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125th Anniversary

Celebrating History

More than 125 years ago, Mother Florence Walter, the superior general of the Sisters of Divine Providence at that time, looked out over the land adjacent to Elmendorf Lake on the West Side of San Antonio, and said, “This is the place. Someday, upon this land will stand a beautiful Gothic chapel with twin spires pointing up to the blue Texas sky.”

Mother Florence Walter

Group of children on the steps on main building
Main building exterior

On Aug. 14, 1895, ground was broken for the construction of Main Building and that marked the beginning of what is now Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). The university traces its founding to that day in August 1895, but it was a year later, on Sept. 1, 1896, that the doors to Main Building opened to the first students.

To celebrate these two key dates in the history of OLLU, the university is kicking off a year-long celebration. From August 2020 to September 2021, OLLU will celebrate 125 Years of Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.

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OLLU Celebrating History

OLLU's milestones over the years:

1890s

  • In 1895 - Construction began on Main Building on what was to become the Our Lady of the Lake campus.
  • 1896 - Our Lady of the Lake Academy opened as an all-girl high school and educational programs were under way.

1900-1920

  • 1911 - Our Lady of the Lake College opened as a two-year college for women with one student - Rosalie McNelly. She later became a CDP.
  • 1911 - Rev Henry A. Constantineau, OMI, was appointed first president of Our Lady of the Lake College.
  • 1912 - The first bachelor's degree was awarded to Sister Angelique Ayers, CDP.
  • 1919 - The curriculum was expanded to four years and the institution was admitted to membership in the Texas Association of Colleges. 

1921-1940

  • 1921 - Moye Hall opened. The hall was named after Fr. John Martin Moye, founder of the Congregation of Divine Providence
  • 1923 - Our Lady of the Lake College became the first San Antonio institution of higher education to receive regional accreditation.
  • 1927 - The college became the third Texas school to be approved by the American Association of Universities.

1941-1960

  • 1941 - Dr. John L. McMahon named second president of the college. 
  • 1942 - Coeducational graduate study began.

1961-1980

  • 1968 - Our Lady of the Lake served as host site for the historic U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican Americans in the Southwest
  • 1969 - All programs became fully coeducational. 
  • 1973 - Dr. Gerald P. Burns is named third president. 
  • 1975 - The college is recognized as a university and the name changes to Our Lady of the Lake University of San Antonio. 
  • 1978 - Sister Elizabeth Anne Sueltenfuss, CDP, is named fourth president. 
  • 1978 - The university introduced the Weekend College concept at the San Antonio campus. It was the first program of its kind in the region to offer adult students an option for completing a degree while maintaining full-time employment. 

1981-2000

  • 1986 - OLLU began offering Weekend Degree programs in the Houston area.
  • 1997 - Sally Mahoney is named fifth president

2001-present

  • 2001 - Dr. Robert E. Gibbons is named sixth president.
  • 2002 - Dr. Tessa Martinez Pollack is named seventh president.
  • 2007 - Saints Athletics begins with volleyball and men's soccer.
  • 2008 - OLLU began offering Weekend Degree programs in the Rio Grande Valley. 
  • 2008 - A four-alarm fire ripped through the top of the Main Building and destroyed the roof and the fourth floor. 
  • 2008 - Athletics program adds women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's golf. 
  • 2009 - Athletics program adds softball, men's and women's basketball, and men's and women's cross-country. 
  • 2010 - The completely renovated and restored Main Building reopens. The building is again the heart of campus offering a state-of-the-art educational facility within a beautifully restored historic structure that has received city, state and national preservation awards. 
  • 2013 - Sister Jane Ann Slater, PhD, CDP, named eighth president
  • 2014 - Athletics program adds baseball and men's and women's track and field
  • 2015 - Dr. Diane E. Melby named ninth president. 
  • 2016 - OLLU-RGV campus moved into its new home in the La Feria Technology and Success Center. 
  • 2016 - Woolfolk School of Communication Sciences and Disorders was named recognizing a historic gift from the Woolfolk family.
  • 2016 - The Veronica Salazar Media Center was named recognizing donors Veronica Salazar and her husband Ruben Escobedo.
  • 2017 - Lake Elmendorf Park adjacent to the San Antonio campus reopens after $16 million in renovations.
  • 2017 - OLLU designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) through the academic year 2022.
  • 2018 - New Lake View residence hall opens offering apartment-style housing on the San Antonio campus.
  • 2018 - OLLU hosts the "Holding Up the Mirror" conference, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican Americans in the Southwest that was also held on the San Antonio campus.
  • 2019 - OLLU-Houston campus moves to its new location on Beltway 8 in North Houston.
  • 2020 - OLLU kicks off a year-long celebration of 125 Years of Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.

To learn more about the history of OLLU, visit the University Archives website.

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