We are the University of St. Thomas, the Catholic university in the heart of Houston. We are committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. By pursuing excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service, we embody and instill in our students the core values of our founders, the Basilian Fathers: goodness, discipline, knowledge and community.
We foster engagement in a diverse, collaborative community. As a comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts, we educate students to think critically, communicate effectively, succeed professionally, and lead ethically.
History Of The University
The University of St. Thomas admitted its first freshman class, 40 men and women, on September 22, 1947. Of the ten faculty members, four were members of the Basilian Fathers, to whom the work of founding and operating the University had been entrusted. The Basilians, a congregation founded in France in 1822, had been working in the Diocese of Galveston–Houston since 1900, when they established the College of St. Thomas, now St. Thomas High School.
Bishop Christopher E. Byrne of Galveston–Houston had long hoped that a Catholic university might be established in his diocese, and in May of 1945 he announced that such an institution was about to become a reality. For that purpose the T.P. Lee mansion, located in the 3800 block of Montrose Boulevard, was purchased as a home for the new University, to which a science building and classrooms were soon added. From here a series of non–credit courses was taught from November 1946 until Easter 1947 to introduce students to what would be the University of St. Thomas.
With experience that was both practical and theoretical, the Basilian Fathers, led by Father Vincent J. Guinan, first president of the University, and Father Wilfrid Dwyer, vice president, shaped the initial curriculum. Influenced by the writings of Cardinal John Henry Newman as well as by their Basilian experience in Canada at St. Michael’s College, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and Assumption College, they determined that all students should pursue a broad program in liberal studies intended to serve as a solid basis upon which to build their lives and their careers in the community.
As a Catholic institution of higher learning, the University of St. Thomas is inspired by the teaching of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and abides by the application norms prescribed by the American Bishops. Because of the University’s institutional commitment to the Church, “Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform its activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities,” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, 14). In its teachings and research, the University of St. Thomas is dedicated to the cause of truth and fosters the integration of knowledge, the dialogue between faith and culture, the ethical and moral implications of learning and the unique orientation to all study given by theology.
The Basilians at the University of St. Thomas, by their spirituality, philosophy of education and esprit de corps, promote a lively sense of the University’s mission as a Catholic institution. Among the distinctive characteristics of the Basilian approach to higher education are:
- Recognition of the continuing significance of the Catholic intellectual tradition in shaping Western civilization;
- Commitment to an integral Christian humanism that embraces the liberal arts as well as all other areas of knowledge;
- Fidelity to the authoritative teaching of the Church;
- Respect for the contribution of St. Thomas Aquinas to the Church’s intellectual life, especially to philosophy;
- Healthy respect for the life of the mind, a passion for the discovery of truth in every area and a conviction that faith must begin and end in a knowledge that bears fruit in love; deep appreciation of human dignity that calls for the education of the whole person: physically, intellectually, morally, socially and spiritually;
- Close association with and availability to students;
- Genuine concern to assist students who are economically or otherwise disadvantaged;
- Willingness to provide counseling and pastoral care, especially through sacramental celebration;
- Collaborative spirit that gratefully recognizes that the University is a common intellectual venture of students, faculty, staff and administration as well as other supporters and friends;
- Trust in God’s grace and a willingness to carry out whatever labors are required for the good of the University without seeking recognition. In all their endeavors, the Basilian Fathers seek to enrich the University of St. Thomas with their presence, their talents and their prayer.
Commitment To Faculty Excellence
Pursuing excellence in teaching, scholarship and service is a hallmark of the University of St. Thomas. In keeping with this commitment, the Center for Faculty Excellence was established. The mission of the Center is to provide faculty with resources and services that foster and support their success in teaching, research and service throughout all stages of their careers. The directors and participants of the Center for Faculty Excellence seek to develop a community of teachers and scholars to work collaboratively with all sectors of the University to accomplish that mission. Activities of the Center include conducting new faculty orientation, supporting faculty development workshops, facilitating faculty study days, hosting forums to discuss teaching practices, and providing support for individual members of the faculty.
The colors of the University of St. Thomas are red and gold. On the seal, the golden cross of our faith symbolizes the divinity of Christ the King, while the background of red is for the humanity of Christ.
The dove and rayonnant sun in the first quarter are symbols of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the second quarter, the star is for the “Lone Star State” and for the Mother of Christ under the title “Star of the Sea.” The hyacinth in the third quarter reminds us of San Jacinto, the river and battlefield near Houston where Texas won its independence. The second dove in the last quarter is the symbol of St. Basil, patron of the Basilian Fathers, who founded the University of St. Thomas.
Thereby, on the shield, St. Thomas and St. Basil, Doctors of the Western and Eastern churches, respectively, represent the universality of the Church. The motto, “Crescamus in Christo,” reminds us that as we advance in knowledge and wisdom, we should also grow in love and service of Christ.