Founded in 1947 by the Basilian Fathers, University of St. Thomas has long served as an institution of academic achievement for generations of young men and women – instilling its students with a comprehensive liberal arts foundation. 
 The University celebrates two major milestones in 2017: 

• the 70th anniversary of its founding
• the 20th anniversary of its iconic symbol, the Chapel of St. Basil

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1947: The Original Campus

In June of 1946, the university purchased the home of T.P. Lee, which at one point was the largest private home in Houston and a symbol of the immense wealth garnered during the oil boom of the early 1900s. The building marked the inception of the university’s campus and originally housed the registrar’s office, a student reading room, a chapel, the offices of the President, a women’s lounge, the Dean of Women’s office, classrooms, and a ballroom for physical education and student dances. The original campus of the University of St. Thomas comprised of one block and was bounded, clockwise, by West Alabama (at left), Montrose Blvd, Sul Ross and Yoakum. Today the historic site is home to the offices of the President and Provost, and serves as a hallmark of the university’s interwoven relationship with the City of Houston.

1948: First Sodality

Throughout its history, UST has encouraged students to grow in their faith. The university boasts 94 Basilian priests among its alumni over the past seventy years. In 1948, Bishop Christopher E. Byrne (seated) received the first members into the Sodality, an association of pious students promoting special works of charity and Christianity. Assisting the bishop, left to right: unidentified, student Cecil Bendy (founder) and Father Guinan. Kneeling, left to right: Pauline Ditta and Jeanette Tamborello (both founders). 

1949: Fiesta de Mexico

Students transformed campus into a Mexican hacienda and performed Mexican dances at Fiesta de Mexico, the first University sponsored student scholarship fundraiser on campus grounds. Scholarship support for students is just as important now as it was in 1949 with The St. Thomas Fund serving as the cornerstone of our student financial aid program, giving millions in institutional aid each year. 

1950: Mardi Gras Ball

Launched by Fr. Robert Miller, CSB, the university’s early Mardi Gras celebrations were community-wide, costumed affairs held at the Sam Houston Coliseum–at that time, the city’s premier venue for events, concerts and performances. It is reported that more than 15,000 people attended Mardi Gras annually for the first several years of the event. Student-led festivities included a parade, a French market, cake booth, games, selection of a court of princesses and coronation of a queen, dancing and a costume contest. The Mardi Gras Court, left to right: Hollywood Queen Ann Blythe, UST Queen Lynne Manley ’51, Hollywood King Pat O’Brien, Al Melancon ’53, Jackie Veltman, and Joanne Keegan.

1951: First Graduating Class

The first graduating class takes time for a group photo on the steps of Link-Lee Mansion. Ten achieved advanced degrees; most became parents; some became homemakers; some became business men and women; some became teachers; two became lawyers; one became a judge; one became a medical doctor; and one became a Basilian priest. Top step, left to right: Ken Porche, Jack Pecore, Mary T. Russell, Al Albrecht, Louis Swilley, Mary Margaret Hoesel, and Joe Courtney. Middle step, left to right: Tim Maresh, Joe Laura, Wilma Goetz, Mary Clare Christensen, Margaret Goetz, and Shirley Baker. Bottom step, left to right: Pat Teahan, Edward Pesek, and Joan Bradley. Not pictured: Tom Bole, Skeets Fahrenthold, Lynne Manley and Jerry Scroggins.

1952: Bob Hope is Honorary Mardi Gras King

Bob Hope and Arlene Dahl, King and Honorary Queen of the Universty’s 1952 Mardi Gras, are welcomed at Hobby Airport by Mary Olive Graham ’53, student Queen, and Rev. Hugh Haffey, C.S.B., Director of Mardi Gras. Top-notch Hollywood entertainment created a stir and helped put UST’s Mardi Gras on the map. They included the popular screen actor of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Pat O’Brien; actress, singer and Academy Award nominee, Ann Blythe; and famed actor-comedian, Bob Hope.

1952: Purchase of Hughes House

Hughes House, built in 1918, is the one-time home of famed American businessman, film tycoon and aviator Howard Hughes. Hughes spent his teenage years in the house and kept ownership of it when he moved to California in 1925 so that his aunt could continue to reside there. University of St. Thomas purchased the property at 3921 Yoakum St. in 1952 and used it initially as the Social Science Building. It now houses the Theology Department.

1953: Class of 1954 Officers

Junior class officers pose for their yearbook photo. Left to right: Treasurer Nick Liveris, Vice-President; Nancy Restivo, Secretary; Rosemary Rizzo, President; and Steve Parisi.

1953: Turtle Races

Students, staff and visitors enjoy the Turtle Races, a featured event on Visitors’ Day, April 1953, held outside the original Science Building behind Link-Lee Mansion. Today, the Turtle Race tradition lives on and is sponsored by the UST Alumni Association during Family Weekend each fall. The races take place at the annual St. Augustine Birthday Celebration and Carnival on the Campus Life Mall.  

1956: Philip Johnson’s Scale Model of Campus Expansion

Legendary Houston arts patron John de Menil – at the behest of the university’s leadership – commissioned renowned architect Philip Johnson to design a master plan for the expansion of the University of St. Thomas. Johnson drew inspiration from the University of Virginia and its academic mall, and he executed a vision that utilized his particular minimalist style and emphasis on subdued functionality. The totality of Johnson’s academic mall at UST focuses on the core tenets of academics, community and faith. Part of the proposal included all buildings having air-conditioning.

