Houston Christian University’s History

Houston Baptist College was created by action of the Baptist General Convention of Texas on November 15, 1960 culminating many years of work and study. The aim of the College founders was the establishment of a Christian College of the highest order in the city of Houston that stressed quality of life as well as quality of learning. In 1952, the Union Baptist Association authorized a committee to study the possibility of locating a Baptist College in Houston. With the assistance and encouragement of the Education Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the committee conducted a survey in 1955. Acting upon information obtained with the endorsement of the Education Commission, the Association approved the concept of establishing a new College. In 1956, the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas approved a recommendation that Houston Baptists be given assurance that the Convention would support such a College when the College Committee of the Union Baptist Association had succeeded in acquiring both (1) a satisfactory site for a campus of at least one hundred acres, and (2) a minimum corpus of at least three million dollars. Of this sum, one and one-half million dollars would constitute a nucleus endowment fund; one and one-half million dollars would be designated for a physical plant. The Union Baptist Association accepted these conditions and endorsed the requirements set up by the state Baptist convention. In 1957, a Houston land developer, Frank Sharp, offered to sell Union Baptist Association 390 acres in southwest Houston for the construction of a College. The Board of Governors of Rice University agreed to lend most of the money needed with the land as collateral. To complete the funding, twenty-five business men, since called “founders,” pledged to be responsible for $10,000 each. Therefore, by 1958, a campus site of 196 acres was acquired in southwest Houston, and, in 1960, the initial financial goal of repaying the loan was reached as a result of a campaign among the churches. In 1960, the Baptist General Convention of Texas in its annual session at Lubbock, Texas elected the first Board of Trustees. This board in session in Houston, Texas on November 15, 1960 approved and signed the College charter. The next day, this charter was ratified and recorded with the Secretary of State in Austin. The way was then cleared to select administrative officers, develop a suitable physical plant, and design an appropriate academic program. Dr. W. H. Hinton began service as the first President of the College on July 1, 1962. The College opened in September 1963 with a freshman class of 193 students, a cluster of new buildings, and a teaching staff of thirty faculty. A new class was added each year until the College attained a four-year program in 1966-67. By then, the full-time faculty had grown to fifty-four members, serving an enrollment of approximately nine hundred undergraduate students.

Degrees and Programs

Initially, the College offered only a Bachelor of Arts degree with academic courses in five divisions: Christianity, Fine Arts, Languages, Science and Mathematics, and Social Studies. The Board of Trustees, following the recommendation of the faculty and administration, authorized the establishment of the Division of Education and Psychology in 1964 and a Division of Business and Economics in 1966. With the opening of the fall semester of 1969, the College added a Division of Nursing, offering a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.

In 1966, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools recognized Houston Baptist College as an official candidate for accreditation. The highlight of the 1968-69 academic year was the granting of initial accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on December 4, 1968. A visiting committee made a careful study of the College in March 1971 and upon its recommendation, the Commission on Colleges extended accreditation for ten years. This accreditation was reaffirmed in 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2012.  In 1965, the Texas Education Agency first approved Houston Baptist College for the training of certified teachers for elementary and secondary Schools. During its first semester, representatives selected by the Texas Education Agency evaluated the teacher education program; approval of the program was continued.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing received accreditation by the National League for Nursing on April 21, 1972. In July 1972, all thirty-eight members of the first nursing class successfully completed the examination required and administered by the State Board of Nurse Examiners. An Associate Degree in Nursing was added in June 1983; this program graduated its first class in 1985. Admission to the Associate Degree in Nursing program was suspended June 2010.

HCU was approved to begin the EdD in Executive Educational Leadership in the fall 2016.

A study abroad program began in 1967 with a group of English majors in residence at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, England for the month of April. Study abroad continued with programs in Mexico, the Middle East, and Europe. Currently, study abroad and academic exchange programs include the occasional School of Humanities’ interdisciplinary summer course on culture and human experience, the Archie W. Dunham College of Business’ annual international trip (BUSA 4301), and the Houston Grampian Society’s Nursing Exchange Program with Robert Gordon University (in Aberdeen, Scotland). The MBA program includes an international study component for its graduate students.

