By Keri Myrick
Whenever the University of Houston has mustered the will and the resources to compete at a higher level, Honors education has helped “move the needle”— President Renu Khator’s metaphor for positive change. “At its best, Honors has served the institution as a whole,” said William Monroe, dean of the Honors College since 2009. “Academically, Honors should be the leading edge for the University,” he said, “the tip of the spear.”
Today the Honors College is a point of pride at a Tier One University and nationally known as a pioneering model of undergraduate excellence. But it took many years and more than a half dozen attempts before Honors found the structure, resources, and consistent leadership that would allow it to play a significant role in moving the University forward. In fact, the development of honors education at UH in many ways paralleled changes in the University as a whole. For Honors, growth and critical development took place during periods of institutional flux: the years of rapid expansion following World War II; the Sputnik-era boom that spurred the development of honors programs nationwide; the University’s turn toward research in the sixties; the arrival of Ted Estess as director of the program in 1977; the creation of the Honors College in 1993; the expansion of the M.D. Anderson Library, 2002-2004; and the changing of the guard from Estess to Monroe in 2009. At each of these junctures, the University turned to honors education as an instrument of institutional advancement.