Looking Back, Moving Forward: University of St. Thomas Houston Celebrates Major Milestones as it Looks to the Future

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2017 Will Mark the 70th Anniversary of the University of St. Thomas Houston and the 20th Anniversary of the Iconic Chapel of St. Basil

Chapel of St. Basil

Chapel of St. Basil

“Along with these milestones, we are undertaking exciting initiatives that will prepare the UST campus and its students and faculty for the future.” Dr. Robert Ivany

Founded in 1947 by the Basilian Fathers – a distinguished order of Catholic priests devoted to teaching – University of St. Thomas (UST) 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’s storied history will continue far into the future as it celebrates two major milestones in 2017; the 70th anniversary of the founding of the university and the 20th anniversary of one of the most recognizable buildings on the campus, the Chapel of St. Basil. “2017 will be a year to honor the incredible achievements and successes that the University of St. Thomas has achieved through the hard work of many individuals,” commented President Robert Ivany. He added, “Along with these milestones, we are undertaking exciting initiatives that will prepare the UST campus and its students and faculty for the future.”

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. 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.

A decade later, 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.

The legendary architect would later leave his indelible mark on the campus with the design of the Chapel of St. Basil, which opened in 1997 and now approaches its 20th anniversary. As the formal place of worship on campus, the Chapel marks the completion of the academic mall and rises above all other campus buildings. Illuminated exclusively by natural light, the Chapel of St. Basil is an inviting and intimate space that emanates serenity and demands introspective reflection from those who enter. With the Chapel of St. Basil anchoring one end of the academic mall, a pathway of academic buildings line the path to the Doherty Library on the mall’s opposite end. The two evoke the perpetual relationship between faith and reason.

Given its unmatched standing in the annals of the City of Houston, the University of St. Thomas can be viewed as a gateway into a bygone era. History, however, is only part of the University of St. Thomas narrative. Currently, UST is in the midst of its most ambitious fundraising effort to date – Faith in our Future: The Campaign for the University of St. Thomas – and is constructing a new Center for Science and Health Professions with additional plans for a Performing and Fine Arts Center. These exciting additions to the UST campus will enhance educational and creative opportunities for its student body.

The University of St. Thomas has also embarked on the search for a new president, who will become the ninth to take the position, following President Robert Ivany’s decision to retire after 13 years of service. The new president is tasked with building upon the promising groundwork laid by Dr. Ivany while lending a new and unique perspective to UST’s ambitious path forward.

The University of St. Thomas has roots that can be traced back generations. Its campus possesses historic buildings, a wealth of distinguished alumni, and a unique heritage set against the backdrop of the growth of the City of Houston. With its legacy firmly intact and major milestones on the horizon, UST is simultaneously ushering in a new era of progress, growth, and academic achievement. Above all else, the University of St. Thomas remains entrenched in its steadfast commitment to imbuing every student it enrolls with the core values of the founding Basilian fathers: goodness, discipline, and knowledge.

The Basilian Fathers founded the University of St. Thomas in 1947 as an independent, Catholic, coeducational university in Houston, TX. Situated in the city’s Museum District, the University enrolls 3,312 total students with an undergraduate population of 1,602. Set against the backdrop of the Texas Medical Center, of which it is a member, UST has seen a 75% growth rate among students pursuing degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and over half of the undergraduate student body pursues a degree in one of the STEM fields. The University of St. Thomas ranked 29th in the 2017 edition of the U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” list of universities in the western region of the United States and was additionally ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the best colleges in the West. For more information, please visit http://www.stthom.edu.

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Sandra Soliz
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