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Our History & Traditions

The University of Houston's proud heritage of academic excellence dates back to its founding in 1927, when its primary focus was training future teachers. At that time, it was called Houston Junior College and classes were held on the San Jacinto High School campus.

Over the years, we grew and prospered, becoming the University of Houston in 1934. Two years later, the institution acquired land for a permanent campus, and its first building opened in 1939. In 1947, the institution launched one of its many rich traditions by adopting the cougar, later named Shasta, as its official mascot. The university became a state institution in 1963 and joined the newly created University of Houston System in 1977.

University of Houston, War and Growth, 1939-1950

This University-produced 30-minute documentary tells the compelling story of the University and the city of Houston during World War II.

Our Traditions

From a lovable feline to an all-campus fiesta, the University of Houston builds community and generates fun with a variety of time-honored traditions. Most individual colleges have their own traditions, too, ranging from Wolffest, a college of business tradition where students run pop-up food stands in a three-day competition, to the Hobby School of Public Affairs’ annual Elizabeth D. Rockwell Lecture on Ethics and Leadership . Here are just a few of the traditions that the University celebrates as a whole:

Each year, the university celebrates Frontier Fiesta.
Dating back to 1940, this student-run event features free live concerts, variety shows by student organizations, carnival booths, multicultural performances, and a world-class BBQ cook-off.

Every Friday is declared Cougar Red Friday.
Wearing red on Friday is more than just a tradition; it is who we are. We wear red to show our pride and passion for the University. It is our visual identity. The color unites us, to live and to celebrate together, and behold our individual achievements as a singular legacy of pride. We encourage our campus community and those all around the city to wear Red on Fridays.

UH has a long tradition of community service.
Located on the University of Houston campus is a very special monument. It is the Eternal Flame of Service monument erected by the Student Service Center to recognize every organization and individual on and around the UH campus who works to serve others. It is a gift the UH Alpha Phi Omega chapter made to the university in 1970. The tradition of service to others is alive and well with students volunteering both on the UH Campus and in Houston communities.

The University of Houston Class Ring is with you always.
So many University of Houston traditions reside in the hearts of students and alumni, but the UH class ring is the only tradition that is always with you. The ring is presented to upcoming graduates each semester at a formal ring ceremony. Tradition dictates that current students must wear the ring facing inward, with only alumni wearing the ring facing outward. Learn more about purchasing your class ring and the ring ceremony on the University of Houston Alumni Association website.

The Cougar Spirit Cord gives back.
The Cougar Spirit Cord is a symbol of students' pride. Graduating seniors get a Cougar Spirit Cord to wear at graduation as well as a head start in UH’s proud tradition of alumni giving. All graduating seniors are eligible to receive a Cord with a minimum $10 donation to any UH college, scholarship or program of their choice. Then they wear the Spirit Cord at commencement to show their Cougar pride as they transition into life as an involved UH Alum! It is a great way to help make more scholarships available to next year’s students while the graduating students show their support for a program that has made a difference in their UH experience. If you or someone you know is graduating, don’t be left out at your Commencement ceremonies. Learn how you can make your Cougar Spirit gift today!

At sporting events, the campus rallies around Shasta, UH's cougar mascot.
Between 1947 and 1989, five live cougars served as mascots; since Shasta V's death in 1989, costumed students have carried on the tradition. At sporting events and around campus, mascots Shasta and Sasha spread Cougar pride and spirit.

Before a big game, Cougar fans rub the paws of the cougar statues in Cullen Family Plaza, in front of the E. Cullen Building.
The statues were a gift to the university from John and Rebecca Moores in 2004. It is believed that the more people rub the paw, the more good luck the Cougars will have on game day. It’s especially important during Homecoming. Sometimes students rub the paw for extra luck for final exams, too.

At game time, Cougar fans show their support by making the "Cougar sign," made by folding the ring finger of the right hand toward the palm.
The tradition dates back to 1953, when Shasta I, the presiding cougar mascot, lost a toe in a cage door on the way to a game. The opposing team, the University of Texas, mocked UH by imitating the cougar's injury. The Cougars soon adopted that gesture as a symbol of pride.

Another game-time tradition:
Our Cougar mascots perform push-ups for each point scored during a football game.

The UH Frontiersmen display the Texas flag and the University of Houston flag at football games.
They were established in 1948 to promote Cougar spirit. The Frontiersmen's primary purpose is to support UH in any and all endeavors. Their three main areas of concentration are athletics, school spirit and Frontier Fiesta. As individuals, Frontiersmen play a very active role on campus and hold many key positions of student leadership. Frontiersmen are also very involved with off campus events and charities, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Sunshine Kids, Cougar Cookers and "H" Association events.

The BLAZE is an oil field warning siren, operated by the Frontiersmen, that was chosen to represent the university's ties to the petroleum industry. In the late 80's, Coach Jack Pardee, Andre Ware and David Daucus felt that the university lacked a symbol for the football team. An oil field warning siren was chosen by 1991, through a number of refinements by the efforts of the "H" Association, the Taxi Squad, Pleas Doyle and the Hruska Family, the purchase of the siren was complete. In the fall of 1991, a group of students manned a crank siren while waiting for the new siren to arrive. The siren did not arrive until late that football season, the day before Homecoming. That summer David Carl Blazek passed away. David was a staunch supporter of the University and his death was a blow to the original men who ran the siren. The Sigma Chi Fraternity had been in charge of the siren up to this point and gave it the name "The BLAZE" in honor of their fallen brother. To this day, every time that the BLAZE is sounded off, the University hears the vision of David Carl Blazek.

The official colors of the University of Houston:
Scarlet Red and Albino White, the colors of Sam Houston's ancestor, Sir Hugh. Scarlet Red represents "the blood of royalty that was spared due to the timely arrival of Sir Hugh and the blood that is the life source of the soul." Albino White denotes "the purity and perfections of the heart, mind and soul engaged in the effort to serve faithfully that which is by right and reason, justfully served." In other words, the red stands for courage or inner strength to face the unknown, and the white stands for the good of helping one's fellow man.

The Official Seal of arms of General Sam Houston, as handed down to him from noble ancestors.
The simple Escutcheon in the center of the seal consists of checkered chevrons denoting nobility, and three Martlets, gentle Lowland birds symbolizing peace and deliverance. A winged hourglass is above the shield and surmounting this, the motto, “In Tempore” (In Time). Greyhounds were placed at the sides to indicate the speed in giving aid. The seal was adopted by UH in 1938 in conjunction with the construction of the campus. The first official version was placed on the floor of the Roy Cullen Building.

The Cougar Fight Song
Cougars fight for dear old U of H
For our Alma Mater cheer.
Fight for Houston University
For victory is near.
When the going gets so rough and tough
We never worry cause we got the stuff.
So fight, fight, fight for red and white
And we will go to victory.
Lyrics: Forest Fountain • Music: Marion Ford

The Alma Mater
All hail to thee,
Our Houston University.
Our hearts fill with gladness
When we think of thee.
We’ll always adore thee
Dear old varsity.
And to thy memory cherished,
True we’ll ever be.
Words and music by Harmony Class of 1942