Structure and Organization

In 1973, Houston Baptist College officially became Houston Baptist University following completion of a formal self-study for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and approval by the Board of Trustees in November 1972. At the same time, degree programs were revised, making the Bachelor of Science option available to all graduates. The instructional divisions were completely reorganized into College units. Five Colleges headed by Deans replaced the previous structure of eight divisions. The new structure consisted of the H. B. Smith College of General Studies and four upper-level Colleges — the College of Business and Economics, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, and the College of Science and Health Professions. A sixth College was created in 1978 by separating the College of Fine Arts from the College of Humanities. The seventh College was created in 1991 by separating the College of Nursing and the College of Science and Mathematics. In 1995, a College of Arts and Humanities was again combined from the previously separate Colleges. In 2007, the Honors College was formed and classes began in that program in fall 2008. In that same year, a Philosophy major was developed. A College of Continuing Studies was initiated in 2008; operations were suspended on May 31, 2010.

On June 1, 2009, the President determined, after consultation with the Provost, the Deans, and the Institutional and Strategic Planning Committee, to change the nomenclature of the Colleges to Schools and Colleges and to move some departments into other divisions in order to reflect best practices at universities and to better serve the mission of the university. The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences became the School of Education; the Department of Behavioral Sciences moved from the School of Education to the College of Arts and Humanities. The College of Business and Economics became the School of Business; the College of Nursing became the School of School of Nursing and brought in the Department of Kinesiology from the former College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. In 2012, new colleges and schools were formed as a result of further review of academic structure initiated due to continued university growth. A total of eight academic units were recognized on the HCU campus:  Smith College of Liberal Arts, College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, School of Humanities, School of Fine Arts, College of Business, School of School of Nursing, College of Science and Mathematics, and the School of Christian Thought. In the restructuring, the Department of Psychology was moved to the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences. At that same time, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences was divided into two schools—the School of Education and the School of Behavioral Sciences.  The School of Education houses the Department of Special Populations and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; the School of Behavioral Sciences houses the Department of Psychology; the School of Education and the School of Behavioral Sciences share leadership of the Department of Leadership and Counseling. In 2015, the College of Business was renamed as the Archie W. Dunham College of Business following receipt of a generous gift to the University.  Also in 2015, the School of Humanities was expanded to incorporate the faculty and curriculum of the Smith College of Liberal Arts.  In 2016, the School of Christian Thought expanded to include the newly founded Houston Theological Seminary.  On January 31, 2018, the College of Engineering was commissioned.

When the instructional areas were reorganized in 1973, the University adopted a quarter calendar that permitted multiple admission opportunities annually. Semester hours were retained as the standard credit unit. An early admissions program also was established which enabled students to secure High School diplomas at the end of the freshman year of college matriculation. The quarter calendar was reviewed by the faculty and administration in 2006-07 and the decision was made to revert to the semester calendar in fall 2008. To date, the university remains on a semester calendar.


Houston Christian University has a number of centers and institutes to help further the mission of the university. The centers have specific goals and objectives to fulfill this purpose and are listed below.

The C.S. Lewis Centre was established in 2013 when Dr Michael Ward was appointed Professor of Apologetics.  It denotes chiefly the research, writing, and public speaking undertaken by Dr Ward from his base in Oxford, whence also he teaches his online courses for the MA in Apologetics program.  MAA students occasionally travel to Oxford in the summer months to study there with Dr Ward and with other HCU professors visiting England.

The Center for Christianity in Business was started in 2009 with the express mission to challenge and equip present and future Christian business leaders to integrate biblical values and principles in their personal and professional lives. This is done through a variety of initiatives including networking luncheons, conferences, executive education seminars, publications such as a journal and a series of monographs, podcasts, blogs, and streaming videos.

The Center for Exploring Ministry Careers (CEMC)exists to help students who are committed to or considering Christian vocation discover the various options of service available to them. The Center’s primary focus is preparing students for a life of service to the Church.

The Center for Law & Liberty was started in 2013 by Dr. Chris Hammons, then Dean of the School of Humanities at Houston Christian University. The Center is dedicated to the promotion of American founding principles, the rule of law, the preservation of liberty, and free enterprise.

