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Thistles and Roses

Celebrating TCU’s 150th birthday

TCU at Thorp Spring
TCU at Thorp Spring
“Hail all hail, TCU.
Memories sweet, comrades true.
Light of faith, follow through.
Praise to thee, TCU!” --- TCU Alma Mater by Glenn Canfield 1928

Texas Christian University (TCU) celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Hard to believe that I was a student at TCU in 1973 when the 100th anniversary was observed. It seems like a long time ago. I graduated in 1974.

TCU once existed in both Thorp Spring and Waco, Texas at different times. The histories are difficult and complex and I have done background research and I have found inconsistencies. I have tried to rely on the most consistent.

I think many current students and faculty and citizens of Fort Worth do not know that TCU was founded in 1873 at Thorp Spring, Texas, just a couple of miles north of Granbury. The founders were Addison and Randolph Clark. It was known as Add-Ran Male and Female College. According to some reports, there was a conflict among members of what would become the Christian Church, now known as the Disciples of Christ, and another faction that became the Church of Christ. This was the beginning of what would cause a permanent separation. These churches were both parts of the original Campbellite movement which is too complicated to discuss here.

The Clark brothers were given an offer from people in Waco, including the local Disciples of Christ church there, to move to Waco, which they did in 1895. Some remained behind at Thorp Spring and a college existed at Thorp Spring for several years. Some entity of that school eventually became Abilene Christian University (ACU). Today,TCU is identified with the Disciples of Christ and ACU is identified with the Church of Christ.

Some of the old ruins and a tabernacle still exist at Thorp Spring, along with a commemorative stone monument to TCU. It is an easy drive from the metroplex. Our family has visited several times. It is worth a a leisurely drive there.

A TCU in Waco postcard
A TCU in Waco postcard
In Waco, the name was changed to AddRan Christian College under control of the Disciples of Christ. In 1902, the name was changed to Texas Christian University.

In 1910 a fire destroyed the Waco campus. A competition developed among several cities to rebuild TCU. These included Waco, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Fort Worth won the competition with an offer of $200,000 and land for a campus. TCU moved to Fort Worth in 1911. There is a historical monument at Mitchell Avenue and North 19th Street in Waco commemorating TCU’s existence in Waco.

TCU provided me with an excellent education. I lived at home and had a tuition scholarship. It cost $1,600 per year when I was there. Today it is $51,660 per year. Even adjusting for inflation, I am not sure a student who came from my lower socio-economic background when I was growing up could afford to go there today. But I hope those who want to go there can find a way.

I certainly doubt that the Clark Brothers could have envisioned that TCU would become the prestigious university it is today.

TCU is a much more sophisticated institution than it was when I was there in the early 1970s. TCU has brought in forward-thinking administrators and formed a competitive athletic program. While I think academics should be more emphasized than athletics, I can’t argue with progress. Universities can thrive and do well without a successful athletic program, but a winning football team becomes a publicity relations juggernaut for the rest of the university.

The Horned Frogs football team has raised TCU’s profile nationwide. Endowments are up as is enrollment. It is in the U.S.News and World Report Top 100 colleges at number 89. It is still a relatively small school with enrollment just more than 12,000 students. I read one report that a little less than 100,000 people attended since its inception. That is small.

TCU bought the Worth Hills golf course in the 1960s where there are now some dormitories, tennis courts, track, and very nice baseball stadium. TCU has acquired as much surrounding property as it can. But it is landlocked and unless they wanted to expand a a satellite campus, which is not likely, there isn’t much room to grow. And my point of view is to maintain the approximate size and maintain the quality and atmosphere it enjoys today.

It will be interesting what TCU will be like in the next 50-100 years.

I am so thankful that I was able to graduate from TCU and for the many opportunities that TCU degree has provided for my family and me.


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