Oberholtzer, Edison Ellsworth (1880–1954)

By: James W. Reynolds

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 22, 2017

Edison Ellsworth Oberholtzer, a founder and president of the University of Houston, was born on May 6, 1880, in Patricksburg, Indiana, son of Augustus and Mary Anne (Collins) Oberholtzer. He was educated at Westfield College in Illinois and Indiana State Normal School. He received an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago in 1915 and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1934. Honorary LL.D. degrees were conferred on him by the University of Tulsa in 1921 and by the University of Houston in 1950. He taught and was an administrator in small schools in Indiana from 1898 through 1903. From 1906 through 1911 he was supervising principal in Terre Haute and superintendent of schools in both Evansville and Clinton, Indiana. In 1913 he was named superintendent in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a post he held until 1923. Oberholtzer's contributions to Texas were made in public and university education. He served as superintendent of schools in Houston for over two decades, 1924–45. During this period he was instrumental in establishing Houston Junior College (1927) and eliciting the support of Hugh Roy Cullen, Houston philanthropist, in transforming it into the University of Houston. Oberholtzer served as part-time president of Houston Junior College and the University of Houston, 1927–45; president of the University of Houston, 1945–50; and president emeritus until his death in 1954. Oberholtzer was a member of many state and national professional organizations as well as numerous civic groups. His publications included public-school textbooks and articles in leading professional journals. He was a member of the Methodist Church. He married Myrtle May Barr on March 26, 1899, and they had three children. Oberholtzer died in Houston on June 18, 1954, and was buried in Forest Park Mausoleum.

Who's Who in America, 1951–52.

  • Education
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • University Presidents and School Administrators
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

James W. Reynolds, “Oberholtzer, Edison Ellsworth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/oberholtzer-edison-ellsworth.

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June 22, 2017

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