Establishing the University of Houston

“May We All Cherish This School Always”  

By Grace Conroy 

The Roaring Twenties was a time of economic prosperity in Houston. Oil had been discovered around the region, the new deep-water port reached $500 million in import and export volume, and skyscrapers appeared on the skyline. Houston’s population grew by 111 percent, making it the most prominent Texas city by 1927.1 In this time of segregation, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) erected four new high schools – two black and two white – to accommodate the growing number of students. It was an exciting time  for Houstonians. 

Dr. Oberholtzer Headshot  
Dr. Edison E. Oberholtzer served as President of HJC from 1927 to 1934 and then was the President of UH until 1950, when he retired. 

In 1923, the Houston school system separated from the city government, and the following year, Dr. Edison E. Oberholtzer became superintendent of the Board of Education. Oberholtzer believed that post-World War I society required an expansion of public schooling. He also considered Houston a “fresh and energetic new city,” a “can-do” town with “high caliber can-do people.” Shortly after Dr. Oberholtzer took the helm, a dozen seniors from different Houston high schools requested an appointment to discuss creating a junior college. They yearned to further their education after graduation but had neither the financial means to attend colleges out of state nor the test scores to attend Rice Institute, Houston’s only college at the time. Many of them also held down part-time jobs while in school. Oberholtzer understood their desire to continue their education, especially in the booming post-war era, so he scheduled a meeting with Houston’s Board of Education to announce the idea for a junior college.2

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For information on how the University of Houston grew and adapted in the years leading up to World War II, please visit this video, courtesy of the Center for Public History’s UH Memories Project.
Digitized recording via the UH 1955 Yearbook staff.

Click here to access a digitized record of UH yearbooks throughout history.

Watch the collaboration between Houston Public Media and the Center for Public History as they discuss the 100 years of Houston History, an episodic series featuring early campus history in Episode 7: UH Beginnings, detailing the origin of Houston Junior College.

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