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The History of UT Austin

July 22, 2021
Building on the Campus of UT Austin

The University of Texas at Austin, also known as UT or UT Austin, is the flagship institution in the University of Texas System. The university started with just a single building, a handful of professors, and a few hundred students.  

UT officially opened its doors in 1883. The ceremony was held in the only building of the institution at that time — where the Tower is now located — which also was not yet complete. Immediately after the opening, the first classes were held in what was the temporary Capitol building, a three-story structure located on Congress Avenue. It was only during the university’s second year that students were able to attend classes on the actual campus.   

To continue strengthening the cornerstone of academic excellence, in 1905, the Latin words Disciplina, Praesidium, Civitatis were adopted as UT’s motto, which was inspired by a quote from Mirabeau B. Lamar, former president of the Republic of Texas — “A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”  

As UT continued to grow, instructors and students started flocking to the campus. By 1929, UT was invited to become a member of the American Universities Association. This invitation was a historic milestone as it was the event that confirmed the institution as a first-class university. 

Fast forward to the present day, and impressive numbers reflect how UT has grown to become an outstanding educational beacon for students around the world: 

  • More than 50,000 students are enrolled, which ranks in the top 40 universities in the world. 
  • Students have the option to choose from nearly 400 degree programs with a plethora of options for undergraduate and graduate study. 
  • UT consists of 431 acres with 17 libraries, seven museums, and 15 career centers. 
  • More than 3,000 teaching faculty are employed at the university. 
  • Alumni encompass more than 482,000 people worldwide. 

And here’s a fun fact about UT: The Harry Ransom Center located on campus is home to one of 20 complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the world. Printed on the Gutenberg press in the early 1450s in Germany, this was the first book to be mass produced from movable metal type on the revolutionary printing press invented by the bible’s namesake, Johannes Guttenberg. 

UT also has a stand-out list of notable names who have called the Austin campus home, including, athletes, singers, celebrities, etc. — Matthew McConaughey, Farrah Fawcett, Emmanuel Acho, Wes Anderson, Stacey Abrams, Janis Joplin, and Walter Cronkite, just to name a few.