CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY AT AUSTIN. In the late nineteenth century Texas Lutherans of the Missouri Synod determined to build a local school to prepare their own young men for the ministry. After three short-lived attempts to establish such a college, in New Orleans in 1883, in Giddings in 1894, and at Clifton in the early twentieth century, they succeeded after World War I with the founding in Austin of Lutheran Concordia College of Texas, the name by which the school was known until 1965, when it became Concordia Lutheran College. In 1921, the Texas district requested the Missouri Synod to establish and maintain the institution.
The school opened as a boys’ secondary school—modeled after the German Gymnasium—preparatory for the ministry. The first president, Dr. Henry Studtmann, remembered that the district chose Austin because it was beautiful, it was the capital city, and especially because the University of Texas was located there. In 1925 the synod’s board of directors and the district’s board of control purchased twenty acres at the northern city limits, two miles from the Capitol and one mile from the university. The next year they laid the cornerstone for the first building, Kilian Hall. This structure was named after Rev. Johann Kilian, who led 500 Lutheran Wends to America from Prussia and Saxony in 1854. Its architecture, designed by the firm of Harvey P. Smith and Arthur Fehr, won an award from the Architects’ Guild of Texas. The building features a pink Spanish tile roof and hand-carved front doors made by Austin artist Peter H. Mansbendel. Classes began in Kilian Hall on October 26, 1926. Twenty-six students slept on the second floor on rented army cots until permanent beds arrived, read from a library furnished with donated books, cleared the campus of underbrush, and cut out their own baseball field.
From the beginning the laity supplemented synod and district financing with donations, even farm produce and goats that the college picked up in a truck it purchased for that purpose. Extensive lay involvement required two lay organizations: the College Association to coordinate giving and an advisory board. By 1929 increased enrollment demanded a new classroom building, but the depression brought financial hardship for the school and successive decreases in enrollment from a high of fifty-eight in 1929 to a low in 1934 of twenty-five students. At one time the board questioned keeping the school open. After World War II expansion began again with the addition of six significant new buildings in the next fifteen years. Studtmann retired in 1948, and George J. Beto, who had been a member of the faculty since 1939 and who later directed the state prison systemqv in Huntsville, followed him in the presidency. A junior college curriculum was added in 1951, women began matriculating in 1955, and general education received more emphasis by the end of the fifties. High school classes were discontinued in 1967, Concordia was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1968, and in 1979 the synod authorized Concordia to become a four-year baccalaureate college. The first bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 1982. In 1993 the school joined nine other Missouri Synod colleges and universities to form the Concordia University System, and in 1995 the school was renamed Concordia University at Austin. In the spring of 2001 the school reported an enrollment of 484 full-time and 285 part-time students and a faculty of eighty, including part-time instructors. The original Austin campus (located on interstate 35 near UT) was moved to west Austin in 2008 and the buildings in the photos were razed.