Golden Years: UH System Institutions Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence in Higher Education

UHV, UHCL and UHD All Commemorate Half-Century Mark

Jaguars … Hawks … Gators, oh my!

While such wildlife may not have been on the “Yellow Brick Road,” they’ve been spotted in Texas during the state’s rich history. They also represent proud students from the University of Houston-Victoria (Jaguars), University of Houston-Clear Lake (Hawks) and the University of Houston-Downtown (Gators).

These institutions—all part of the University of Houston System (UHS)—have reached the half-century mark and are celebrating their service to the Lone Star State.

The University of Houston-Victoria’s (UHV) 50th anniversary was in 2023, but the celebration continues this year. Both the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) and University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) are hosting events throughout 2024 that will observe both institutions’ missions and contributions to Houston and beyond.

“For the past 50 years, UH-Victoria, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Downtown have faithfully supported the higher education needs of their respective communities with excellence,” said UHS Chancellor Renu Khator. “Reaching the half century mark is more than impressive — it’s demonstrative of the UH System’s commitment to drive economic development in our region, state and beyond. I am proud to commemorate each university’s five decades of excellence and look forward to even more success in the years to come.”

The UH System includes the three aforementioned universities, as well as the flagship University of Houston (UH). Each UHS institution is a separate entity with its own president and academic programs. All are governed by Chancellor Khator and the UHS Board of Regents.

The following offers a snapshot of UHV, UHCL and UHD with details on their histories and upcoming commemorative events.

University of Houston-Victoria: The year was 1973. The Sears Tower in Chicago became the world’s tallest building at 1,451 feet …NASA’s Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to study the planet Mercury … and UHS welcomed approximately 100 students to UH-Victoria Center, an off-campus instructional site of the University of Houston located in Victoria, Texas.

Fast forward 10 years and the demand for higher education opportunities in south Texas had grown exponentially. Recognizing the need for a four-year university in the region, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 235 supporting a fourth degree-granting university in the UH System—UHV.

UHV University Commons

UHV, now led by its President Robert K. Glenn, has granted more than 25,000 degrees, and educates about 4,000 annually. Four colleges comprise the institution (Business, Education and Health Professions, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Natural and Applied Science). Notable alumni include noted children’s book author Van G. Garrett, longtime Texas high school and college football coach Alan Weddell and Chief Financial Officer for the U.S. Library of Congress Mary J. Klutts.

In 2008, the university welcomed an athletics program (competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and a new mascot, the Jaguar. The Jaguar women’s softball team was UHV’s first sports team, followed by men’s and women’s golf and soccer, and men’s baseball in 2010.

Beyond the city of Victoria, Texas, UHV’s academic reach extends into the greater Houston area with programs offered at UHV Katy. Recently, UHV has been recognized as one of Texas’ most popular colleges by Research.com.

In 2023, UHV formally celebrated its 50th anniversary with the launch of its first university magazine, a series of campus events and The UHV 50th Anniversary Scholarship, an initiative awarding $1,000 to 50 deserving students.

 More details about UHV’s 50 years of serving students and the community are available online.

“UHV has served Victoria and the Gulf Coast for 50 years, and we are proud to continue that tradition of affordable, accessible academic excellence today,” Glenn said. “We are a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Military-Friendly School, and our alumni have gone on to make an impact across the nation and the world. For five decades, UHV has built a foundation that focuses first and foremost on serving its students by providing a quality, affordable education, whether they attend classes in Victoria, Katy or online. We intend to continue that mission far into the future.”

UHCL: Houston, we have a need for another university!

Those weren’t the exact words used to request higher education access just around the corner from NASA. It was, however, the message heard by the University of Houston and Texas legislators in the late 1960s and early 70s.

The roots of UHCL were planted when the University of Houston began offering STEM courses at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in 1964. The university took further shape when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (then known as the Coordinating Board of Texas and University System) authorized UH to develop the Clear Lake Graduate Center, and the Texas Legislature supported the establishment of a standalone university in the community. By 1972, the Clear Lake Graduate Center began offering its first classes, and in 1974, construction was completed on the Bayou Building, the first building for the new University of Houston at Clear Lake City. In 1974, the Graduate Center officially became part of the new UH campus.

