The University of St. Thomas, a coeducational Catholic university in the Montrose area of Houston, was founded in 1947 by the Basilian Fathers, a congregation of priests devoted to teaching. The university was established at the request of the bishop of Galveston-Houston, Christopher E. Byrne, and opened on September 22, 1947, with a freshman class of forty students and a faculty of eight. It now has an undergraduate enrollment of about 1,864 and a graduate enrollment of more than 1,373, with a full-time faculty of 154. UST offers an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum of thirty-six programs with an emphasis on Judeo-Christian values and a course of study in which theology and philosophy are of prime importance. There are seventeen graduate degree programs at the masters level, and three doctoral degrees; one Ph.D. program in philosophy, an Ed.D. in ethical leadership, and DNP in nursing. More than half of the student body is Catholic, but the university is open to all religious faiths.
The university added a School of Theology in 1968, with a program leading to the master of divinity degree for students at St. Mary's Seminary. A master of religious education degree was added in 1969, followed by a master of arts in theology in 1982. In 1978 the School of Education, with a program leading to the M.Ed. degree, was added, and in 1979 the Cameron School of Business, offering an M.B.A. degree, was established. A Center for Thomistic Studies, with M.A. and Ph.D. programs in philosophy, was founded in 1979, and a Center for International Studies was begun in 1981. A Master in Liberal Arts program began in 1988.
In 1994 the Center for Faith and Culture was founded, and it now offers a masters degree. A Center for Irish Studies began in 2003. A School of Nursing, offering a bachelor of nursing degree, opened in 2012. The physical plant has grown from the original building, the T. P. Lee mansion at 3800 Montrose Boulevard, to a nineteen-acre campus with sixty-seven buildings. The plan of the university and several of the buildings, including the Chapel of St. Basil, were designed by architect Philip Johnson. Buildings besides classroom structures include a library, a chapel, a residence hall, a student center, a theater, a concert hall, and an athletic center. About 66.8 percent of the university's income is provided by tuition and fees; the remainder comes from endowment, government and private grants, and gifts. Accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools came in 1954, and the university was later approved by the Texas Education Agency for certification of elementary and secondary schoolteachers. In 2006 UST became a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), with the start of women’s volleyball. Since 2006, St. Thomas has added men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and golf. The University is a member of the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC). In 2017-18, UST will also sponsor men’s and women’s cross country to its athletic lineup.
The university sponsors several programs of study abroad, including summer programs in Israel, Honduras, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, and Taiwan. Doherty Library on the main campus maintains a collection of 265,000 volumes, including the special collections of the Hugh Roy Marshall Graduate Philosophy Library, which are devoted to the study of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Cardinal Beran Library on the St. Mary's Seminary campus provides a 64,000-volume collection for graduate students in theology. The music, drama, and fine arts departments offer public concerts, plays, and exhibits throughout the year. The university is governed by a forty-member board of directors. In 2017 Dr. Richard Ludwick became UST’s ninth president.