It’s hard to imagine Georgetown without Southwestern

Southwestern University’s story began while Texas was a republic, before Georgetown existed. Years would pass before SU arrived here, the offspring of four small colleges located elsewhere.

The Methodist Episcopal Church sent Martin Ruter, Littleton Fowler, and Robert Alexander to establish Methodist missions less than a year after Texas gained independence from Mexico. Ruter spoke passionately of planting churches and schools throughout Texas, envisioning one central institution of higher learning. He purchased land near La Grange but died in May 1838, leaving Alexander to pursue plans for a Methodist academy.

Rutersville College received its legislative charter February 5, 1840, the official founding date of the institution that became SU.

Methodist impetus for Texas higher education continued. John McKenzie opened a preparatory school in Clarksville in 1841. Wesleyan College opened in 1844 in San Augustine, and Soule University began in 1856 in Chappell Hill, not far from Rutersville. McKenzie’s school was the most successful; the others struggled with financial and frontier hardships. He led the campus independently and rigorously, finally seeking a state charter reflecting Methodist affiliation in 1860, just before the Civil War.

Francis Asbury Mood of South Carolina became president of Soule. He envisioned a single Methodist university for Texas, and Soule’s trustees planned toward “the University of the Southwest” in 1870. Mood’s efforts were strengthened by John McKenzie and Robert Alexander. Southwestern’s birth was at hand.


Georgetown leaders took formal steps with a constitution for “a good school,” located where Williams Elementary now stands.


Methodist Educational Convention narrowed possible locations to Bell, Williamson, Burnet, and Travis counties; 11 communities, including Georgetown, entered bids.



Georgetown was formally chosen and “Texas University” opened, led by Dr. Mood and two professors.


Charter was granted, but the name was disallowed by the legislature; Mood’s suggested name, Southwestern, was adopted instead.


The Young Ladies School opened.



Dr. Mood died after 11 years of leadership; the school had 15 faculty members.


M. B. Lockett, businessman and SU trustee for 27 years, moved to Georgetown.



Ladies Annex opened on land given by the Snyder brothers east of the first campus.


Enrollment reached 269, and upper classes were co-ed.



The Main Administration Building was completed.



Mood Hall opened to house 150 men, serving as a dorm until 1966.


A campaign to relocate Southwestern either to Fort Worth and Dallas began; Dallas citizens and Methodists statewide weighed in, Professor Claude Cody led former students in protest, Georgetown rallied, and Dallas offered support for a new university instead.



The campus was used briefly for Student Army Training Corps during World War I.


June saw the celebration of the school’s Golden Jubilee.


The Women’s Building burned completely, without loss of life.


Cody Memorial Library was dedicated, with capacity for 75,000 volumes.



SU was chosen for Navy College Training (V-12 Unit) during WWII; football team wins the 1944 Sun Bowl.


Several generous gifts, including the start of SU’s relationship with Houston’s Brown Foundation, initiated a campus building program.



Chapel attendance was no longer required.


The First African American student graduated.


Several major building renovations were carried out.


The first annual Brown Symposium was held.


SU was named a top regional liberal arts school in the nation.


SU was awarded Phi Beta Kappa chapter.


The Paideia program, based on a concept of integrated studies and community involvement, was launched through Priddy Charitable Fund.



The football program returned after a 63-year hiatus. Photo by Carlos Barron

Landrum Fountain

February 5, 2015, Charter Day events

The Georgetown community is welcome!

11:00 A.M. ORGAN CONCERT: Lois Perkins Chapel – Enjoy a special performance by Ellsworth Peterson ’55 and Pam Rossman ’72 before the weekly chapel service. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Lois Perkins Chapel and the 175th anniversary of the University.

11:30 A.M. CHAPEL SERVICE: Lois Perkins Chapel – Megan Davidson ’06, Southwestern University Chaplain, will officiate this special service recognizing the University’s 175th Anniversary. Laura Merrill ’85, District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church’s El Valle District in the Rio Texas Annual Conference, will deliver the sermon.

NOON CAMPUS CELEBRATION: Academic Mall – Join us as we gather on the academic mall to participate in a group photo to commemorate Southwestern’s 175th Anniversary, followed by cake and a celebration in the Bishops Lounge.

1:00 P.M. 175TH ANNIVERSARY LEGACY LUNCH: McCombs Ballrooms -$10 admission, ticket required. Celebrate Southwestern’s legacy with alumni, parents and friends of the University. Jean Janssen ’84 and Bryony McLaughlin ’16 will emcee and a video about SU’s Root Colleges will debut. Enjoy a special presentation from the Williamson Museum and citations from government officials to commemorate the special day.

Lunch Buffet: Garden Green Salad with Ranch and Italian, Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Cream Gravy, Green Beans, Cornbread and Rolls, Ice Tea, Coffee, Water, Sheet Cake.

2:30 P.M. HISTORICAL CAMPUS TOURS: Take a walk through Southwestern’s history and hear meaningful stories from Southwestern alumni and retired faculty along the way.

4:00 P.M. PAIDEIA CONNECTIONS: ENGAGING SCHOLARLY CONVERSATIONS: Alma Thomas Theater – Featuring Eileen Cleere, professor of English and Scott McLean, professor of kinesiology. Reception to follow in the Walzel Foyer of the Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center.

LIBRARY EXHIBIT: Southwestern and the Great War: The Student Army Training Corp and Student Life During World War I—a collection of materials that document the World War I era at Southwestern University—will be on display in the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Foyer.

“WHAT THINGS MAY COME: THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL 3D PRINT SCULPTURE EXHIBITION”: Fine Arts Gallery – This exhibit is part of the Brown Symposium XXXVII, which examines the changes that 3D printing will have on human creativity for developing future solutions in the Fine Arts and Sciences.

Photo by Lance Holt

Courtesy of Lance Holt

SU today, by the numbers

  • 11:1 Student to faculty ratio
  • 38 majors, 7 pre-professional programs, 5 bachelor’s degree plans
  • 95% of classes have fewer than 29 students
  • 100% of tenured or tenure-track faculty have highest degrees in their field
  • 20 NCAA Division III varsity sports teams
  • #1 national liberal arts school in Texas according to USA Today, September, 2014

For detailed insight into Southwestern’s history, read To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University, 1840–2000 (published 2006), a definitive study by Dr. William Burwell Jones.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This