UHCL Bayou Building

Initial enrollment at the newest UH institution was just over 1,000 students, a figure that has since grown to over 8,000. UHCL’s alumni network now exceeds 78,000. In 1977, the institution was renamed the University of Houston-Clear Lake and for the first half of its existence, it offered upper division and graduate courses. Following approval from the Texas Legislature, UHCL began downward expansion and welcomed freshmen and sophomores in 2014.

Four colleges comprise UHCL (Business, Education, Human Sciences and Humanities, Science and Engineering) and the campus has grown to five academic buildings, a campus recreation center and residence hall. Additionally, courses are delivered at UHCL at Pearland, an off-campus site, and at the Texas Medical Center.

In 2013, the UHCL community voted to name an official mascot, and the Hawk soared to the top of the list. Now, Hunter the Hawk maintains a presence at institutional events and inspires pride among faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Noted UHCL graduates include acclaimed author Keven Kwan (“Crazy Rich Asians”), trailblazing astronauts Guion Bluford and Bernard Harris, U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, and Texas legislators Angela Paxton and John E. Davis.

"UHCL has been a cornerstone of higher learning, a catalyst for change, and a community of dreamers and doers for five decades,” said UHCL President Richard Walker. “As we reflect on our storied past and celebrate our many accomplishments, we are most excited to use this milestone as a launching pad for the next 50 years and beyond.”

A list of planned events, alumni features, and a video retrospective celebrating UHCL's 50th anniversary is available online.


UHD: To visit the University of Houston-Downtown is a history lesson in itself. After all, the institution is nestled along the banks of the birthplace of Houston—Allen’s Landing. And its signature campus building, the One Main Building is a designated Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.

It was constructed in 1930 as the Merchants and Manufacturers Building, a visionary center of commerce for the region. The structure accommodated offices, stores, warehouse space and parking. Supplies were delivered to businesses occupying the building via rail (which still runs under the UHD campus) and the adjacent waterways.

The Great Depression and other factors forced the M&M occupants to either close or vacate the building, and it went through a number of changes through the decades. In 1967, South Texas Junior College assumed control of much of the M&M Building. By 1974, the University of Houston recognized the opportunity to expand higher education access to the center of the city and acquired the junior college’s assets. Thus, the University of Houston-Downtown College (UHDC) was created.

UHD One Main Building

The Texas Legislature approved UHDC to become an independent institution by the late 1970s, and soon enough, the name of the university was changed to the University of Houston-Downtown.

The campus expanded beyond its address of One Main Street with the Commerce Street Building and Shea Street Building. In recent years, UHD welcomed its Science and Technology Building, the first LEED Gold facility in the UH System. Likewise, the institution opened a state-of-the-art Campus Wellness & Success Center that hosts a gym, study spaces and other amenities supporting student success.

UHD has an enrollment of more than 14,000 students and boasts nationally recognized faculty members including acclaimed artist Floyd Newsum and poet Robin Davidson. Alumni include Harris County Sherriff Ed Gonzalez, U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, Texas Rep. Mary Ann Perez, former Houston Texans defensive end Devon Still and former champion boxer Juan Diaz.

Four colleges comprise the university—Humanities and Social Sciences, Public Service, Sciences and Technology and the Marilyn Davies College of Business. In addition to its footprint in downtown Houston, UHD also serves students at UHD Northwest and through course offerings at Lone Star College-Kingwood and Lone Star College-CyFair. -

Representing the spirit of UHD’s determined students is reptilian mascot Ed-U-Gator. The Gator also is the namesake for UH’s club sports teams and was spotlighted in the form of a massive balloon that debuted in the 2023 Houston Thanksgiving Parade.

“For half a century, the University of Houston-Downtown has focused on equipping professionals for the complex Houston workforce and addressing the issue of higher education access, with particular emphasis on first-generation and nontraditional students,” said UHD President Loren J. Blanchard. “UHD’s commitment to the perfect combination of accessibility, affordability, and excellence has yielded remarkable growth over the years. We now serve the second largest university population in Houston, and many of our more than 67,000 alumni continue to extend our Gator culture of caring into their communities and workplaces long after graduating. We are proud of what they – and we – have accomplished over the years, and as we move forward, we will continue to strengthen our position as an anchor institution for Houston.”

A list of UHD’s 50th anniversary activities and a timeline of the institution’s history are available online.