A University of the First Class: Introduction

Alumni, students, faculty, and administrators consider what that high-minded phrase really means.

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The first issue of the Alcalde was published 100 years ago in April 1913. In a foreword of that issue, UT president Sidney E. Mezes wrote, “I rejoice from my heart at the inauguration of the Alcalde. It should be a bond of ever-growing power tying former students to each other and to Alma Mater. Through it they will revive fond memories of their college days, the exploits or extravagances of comrades, and the peculiarities of the faculty of a past perhaps long gone. Through it they will learn of the progress of the institution and to the goal of its ideal.”

That ideal is one that Texans have been grappling with since 1876, when the Texas Constitution decreed: “The legislature shall as soon as practicable establish, organize and provide for the maintenance, support and direction of a University of the first class, to be located by a vote of the people of this State, and styled, ‘The University of Texas,’ for the promotion of literature, and the arts and sciences, including an Agricultural and Mechanical department.”

But what does it mean to be a “university of the first class” in modern America? Are we there yet? Have we lost our way? The debate over what UT should be and what role it should play in the lives of students and the world they inhabit has filled the pages of this magazine for a century. For this special anniversary issue, we decided to continue the discussion by asking University leaders, alumni, students, and faculty to speak from their experience about what UT has meant to them—and whether it has fulfilled the charge it was given so many years ago.

Read their articles here.

A University of the First Class

Illustration by Sean McCabe.


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