The Legacy of Tomorrow

Texas State University celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2024

By Matt Joyce

black and white photo of building on top of hill
A picture from the 1904-1905 Pedagog yearbook shows Old Main with the U.S. Federal Fish Hatchery in the foreground.

This May marks 125 years since Governor Joseph Sayers signed a bill to establish the Southwest Texas State Normal School as a teachers college in San Marcos. Within a few years of Sayers’ action, students were making their way up Chautauqua Hill for classes at Old Main.

Hilly walks to class aside, that first group of 303 students would hardly recognize TXST today. As the university celebrates its quasquicentennial, TXST boasts two campuses, including the 500-acre San Marcos Campus and 101-acre Round Rock Campus; more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students; and a catalog of more than 200 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Nevertheless, the institution’s core purpose remains the same, which is encapsulated in TXST’s 125th anniversary theme: The Legacy of Tomorrow.

“The Legacy of Tomorrow highlights how the mission of TXST has consistently focused on empowering and preparing our students to build a better future — for themselves, for their communities, for Texas, and for the world,” said President Kelly Damphousse, the university’s 10th president. “From the beginning, building a better tomorrow has been our guiding star.”

TXST 125 will kick off on Founders Day, May 10, the same date in 1899 that Sayers signed the founding legislation. In a stroke of serendipity, Founders Day coincides with this year’s spring commencement.

“It’s like the legislature and governor in 1899 had a crystal ball to look ahead to the future and see that in 125 years we would be holding commencement ceremonies on May 10,” said Holly Hirsch, director of TXST’s Office of Special Projects and chair of the 125th Anniversary Task Force.

Starting with spring commencement, Hirsch said, the community will see the anniversary woven throughout university events — from JumpStart for incoming freshmen to the general election presidential debate, to Homecoming, and wrapping up with fall commencement. 

The university is also hosting a series of special alumni events across the country to mark the quasquicentennial, and it’s conducting an oral history project to preserve the stories of Bobcats from across the decades.

To learn more about TXST 125, visit

Hatched on Campus

aerial view of two walkways over a body of water

Shaded by bald cypress trees, the walkways that span the expansive ponds on the southeast side of campus provide a peaceful respite for students on their way to and from classes. But unless pedestrians stop to read the historical marker along the sidewalk, they may never realize these ponds were once part of the first federal fish hatchery west of the Mississippi River. 

The U.S. Federal Fish Hatchery opened in 1893 at the foot of Chautauqua Hill, which a decade later would become the home of Old Main. The hatchery is remembered for its advancement of fish science and for breeding sportfish such as tilapia, channel catfish, and largemouth black bass. Over the years, it grew to cover 44 acres and incorporate 15 ponds.

The federal government closed the hatchery in 1965, at which time President Lyndon B. Johnson arranged for the facility to be given to what was then Southwest Texas State College. Today, the J.C. Kellam Administration Building, the Theatre Center, and the Freeman Aquatic Biology building all stand on land that was once part of the federal fish hatchery.