Established in August 2012, the Center for the Preparation of Professional Educators (CPPE)was created to provide comprehensive support to HCU students pursuing Texas educator certification. Support includes management of field-based experiences, state-aligned program delivery, yearly reporting, and training for students and staff. The Center is housed in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and oversees undergraduate, graduate, and Alternative Certification (ACP) processes for 20 initial teacher certification programs and 6 professional-level certification programs.

The Center for Research and Doctoral Studies (CRDS)was created in January 2015. The center was launched to support Pillar Ten:  Move to the Next Level as an Institution.   The CRDS supports student and faculty research, which includes projects related to: dissertations, theses, grants, original research, professional presentations and manuscripts.  The center consists of the statistics lab and the writing center.

The mission of the Center for Strategic Evangelism is to bring leadership, vision, innovation, and training to students, pastors, church leaders, and congregations throughout our nation, in order to better fulfill the Great Commission that Christ gave us (Matt. 28:18-20).  It was founded in 2014.”

The Institute of Christianity and Scholarship was founded in 2015.  Its mission is to assist faculty, staff, students and other members of Houston Christian University practice scholarship in light of the truth of Christianity and HCU’s Baptist heritage.

The goal of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Houston Christian University was started on August 17, 2016. Its purpose is to educate capable people in the foundations of entrepreneurial leadership and free enterprise – including teaching and modeling the principles of individual responsibility, limited government, and principled entrepreneurship.  The McNair Center provides students with the tools and experience they need through academics, cases studies, mentorships, competitions, and real-world experiences so they will be prepared to launch new and innovative businesses in their chosen areas of interest.

Graduate Programs

Graduate studies began in 1977 with the initiation of the Master of Business Administration and the Master of Science in Nursing degrees. Graduate studies leading to the Master of Education began in 1979. The Master of Science in Management degree and the Master of Accountancy degree were added in 1980. The Master of Arts in Psychology was added in 1982. A traditional Master of Business Administration degree was introduced in 1981 that was offered both on campus and through an interactive television delivery system to corporate and educational sites within sixty miles of the campus. The Master of Liberal Arts degree was initiated in 1985. In 1993, new majors were added to the Master of Business Administration degree, and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Psychology degree was created. This degree was phased out in 2002 and replaced with the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling program. In 1995, a Master of Science degree in Health Administration and a Master of Science in Nursing degree were initiated. In 1996, the Master of Science in Management was re-instituted for those already holding an MBA degree. The Master of Arts in Theological Studies was added in 1997. In 1999, the Master of Science in Accountancy and Information Technology was initiated, and in 2000 it was merged into the Master of Accountancy. In 2005, the Alternative Certification Program for teacher certification was started.  In 2009, the Master of Arts in Biblical Languages was initiated. In spring 2010, the Master of Fine Arts was initiated. The Master of International Business held its first classes in spring 2012. The Master of Arts in Philosophy and the Master of Arts in Apologetics were launched in spring 2013. The Master of Arts in Counseling held its first classes fall 2014. Following the Ten Pillars vision, particularly Pillar III, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. initiated the formation of The Graduate School. In 2014, the addition of a Master of Liberal Arts with an emphasis in Education was initiated.  In fall 2016, the Master of Divinity began.  A Doctoral program in Executive Educational Leadership began in fall of 2016.  The Master of Science in Management and Entrepreneurship launched in Fall 2018.

