TCU School History

Photo by Eve Woodward

Texas Christian University (TCU) School History

There are hundreds of colleges in Texas and thousands within the United States. With that, there are many prestigious schools in each. In Texas, perhaps one of the most prestigious schools that happen to be in the Big 12 Conference is Texas Christian University. With an immense amount of school history, TCU has held its heritage and history through the years. 

Otherwise known as TCU, the campus is located in Fort Worth, Texas, on 2800 S University Drive. The private university was officially established in 1873 by two brothers Addison and Randolph Clark. Originally it was named Add-Ran Male & Female College but would later be renamed to what we know it as today as Texas Christian University.  


After returning from the Civil War, the Clark Brothers originally started a children’s prep school open from 1869 to 1874. With the help of their father, Joseph A. Clark, they were able to bestow a tradition early. After several successful years, the school would then become under the control of the Christian Church in 1889 by the Disciples of Christ. It was again renamed to Add-Ran Christian University, and the institution only years later would relocate to Waco, Texas. 

Beginning in Waco in 1895, the school then seven years later in 1902 would become what it is now known as Texas Christian University. While still being a relatively small university, the estimated number of students enrolled at the time was between 350-400. 


The first sport on the TCU campus that competed officially against other universities was the football program. Beginning in 1896, the school has a long history of success in the program. A year later, the university would start its women’s intercollegiate program and then shortly after beginning the school’s first yearbook. Titled “The Horned Frog” after a small but fierce lizard that would stand as the school’s mascot for decades to come. The students at the university would also select the school colors as purple and white. The purple would represent the “loyalty” and the white “for a clean game.” 

Back to Fort Worth 

Growing the institution would face adversity when its main building would burn to the ground in March of 1910. Now left without their main building, the university would receive an offer to relocate to Fort Worth. With a bid of fifty acres and $200,000, Texas Christian University would accept the offer and relocate. The new campus now being the current location in southwest Fort Worth. 

Now back in Forth Worth, the university would begin to add other programs. One of the first would come in 1911 in the Fort Worth School of Medicine and another in the school of law in 1915. Both programs would end only years later, and with several different presidents in and out, the institution would begin looking for stability. 

They would find this stability in Edward McShane Waits, who would start his twenty-five-year term in September 1916. The school would soon find even more stability by finding a place in both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southwest Conference. Then on the school’s fiftieth anniversary in 1923, Mary Couts Burnett would leave her estate, valued at an estimated $3 million, which is the 1920’s three-million held a lot more value than today. 


With Mrs. Burnett leaving her estate for the institution. The school would add the Mary Couts Burnett Library and expand the campus to another 187 acres. With that, TCU would also open its separate graduate school to offer graduate classes in an organized manner. With new buildings and tons more space on campus added. The student population would continue to grow from the ’20s to the ’30s. Minus the three years in the great depression, the university would reach record numbers. 

In 1937 the university would reach 2,000 students, have eight permanent buildings, and officially be approved to be a part of the Association of American Universities. A year later, the expansion would continue with the school of business opening in 1938 and naming another president in McGruder Ellis Sadler as president in 1941. 

With the university now growing at a substantial growth, the school would begin to add more buildings. In 1949 the School of Fine Arts would be completed. Then in the next 15 years, the school would have an enormous amount of growth. With 25 five buildings built in that time, they would include facilities for educational purposes as well as chapels, churches, and even stadiums. 

Expansion Continued 

As the school continued to grow and expand, the neighboring property of Worth Hills Golf Course would eventually be bought out. Adding another 106 acres to the campus. With 237 total acres, five residence halls, a cafeteria, and many others. The university was becoming the great institution it is today. 

Several other organizations, education programs, and buildings would join the campus, with most of the campus built. With too many things to name, TCU would continue with tremendous amounts of success. In 1982 the institution would award its 40,000th degree. And pass the milestone of having $100 million in endowment just a year later. 


Now in the year 2021, Texas Christian University stands as one of the best institutions in Texas and the United States. With over 11,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate school. The institution is constantly growing and has over 90,000 living alumni. With the Horned Frogs not going anywhere soon, look for TCU to continue its reign as a prestigious university. Per, “TCU began as a family endeavor—an enriching place of spirited belonging for men and women of character to acquire a liberal arts education and strive to serve the greater good.”

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Story by Campus Live Employee Trinity Porter 

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