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SHSU celebrating 120th anniversary

By Michelle C. Lyons/The Huntsville Item

It was on Oct. 10, 1879 that the Sam Houston Normal Institute opened its doors with rather humble beginnings - one classroom building, four faculty members and 110 students, all of whom were aiming to become teachers.

Today, exactly 120 years later, Sam Houston State University has an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, faculty and staff in excess of 500 and a wide variety of degree programs including 91 for undergraduates, 76 graduate-level and three doctoral programs.

And while SHSU has grown in its own right, so has its impact on the City of Huntsville.

"The university always has been a tremendous influence in this community," said James Patton, chairman of the Walker County Historical Commission. "There always has been a close connection with the town and the (Sam Houston) Normal Institute, then the (Sam Houston) Teachers College, then (Sam Houston) College and (Sam Houston State) University now.

"It's been a very positive influence always in the community," he continued. "We're proud to have it here."

Patton said particularly before there were campus dormitories, there seemed to be strong bonds between the students and people of the town, mostly because students had to live in boarding houses and rooms rented out in local homes.

He said the university also has impacted the community because a number of these students went on to stay in Walker County, as did many retiring professors and faculty members.

"These professors and staff have added a lot to the community," he said. "They have been very much involved - the lives they enriched, the things they did."

And aside from the cultural or social impact the university has on Huntsville, there's an economic impact as well. In 1985, a study conducted by the university's economics department indicated that the university had about an $82.4 million impact on Huntsville's economy, and more recent estimates indicate that the university now has about a $115.36 million impact on the area.

Huntsville Mayor Bill Green, an economics professor at Sam Houston State, said in an interview last year that it's apparent that Sam Houston State students make a significant contribution to the local economy.

"Obviously they make a significant difference in our community because we have so many students," he said. "While they are here, even if it's only on a commuter basis, they certainly spend some money."

While it may have started with only a five-acre tract, SHSU now boasts of more than 200 buildings, including 36 residence halls, married housing and sorority housing units, on more than 1,200 acres.

University holdings include three intramural fields and eight tennis courts, along with facilities for a number of activities, including racquetball, basketball, volleyball, aerobics, weight rooms and an indoor track in the Health and Kinesiology Center.

The university boasts of its nationally top-ranked Army ROTC program, as well as a fully staffed University Health Center which does not charge students for office visits.

The university has two agricultural complexes and maintains a planetarium, observatory and weather station, as well as a 14-acre Sam Houston Memorial Museum complex.

A cable television station, Channel 7, is operated by the university, as well as KSHU, a radio station located at 90.5 FM, and The Houstonian, a student newspaper.

The university also operates a 96-room, on-campus hotel, The University Hotel, and a courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center.

For more information on Sam Houston State University, call the Admissions Visitors Center at (409) 294-1828 or Public Relations at (409) 294-1836, or check out Sam Houston State's home page on the World Wide Web at www.shsu.edu.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
October 10, 1999
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