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the University has kept pace with development in other areas. When classes began in 1963, only the Brown Academic Quadrangle and the campus dormitories were completed. The Frank and Lucille Sharp Gymnasium and the Atwood Theology Building were completed in 1964. The Moody Library, the Holcombe Mall, and the Morris Columns were constructed in 1968-69. The McDermott Plaza was completed in 1971 as a gift from trustee Ethyl Loos McDermott. The Cullen Science Center and Mabee Teaching Theater opened in 1977, providing space for the College of Science and Health Professions. In addition, in early 1977, the Memorial Hospital System Central Unit was completed on a site purchased from the University adjacent to the academic campus. The Atwood II building was completed in 1983 as a joint project of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University. Moreover, in 1983, an addition to the bookstore was completed that was funded by the M. D. Anderson Foundation. In 1985, the University relocated its Math and Associate Degree in Nursing departments to new housing in the Cullen Nursing Center, and the Glasscock Gymnastics Center was completed. In 1989, a new wing was added to the Moody Library, virtually doubling its library space and providing a site for the University’s Museum of Architecture and Decorative Arts – which relocated to the Morris Cultural Arts Center in 2007. In 1997, Hinton Center was dedicated, marking completion of the largest academic facility on campus. The new visual campus landmark houses the Colleges of Business and Economics and Education and Behavioral Sciences, as well as the Dillon Center conference facilities. In 1997, the University’s Dunham Family Bible in America Museum opened in Moody Library — the largest collection of American Bibles on public display in the United States. Expanded to include a massive English Bible and rare Bible collection, the museum relocated to the Morris Cultural Arts Center in 2007.  A new campus apartment complex, Husky Village, was built adjacent to the University residence halls. The year 1998 marked the completion of the Baugh Center, named in honor of Eula Mae (Mrs. John) Baugh, which houses food service, recreational, counseling, study, and residential-support facilities. In the fall of 1999, the Memorial Hermann-HCU Wellness Center opened on the campus, providing access to state of the art programs and facilities for the University’s students and employees. A new addition to the Women’s Residence College was constructed in 2000, and in 2003, the Mabee Teaching Theater and the Glasscock Center were enhanced by a new lobby facility serving the conference capability of this complex. In 2007, the Joella and Stewart Morris Cultural Arts Center was dedicated. The Center provides an integrated, multi-purpose facility for the University campus. Dunham Theater, named for Linda and Archie Dunham, is a 1200 seat theater that features a full proscenium stage, a full orchestra pit, backstage shops, and full theatrical capability, including an acoustical shell to enhance musical performances. Belin Chapel and Recital Hall provides seating for 365 in a sophisticated, acoustical environment. It represents the first permanent site for worship on campus. It is used for music recitals, weddings, worship, and as an assembly space. Additionally, the Museum of American Architecture and Decorative Arts and the Dunham Bible Museum joined the Museum of Southern History in new facilities within the Morris Cultural Arts Center. McNair Hall serves as the unifying link for the theater, chapel and museums as well as an appealing locale for receptions and banquets. Williams Fountain and Lawrence Park crowns the complex, enhanced by the Ann Morgan Prayer Garden for meditation, reflection, and prayer providing an attractive space for outdoor gatherings. In August 2008, the Hodo Residence College, a six story Residence College, opened, providing over 350 beds supporting the University’s goal to become a more residential campus.  The University Academic Center, opened in August 2008, provided classrooms, offices for the Honors College and the College of Arts and Humanities, and an art gallery and studios for the Department of Art. Thanks to the generosity of Sharon and William Morris, the Hamill Foundation, Joyce and Gene O’Neal, and Linda and Terry Swift, the art gallery was expanded to include the HCU Fine Arts Museum and the HCU Contemporary Art Gallery. The Looser Fountains in the Bettis Quadrangle were dedicated in 2011 honoring the forty-five year career of HCU Vice President Emeritus Dr. Don Looser and his wife Elsa Jean. In December of 2011, HCU acquired the 80,000 square foot Bradshaw Fitness Center from Memorial Hermann.  The fitness center features an indoor lap pool, a gymnasium, cardiovascular and free-weight equipment, cross-fit box, and an indoor walking track, as well as offices and classrooms for various programs.  In 2014, the 5,000 seat Husky Stadium opened thanks to the generosity of many members of the HCU community, but most notably Dr. Archie and Linda Dunham and Robert and Janice McNair, along with Dr. Stewart Morris, Dr. Diane and Stanley Williams, and the Tellepsen Family Foundation.  The University opened a new chapter of growth and renewal in 2015 by creating a new main entryway to the campus via Belin Drive, and marked by the 89 foot tall Belin Tower, dedicated to the memory of HCU trustee Dr. Bruce J. Belin, Jr., from his wife, Mary Ann Belin. In September of 2015, with the support of Houston Endowment, the Hamill Foundation, and AT&T, the University opened the Learning Commons in Moody Library. Later that same month, McNair Plaza and the signature clock tower at the entrance of Husky Stadium was dedicated – honoring Robert and Janice McNair’s long-standing relationship with the University.