1965: Spring Prom

The Spring Prom was held on May, 26, 1965 at the historic Warwick Hotel, now Hotel Zaza. The Warwick was the only luxury hotel in Houston when it first opened in 1926 and had many prominent Houstonians occupy the apartments over the years. The Spring Prom is still a tradition enjoyed by students at UST today. 

1970: Guinan Hall

Front entrance to the original Vincent J. Guinan Hall, the student dormitory which welcomed its first tenants in September of 1970. The building was completed during Fr. Patrick Braden's tenure as President. While the dormitory was under construction, but before it was named, a group of students approached Fr. Braden with a petition. He agreed to meet with them to hear their requests, but advised that just because they had several hundred signatures, it did not mean that he would accede to their wishes. Fortunately for all, the ground they would not yield was that the student residence under construction should be named Guinan Hall. 

1972: Doherty Library

Rev. Patrick Braden, C.S.B. addressing the crowd attending the dedication of the Doherty Library in the fall of 1972. The library was named in memory of the parents of Robert P. Doherty, Jr., a member of the university's Board of Directors. Fr. Braden and Mr. Doherty were responsible for securing funding for the university's new research library. 

1975: Vietnamese Students

Dean of Students, Don Hogon, discusses programs in the fall of 1975 with, left to right: Peter, Paul and Philip Nguyen Van Tho, and Tri Minh-Chau. They all enrolled at St. Thomas after evacuating South Vietnam earlier that year.

1981: Institute for Storm Research

Dr. John C. Freeman, Jr. explains maps to students at the Institute for Storm Research. The IRC was founded in 1966 and received grants to conduct meteorological research. When the Institute for Storm Research closed in the mid-1980's, all equipment and research was donated to the local Weather Museum. Dr. Freeman's daughter, Jill Freeman Hasling, was the first female president of the National Meteorologist Association and went on to run Weather Research, Inc.  

1984: Powder Puff

Siobhan Fleming ’87 getting tagged in a game of flag football in the Powder Puff Games of 1984.

1989: Lonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove, spoke at the University on March 14, 1989. His topic was: Writing Fiction and Writing for Films.

1992: Science Building

Groundbreaking for the UST Science Building, November 20, 1992. Turning the first shovels of dirt, left to right: President McFadden; Board Chairman Dennis Purdum; Capital Campaign Chairman William Slick, Jr.; and President Emeritus Father William Young. The building was named Robertson Hall in memory of Corbin Robertson, the late husband of Wilhemina Cullen Robertson, one of the major benefactors of the university. The building housed Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Sciences and Computer Science.  

1996: Chapel of St. Basil

Famous architect Phillip Johnson designed the UST mall in 1956. At the age of ninety, Johnson returned to build the chapel in 1996. Construction on the Chapel of St. Basil broke ground on March 3, 1996. A Consecration Ceremony was held on June 7, 1997 and the building opened to the public that July. The Chapel of St. Basil celebrates 20 years this year. 

2006: Athletics Makes a Return to Campus

In 2006, UST became an independent member of the NAIA and introduced its first varsity women’s volleyball team. In 2007, men’s soccer was added to the roster, followed by men’s basketball which joined the UST athletic department in 2009. Women’s basketball was introduced in 2011.

2009: Mendenhall Summer Institute

Longtime UST benefactor and former board member Trini Mendenhall visits with 2009 Mendenhall Summer Institute students. The Mendenhall Summer Institute is a five-week program held during the Summer II session for incoming freshmen with proven academic abilities and involvement in co-curricular activities. This program allows students to start their college career early, in addition to having an opportunity to earn a grant for tuition at UST.

2012: Two Saints and a Taco Tasting

UST alumni and guests enjoy the inaugural Two Saints and a Taco Tasting in 2012. This popular event hosted by the UST Alumni Association at St. Arnold Brewing Company raises money for student scholarships. Savory tacos from some of Houston's best-loved eateries coupled with world-class beer have made this the biggest UST alumni event of the year, reaching building capacity and raising over $100,000 annually for students in financial need. 

2012: Nursing School Reopens

UST's School of Nursing was reestablished after a 26-year hiatus in large part because of the personal dedication of Carol Peavy, a nursing alumna and former UST nursing faculty member. Carol and her husband Odis made significant contributions in 2008 to kick-start fundraising for the school. In 2014, the Peavys made the largest gift in UST history at the time to support the completion of the Center for Science and Health Professions, the permanent home for the School of Nursing. UST's 2014 commencement ceremony featured the first graduating class of the re-established nursing school. Twenty-seven students earned Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees In 2015, the UST board gave its approval for the School of Nursing to be renamed the Carol and Odis Peavy School of Nursing in perpetuity.

2015: Center for Science and Health Professions

During the November 12, 2015 groundbreaking of the new Center for Science and Health Professions, STEM discipline and nursing students shared their hopes and dreams for their future careers. The new facility will provide a home for the Peavy School of Nursing, and the departments of biology and chemistry. Subsequent phases will accommodate other STEM programs, strengthening UST’s ability to recruit the best and brightest students and prepare them for careers in these high-need disciplines. The new state-of-the-art facility is scheduled for completion in spring of 2017.

2016: Graduation

Graduates Samantha Loos-Polk, Gabby Rabosa, Megan Marie Rosales and Selena Ling celebrate their academic achievement.

Special thanks to Betty Fischer, Betty Kaffenberger and Nancy Vesey in the UST Archives Department for providing photos and captions.