UH History and Traditions

The University of Houston's proud heritage of academic excellence dates back to its founding in 1927. In 1947, the institution launched one of its many rich traditions by adopting the cougar, later named Shasta, as its official mascot.

Over the years, we grew and prospered, becoming the University of Houston in 1934. Two years later, the institution acquired land for a permanent campus, and its first building opened in 1939. The university became a state institution in 1963 and joined the newly created University of Houston System in 1977.

Today, the University of Houston is a major public research and teaching institution, serving 35,000 students annually with nearly 300 undergraduate and graduate programs.

From a lovable feline to an all-campus fiesta, the University of Houston builds community and generates fun with a variety of time-honored traditions. Most individual colleges have their own traditions, too, ranging from "The Follies", a generation-old law school tradition where students spend months organizing skits parodying their professors, to the annual Engineering Golf Tournament, where golfers raise money to support the Cullen College of Engineering.


Frontier Fiesta

Frontier Fiesta is a student–run, student–led festival hosted by the University of Houston to promote scholarship, community, and education in the University of Houston students, staff, and faculty, as well as in the Houston community. Frontier Fiesta is a diverse showcase for the talents of the University of Houston student body. Each year a piece of our campus is transformed into a fully functional town called "Fiesta City" which features free live concerts each night, variety shows by student organizations, carnival booths, multicultural performances, and a BBQ Cook–Off and Bake Fiesta.


The University of Houston Class Ring

So many University of Houston traditions reside in the hearts of students and alumni, but the UH class ring is the only tradition that is always with you. The ring is presented each semester at a formal ring ceremony. Tradition dictates that current students must wear the ring facing inward, with only alumni wearing the ring facing outward. Learn more about purchasing your class ring and the ring ceremony on the Houston Alumni Organization website.


Cougar Mascot

At sporting events, the campus rallies around Shasta, UH's cougar mascot between 1947 and 1989, five live cougars served as mascots; since Shasta V's death in 1989, costumed students have carried on the tradition.


"Cougar Sign"

At game time, Cougar fans show their support by making the "cougar sign" made by folding the ring finger of the right hand toward the palm. The tradition dates back to 1953, when Shasta I, the presiding cougar mascot, lost a toe in a cage door on her way to a game. The opposing team, the University of Texas, mocked UH by imitating the cougar's injury. The Cougars soon adopted that gesture as a symbol of pride.


Game-time Tradition

Another game-time tradition calls for our Cougar mascots to perform pushups for each point scored during a football game.


The UH Frontiersmen

The UH Fronteirsmen display the Texas flag and the University of Houston flag at football games.


The Official Colors

The official colors of the University of Houston are Scarlet Red and Albino White, the colors of Sam Houston's ancestor, Sir Hugh. Scarlet Red represents "the blood of royalty that was spared due to the timely arrival of Sir Hugh and the blood that is the life source of the soul." Albino White denotes "the purity and perfections of the heart, mind and soul engaged in the effort to serve faithfully that which is by right and reason, justfully served." In other words, the red stands for courage or inner strength to face the unknown, and the white stands for the good of helping one's fellow man.


The Official Seal

The Official Seal of arms of General Sam Houston, as handed down to him from noble ancestors. The simple Escutcheon in the center of the seal consists of checkered chevrons denoting nobility, and three Martlets, gentle Lowland birds symbolizing peace and deliverance. A winged hourglass is above the shield and surmounting this, the motto, “In Tempore” (In Time). Greyhounds were placed at the sides to indicate the speed in giving aid. The seal was adopted by UH in 1938 in conjunction with the construction of the campus. The first official version was placed on the floor of the Roy Cullen Building.


The Cougar Fight Song

Cougars fight for dear old U of H
For our Alma Mater cheer.
Fight for Houston University
For victory is near.
When the going gets so rough and tough
We never worry cause we got the stuff.
So fight, fight, fight for red and white
And we will go to victory.

Lyrics: Forest Fountain • Music: Marion Ford


The Alma Mater

All hail to thee,
Our Houston University.
Our hearts fill with gladness
When we think of thee.
We’ll always adore thee
Dear old varsity.
And to thy memory cherished,
True we’ll ever be.

Words and music by Harmony Class of 1942