beneficiary of The Brown Foundation of Houston, Inc.’s Matching Challenge, which concluded in 1995 with 34% of alumni participating.

Athletics changed dramatically through the years as well. In the fall of 1993, all of Southwestern’s varsity athletics teams joined the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and became fully participating members of the NCAA Division III. The number of varsity teams grew to 20 over the years, with football being reinstated in fall 2013 and a women’s lacrosse team added in spring 2014.

Of many significant milestones, receiving a Phi Beta Kappa national honor society charter in 1995 is particularly noteworthy for its rarity and prestige.

Read more about Southwestern’s history in “Duty and Doctrine: The Origin Story of Southwestern University.”

Past Presidents

Edward Burger 2013-2020
Jake B. Schrum   2000-2013
Roy B. Shilling, Jr. 1981-2000
Lawrence Durwood Fleming 1961-1981
William Carrington Finch 1949-1961
John Nelson Russel Score 1942-1949
John William Bergin 1935-1941
King Vivion  1928-1935
James Samuel Barcus 1924-1928
Paul Whitfield Horn 1922-1924
Charles McTyeire Bishop  1911-1922
Robert Stewart Hyer  1898-1911
 John H. McLean   1891-1897
John Wesley Heidt  1885-1889
 Francis Asbury Mood 1873-1884
Soule University (1856)
Francis Asbury Mood 1868-1873
William Halsey 1861-1868
George W. Carter 1860-1861
William Halsey 1856-1860
McKenzie College (1848)

John McKenzie


F. H. Blades 1846-1847
Wesleyan College (1844)
Lester Janes   1844-1846
Rutersville College (1840)
Chauncey Richardson


 William Halsey


Event Guide

Presidential Inauguration

The Inauguration of Laura Skandera Trombley as the 16th President of Southwestern University