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President Cottrell Gives Historical Overview of TLU's Longtime Partnership with Seguin

by Dr. Debbie Cottrell for the Seguin Gazette

As the Seguin Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, the Texas Lutheran community joins in congratulating this important civic organization and extending our hand for an ongoing partnership for years to come. Our institution has long benefitted from the work of the Chamber, and we recognize the mutual benefits that exist as we work together.

It's also important to note that we have a shared history—a history that, in fact, suggests that TLU would not be in Seguin if it were not for the Chamber, or as it was known in the early 1900s, the Business Men’s Club of Seguin.

Texas Lutheran originally existed in Brenham, founded there in 1891 as the Evangelical Lutheran College. The early years were not easy and competition with nearby Blinn College caused the Lutherans to begin to consider in the early 1900s that moving to a new town, a town without collegiate competition yet one excited to be home to a college, might be a wise course of action.

Students in 1910
Students On Campus In 1910

As it turned out, at about the same time, the Business Men’s Club of Seguin was looking to add to the city’s growth and development beyond its agricultural base and, in fact, turned to Brenham to see if Blinn College might want to move here. When Blinn’s Methodist governing board declined these overtures, the Seguinites looked to the other college in Brenham and began conversations about a potential move of the Evangelical Lutheran College to Seguin. The campaign to recruit the college—even if not the Club’s first choice—was both positive and ambitious. As reported in the February 3, 1911 Seguin Enterprise newspaper, “Seguin has always wanted a good school and now is the time to get one. Nothing gives a town a better name than a good school!”

Conversations between the Business Men’s Club and officials of the Lutheran Church began in 1910 and by 1912 the school that became Texas Lutheran University had a new home. For that to happen, there were several interesting developments, which I think of as the “stories of threes.”

The first set of threes occurred when the Business Men’s Club made their offer, putting together a generous deal that promised the Lutheran school approximately 15 acres of land, $24,000 in cash, and the promise of 10 years of free utilities. The second set of threes occurred as the exact location of the college was determined, with the Business Men’s Club proposing three sites. One of the sites, expected to be selected, was near downtown, where today the prematurely named College Street now runs. Another proposed site was near the old railroad depot.

1916 Women's Basketball Team
The 1916 Women's Basketball Team

But it was the third site, on the Fritz Farmstead just west of town that the Lutherans found most appropriate. With that issue resolved (perhaps helped along by the fact that Louis Fritz was both a Lutheran and a member of the Business Men’s Club), the college was ready to do its part, providing the third set of threes: a promise to construct the necessary buildings, to offer a strong and rigorous curriculum, and to remain in Seguin for at least 15 years.

Fritz House
The Fritz House Homestead, 2020.

And, as they say, the rest is history! The buildings were built, the faculty were hired, the students came, and Evangelical Lutheran College grew and developed into Texas Lutheran College and then Texas Lutheran University. Today, we’ve added to those original 15 farmstead acres to a campus of more than 160 acres but kept our home on the land originally provided, staying well past that original commitment of 15 years. We’ve built buildings, replaced some of them, and built more. And, we’ve grown in students and adapted our curriculum, but our promise to provide academic excellence has not wavered and our reputation as a strong university has grown across Texas and our region.

For 109 years, thanks to the early version of the Chamber of Commerce, Seguin and TLU have grown together, and we look forward to a bright future together.

More About President Cottrell

A first-generation college student, Dr. Cottrell holds a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University and a master’s and Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to attending graduate school, Dr. Cottrell taught middle school in Waco and worked as an editor at the Texas Historical Commission in Austin.

Her scholarly interests are in the area of U.S. women’s history and the history of education, along with a distinct appreciation for regional history, particularly the region of Texas. She is the author of a biography of Annie Webb Blanton, an educator who became the first woman in Texas elected to statewide office. This book received the Liz Carpenter Award for Best Scholarly Book of the Year on the History of Women and Texas from the Texas State Historical Association in 1994.

President Cottrell