History of TU

mcfarlin home page thumbnailThe University of Tulsa is a private, non-sectarian institution that is formally related to the Presbyterian Church (USA) by a mutually articulated covenant with the Synod of the Sun. TU has its roots in the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls, a small boarding school in Muskogee, Indian Territory, which was founded in 1882. In 1894, at the request of the Synod of Indian Territory, the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church elevated the academy's status and chartered it as Henry Kendall College, a name that honored the first general secretary of the Home Missions Board. The first classes in the new college were held on September 12, 1894.

In the years following, financial difficulties prompted school officials to ask the Synod of Indian Territory to assume control, sell the school's land, and seek a new location. Successfully courted by the business and professional community of Tulsa, which was booming after the discovery of oil at Glenpool, Henry Kendall College moved to Tulsa in 1907, the year of Oklahoma's statehood. Several years later, a new college, to be named after oilman Robert M. McFarlin, was proposed for the city. Aware that Tulsa was not large enough to support two competing colleges, the Henry Kendall College trustees proposed that the contemplated McFarlin College and Kendall College affiliate under the common name "The University of Tulsa." A charter for the university was approved on November 9, 1920. In 1926, the articles of incorporation were amended to create its modern structure as an independent school corporation governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Engineering woman in labIn 1928, the School of Petroleum Engineering opened and soon earned international recognition for its curriculum and faculty. The College of Business Administration was established in 1935. In 1943, the downtown law school, previously affiliated only loosely, became part of the university. In 1966, James A. Chapman died and bequeathed the university $34 million in endowment. In the 1970s, the Dimensions for a New Decade campaign raised an additional $43 million. By the beginning of 2006, total endowment funds and funds held in trust exceeded $800 million. The university currently comprises the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences, the Collins College of Business (renamed in 2008), the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, the College of Law, the Graduate School, and the Division of Lifelong Learning.

After the 1970s, the character of the university changed. Although the programs in engineering and geosciences continued to bring the institution international renown, carefully selected graduate programs were added in other fields; the College of Law, the College of Business Administration, and the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences were strengthened; the number of students living on campus significantly increased; and the student body -- which currently represents 48 states, one U.S. territory, and 63 foreign countries -- became increasingly diverse.

During the 1980s, the university established an innovative humanities-based general course of study called the Tulsa Curriculum that emphasizes the development of core skills in writing, mathematics, and foreign languages; increased faculty diversity; enhanced its support for excellent teaching and research; defined its academic programs with greater rigor and clarity; and began recruiting highly qualified students nationwide. In addition, ten endowed chairs for faculty were established. (To date, 42 chairs and professorships have been created.) The library was strengthened by accelerated development of the rare book and manuscript collections, which regularly draw international scholars and archival materials to the university, expanding the university's reputation as the home of one of the leading special collections libraries in the country and bringing international acclaim. In 1988, the university was awarded the Beta of Oklahoma chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, recognizing the university's excellence in and commitment to liberal arts education for all students. These trends have continued into the present, advancing the university’s reputation for excellence.

As the university continued into its second century, it completed the most ambitious capital campaign in its history, the New Century Campaign. Construction of the Donald W. Reynolds Center, a $28 million, 138,000-square-foot multiuse facility with an 8,000-seat arena, was completed in 1999 with major funding in the form of a $14.75 million grant from the Reynolds Foundation. Several new buildings located west of Delaware Avenue constitute the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex.

Completed in 2001, the Michael D. Case Tennis Center includes a 64,000-square-foot indoor facility with six courts. In addition, there are twelve outdoor courts with stadium seating around the four center courts. For student recreation, the Fulton and Susie Collins Fitness Center, a 67,000-square-foot multipurpose recreation center, opened in the fall 2002. The Hardesty complex also includes the Hurricane Soccer/Track Facility and a new softball park. Construction of the $10.5 million Mabee Legal Information Center for the College of Law was completed in January 2000. Another addition to the college is the Boesche Law Clinic, a 4,000-square-foot building located on 4th Street. These facilities are heavily used by both the university and larger communities.

campus aerial thumbDuring the past decade, the university also has made a commitment to developing a vibrant residential campus environment, which includes the addition of more than 800 market-quality apartments since 2001. The university constructed the University Square Apartments in the northwest section of campus in 2001, and then added three apartment communities -- Brown Village, Lorton Village, and Mayo Village -- along the southern and eastern sections of campus in 2007. The campus has continued its dramatic physical transformation during the past few years as TU completed a number of major construction projects including Bayless Plaza, home of TU's tradition-rich Kendall Bell; Collins Hall, home to the admission, financial aid, alumni relations, and central administration offices; the Case Athletic Complex, which houses the Golden Hurricane football offices and provides academic study resources for all TU student athletes; a complete renovation of H.A. Chapman Stadium to enhance the football game day experience; and a new south entrance along Eleventh Street that provides a grand front door to the university that includes Tucker Drive, Chapman Commons, and the Genave King Rogers Fountain.

McFarlin Library in 2009 opened the new, two-story Pauline M. Walter Academic Technology Center that provides 24/7 computer access for students, a student common, and a café.  The Roxana Rozsa and Robert Eugene Lorton Performance Center is home to TU’s performing arts and film studies program. The 77,000-square-foot facility was completed in 2011.

On May 10, 2008, The University of Tulsa renamed the business college the Collins College of Business to honor the vision and leadership of Tulsa businessman Fulton Collins, who chaired the TU Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2008. The business building was renamed Helmerich Hall in 2008 in honor of Walt Helmerich, chairman of the board and director of Helmerich & Payne, Inc.

The City of Tulsa and TU agreed in October 2007 to a historic public-private partnership where TU will manage operations at Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum, home to the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. The partnership, which formally started on July 1, 2008, has resulted in numerous strategic opportunities for the museum, including streamlining its management structure, advancing and preserving the collection, and providing unparalleled opportunities for academic research of the museum's extensive holdings. The Gilcrease partnership has allowed TU to leverage its nationally recognized academic resources in western American history, art history, anthropology, and archaeology to create a better understanding of the museum collection.

In addition to supporting all the traditional liberal arts, the university continues to maintain and strengthen its academic standards by internationalizing its programs, developing substantive undergraduate research opportunities, and seeking distinction in critical fields, including environmental studies and research, computer security, Native American and Indigenous Peoples Law, risk management, and taxation, the better to equip its students for life in a rapidly changing world. Also, elevating the university's regional accolades for excellence to national prominence is a primary focus of the present administration. As a mark of this success, since 1995, TU students have been successful earning nationally competitive scholarships, including more than all other Oklahoma colleges and universities combined.

In September 2005, The University of Tulsa was gratified to be designated a Truman Honor Institution by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation for producing graduates dedicated to public service. The 2009 entering freshman class was distinguished by one out of every 10 students being a National Merit Scholar.