Southwestern is recognized as the successor of the first institution of higher learning in Texas, chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1840.
Southwestern beat the University of Texas at Austin (63-10) in the first college baseball game played in the state in 1884.
Three of the first five Rhodes Scholars in Texas were Southwestern graduates.
Legendary folklorist and author J. Frank Dobie graduated from Southwestern in 1910. The J. Frank and Bertha McKee Dobie Collections are located in the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center.
Southwestern's library is home to the John G. Tower Library. The late U.S. Senator from Texas, who served from 1961-84, graduated from Southwestern in 1948.
In 1975, the college of arts and sciences was officially named the Brown School of Arts and Sciences in recognition of gifts from The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.
Loren Pope, former education editor for The New York Times, included Southwestern in his book, Colleges That Change Lives, which was first published in 1996. He wrote, "[Southwestern] is one of the few jewels of the Southwest whose mission is to prepare a new generation to contribute to a changing society, and to prosper in their jobs, whatever and wherever in the world they may be."
Southwestern also has been consistently included in the Princeton Review's book titled America's Best Value Colleges. The 2008 edition of the guide says "Southwestern offers a college education that is $10,000 to $15,000 lower than what you would expect of a liberal arts college of its academic caliber."
In 1998, Southwestern faculty, students, alumni, staff and trustees identified the University's core purpose and core values. The core purpose: Fostering a liberal arts community whose values and actions encourage contributions toward the well-being of humanity. The core values: Promoting lifelong learning and a passion for intellectual and personal growth; fostering diverse perspectives; being true to one's self and others; respecting the worth and dignity of persons; and encouraging activism in the pursuit of justice and the common good. A sixth core value, cultivating academic excellence, was added in 2008.
In 1999, Houston investment manager Fayez Sarofim pledged $8 million for a major renovation to Southwestern's Fine Arts Center. In recognition of this gift, the Southwestern Board of Trustees voted to name the school of fine arts The Sarofim School of Fine Arts.
The National Survey of Student Engagement consistently finds that students at Southwestern rank above students at peer institutions - and significantly above the national average - when it comes to being engaged in their academic endeavors. The survey measures five areas that are associated with high levels of learning and development: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment.
April 2001, the Board of Trustees approved Southwestern's Strategic Plan for 2010. Developed by faculty, staff, alumni, students, trustees and friends, the plan listed four strategic goals that will serve as guiding principles during the decade. Among these is "fostering a liberal arts institution of the highest rank and quality."
In 2005, Southwestern began offering Living-Learning Communities to further strengthen its First-Year Seminar Program.
Also in 2005, Southwestern was elected to full membership of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). The membership of IES is made up of a group of premier colleges and universities, and full membership is by invitation only. As a full member of IES, Southwestern has the opportunity to provide significant input regarding the curriculum, pedagogy and strategic direction for one of the leading study abroad organizations in the United States.
In March 2006, Southwestern University kicked off Thinking Ahead: The Southwestern Campaign, a $125 million comprehensive campaign designed to fund priorities in the University's Strategic Plan for 2010.
In 2006, Southwestern University was one of the first colleges and universities in the country to be recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for their commitment to community engagement.
In the spring of 2007, Southwestern University became the second university in Texas to sign the Talloires Declaration, a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities.Southwestern University has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction every year since 2006. Criteria for the Honor Roll with Distinction include the scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
The 2008 edition of The Best 366 Colleges, published by the Princeton Review, ranked Southwestern number seven in the country for Best Career/Job Placement Services. The list was compiled from a survey of 120,000 students at colleges included in the book.
The 2010 Fiske Guide to Colleges listed Southwestern University among the Top 25 Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Art or Design and among the Top 37 Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Business.
In 2009, Southwestern University President Jake B. Schrum ’68, signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment.
In early 2010, the University signed an agreement with the City of Georgetown to power campus electricity needs exclusively with wind power through the year 2028.
The Wilhelmina Cullen Admission Center, which opened in 2009, was awarded Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning, which opened in 2010, was built following the same guidelines.
In March 2010, the faculty, staff, University Council, Student Congress and Board of Trustees approved “Shaping Our Future: The Strategic Plan for Southwestern University 2010–2020.”