 History: Endowment Programs

Special endowment programs have further enriched the University. The University received three endowed chairs during the period 1971-1978 — the Herman Brown Chair of Business and Economics, the Robert H. Ray Chair of Humanities, and the John Bisagno Chair of Evangelism. In the academic year 2015-2016, the name of the John Bisagno Chair of Evangelism was changed to the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at the request of the donor and honoree.  The period 1971-1978 also saw the receipt of two endowed professorships—the Rex G. Baker Professorship in the College of Business and Economics and the Prince-Chavanne Professorship of Christian Business Ethics.   The John S. Dunn Research Foundation funded the Dunn Endowed Professorship in Nursing in 1994 and a professorship for Clinical Excellence in Nursing in 2001. In 1987, the Sharon Burrows Professorship in Counseling was established.  In 2005, the estate of former HCU employee Juanita Pool and her sister, Phyllis, funded the Juanita and Phyllis Pool Endowed Chair of Nursing.  The Elizabeth and John Gibson Chair in Apologetics was established in 2012.

The Endowed Scholarship program was begun in 1971 increasing the endowment of the University and helping assure the recruitment of top academic students. More than 350 Endowed Scholarships have been funded through this program.


In 1987, the University’s first president, Dr. W. H. Hinton was named University Chancellor. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1991. Dr. Hinton’s successor, Dr. Edward Douglas Hodo, and his wife, Sadie, came to HCU from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he had served as Dean of the College of Business. During the Hodo years, the University achieved a position of financial solidarity that greatly enhanced its integral strengths in other areas of its operations. In 1997, Dr. and Mrs. Hodo received the HCU Spirit of Excellence Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University. New academic programs were developed, and the physical plant was expanded to include the Hinton Center, the Baugh Center, the Husky Village Apartments, the Memorial Hermann-HCU Wellness Center, and the Glasscock Center. In 2006, construction began on the first phase of a new cultural arts center designed to include a chapel-recital hall, a theater, housing for the University museums, and an atrium gallery unifying each of the individual facilities. After 19 years of service, Dr. Hodo was named President Emeritus in July of 2006. Mr. Jack Carlson served as Interim President during August of 2006. On September 1, 2006, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr., and his wife, Sue, joined the University as its President and First Lady. Dr. Sloan had served as President and Chancellor of Baylor University for over ten years. Under Dr. Sloan’s leadership, HCU has experienced growth and development in enrollment, in the academic curriculum, and in campus facilities. Former University professor Dr. Marilyn McAdams Sibley has written a history of the early years of the founding of the University, To Benefit a University: The Union Baptist Association College Property Committee, 1958-1975. A history of the University from its chartering in 1960 to its fiftieth anniversary, An Act of Providence, has been written by Dr. Don Looser, Vice President Emeritus. An archive of historical material has been assembled in the Moody Library as an extension of this research and writing project.

The University has been blessed by strong academic leadership. Dr. Herbert B. Smith served as the first Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1962-1974.  During Dr. Smith’s tenure, the university received its first accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Dr. Smith shepherded the creation of the undergraduate degree which was distinctive by the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum, the view of the faculty member as mentor, inclusion of a double major and preparation for graduate study.  Dr. Ed Tapscott assumed the role following Dr. Smith’s retirement and held the position from 1974 to 1983.  Dr. Tapscott’s leadership saw an extensive proliferation in the fields of study, in alternative course selection, and in the addition of career-preparation majors.  Dr. Don Looser assume the role of Vice President for Academic Affairs in the fall of 1983—a position he held for 34 years.  The years of 1983-2007 continued implementation of new undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Dr. Looser also provided oversight of the design and building of new academic facilities: the Hinton Center, the University Academic Center, the expansion of Moody Library, and the Morris Cultural Arts Center.  Dr. Paul Bonicelli held the position of Provost during the years of 2008-2011.  Under his leadership, the academic community significantly revised the core courses required of all students.  Dr. John Mark Reynolds followed Dr. Bonicelli as Provost for three years—2012-2015. One of Dr. Reynolds’ academic contributions was the development of The Academy which offers classical Christian education for dual-credit to high school students.  Dr. Cynthia Simpson assumed the role of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2015-2018.  Under her guidance, the university enjoyed an explosive growth in graduate students and degree programs, significant expansion of online program offerings, revision of the Liberal Arts Core, and the implementation of the institution’s first doctoral degree, the EdD in Executive Educational Leadership.  Dr. Michael Rosato was named Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs in the Spring of 2018 and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in Fall of 2018.