A Guide to the Concordia University Texas Historical Online Collection, 1920-2012
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), formed in 1847, arose from a wave of mid-nineteenth-century migration into the Midwest region of the United States. Headquartered in St. Louis, this German Lutheran immigrant group brought with it the six-year Gymnasium educational system. The LCMS established 11 Gymnasium schools to prepare boys for the church’s St. Louis theological seminary. In the 19th century, the church founded schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Bronxville, New York; Concordia, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Winfield, Kansas. Schools founded in the 20th century, for example, those in Portland, Oregon; Oakland, California; and Austin, Texas, included elements of the American college format.
Immigration through the ports of New Orleans and Galveston created a substantial German Lutheran community in the American South and Southwest. New Orleans Lutherans in the LCMS Southern District operated a six-year Gymnasium in the city from 1906-1917, when it closed due to challenges including malaria and yellow fever. Texas Lutherans separated from the larger Southern District in 1906 to form their own Texas District of the LCMS. Subsequently, Texans from German immigrant backgrounds joined with Norwegian Lutherans and Wends, a Slavic European minority now known as Sorbs, to request that the Synod build a Gymnasium in Texas. The Texas District’s 1925 convention in Riesel, a small city near Waco, Texas, began the process of selecting a site for a new Lutheran boys’ school. The Board of Control considered locations in Giddings, La Grange, Waco, Marlin, Dallas, Temple, and Mexia. Favorable conditions in Austin included modern conveniences such as a streetcar stop near the site and the nearby University of Texas library. The Synod paid $6,000 for a site called the "Hancock Property," a former cotton plantation owned by the family of George Hancock, a veteran of the Texas Revolution, and Louis Hancock, Austin mayor from 1896 to 1897.
Although the Texas District had requested a six-year Gymnasium curriculum, the Synod instead funded a four-year program. The decision was a response to a perceived need for post-World War I German Lutherans to demonstrate their loyalty and to assimilate to the American system of education. The LCMS also postponed suggestions to enroll girls and to offer a business classes as well as pastoral and teaching preparation. The school’s four-year curriculum ensured that graduates would need to transfer to separate schools before matriculating at a seminary for ministerial training.
Construction on the site began in 1925, supervised by the Harvey Smith architecture firm of San Antonio. The Board of Electors (Wahlbehoerde) selected Rev. Henry Studtmann of Reisel to be president of the boys’ high school, called Lutheran Concordia College. It accepted its first class of 26 students in 1926. The school’s purpose was to prepare men for ministry and for teaching in schools within the LCMS system. Because of financial need during the Great Depression, the Lutheran Concordia College widened its mission to accept "general students," those who could obtain a classical secondary education without preparing for teaching or ministry. By welcoming a larger body of students and by strictly economizing, Lutheran Concordia College endured the Great Depression.
In 1948, President Studtmann retired; the Synod selected Professor George J. Beto as his replacement. Under Beto’s administration, Concordia became a junior college in 1950. It served as a "feeder school" that prepared students for Concordia senior colleges in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Seward, Nebraska; and River Forest, Illinois. In 1955, the college began admitting women students, instituting a curriculum that prepared them for teaching in LCMS elementary schools. In 1960, during the presidency of Samuel Goltermann, the school began offering training for women to become deaconesses. In 1967, Concordia closed its high school division and served as a junior college to an increasingly diverse student population. During the tenure of President Ray Martens, Concordia became a four-year college in 1980. In 1995, under the leadership of President David Zersen, Concordia attained university status and changed its name to Concordia University at Austin. The institution now offers masters’ degrees in business, education, and nursing. To recognize the school's development of centers in Houston, San Antonio, and North Austin, the school later was renamed Concordia University Texas.
In 2008, the university moved from its original 23-acre site in central Austin to a 440-acre tract west of the city previously owned by Schlumberger oilfield services company. The property includes a 250-acre nature preserve. In 2012, the school purchased an additional adjoining tract.
This collection is composed of correspondence, financial records, a scrapbook, selected yearbooks, bound faculty minutes, films, and miscellaneous photographs and negatives from the institution originally known as Lutheran Concordia College (LCC), now called Concordia University Texas. Correspondence includes letters sent from members of the national administrative body of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to the Texas District Board of Control, the administrative body overseeing Lutheran Concordia College. Financial records include statements from Wichita National Bank between 1948 and 1950 related to John Hirschi’s funding of the school’s library building.
The Concordia University Texas Records series (1920-1953, undated) comprises records used in the daily business of administrators and staff of Lutheran Concordia College regarding development of the school’s campus and curriculum. It is divided into three subseries: Buildings and Maintenance Records, Correspondence, and Financial Records.
The Building and Maintenance Records subseries (1926-1948) includes documentation surrounding building renovations undertaken in the 1940s. This series includes reports on building conditions, suggestions for repairs, bids from local contractors and vendors, and correspondence with the national synod regarding project cost.
The Correspondence subseries (1920-1953, undated) contains letters sent from officers of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and Other States, the national administrative body of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, to members of Concordia Lutheran College’s Board of Control. From 1926 through the mid-1930s, a large number of letters are exchanged between national synod Board of Directors member Rev. William Hagen and Rev. Reinhard Osthoff, chairman of the Texas District Board of Control, the administrative body overseeing Lutheran Concordia College’s finances and curriculum. Osthoff receives and replies to other national synod officers, including secretary Martin Kretzmann, treasurer Edmund Seuel, and auditor Alfred Huge. In addition, Osthoff corresponds with Texas Board of Control members and the faculty of Lutheran Concordia College, including President Henry Studtmann and professor Gotthold Vieghweg. Also included are exchanges with the office of San Antonio architect Henry Smith regarding the construction of campus buildings. The collection also includes a selection of letters from George J. Beto written during his tenure as president of Concordia Lutheran College, 1949-1959. Materials in this series document the organization and focus of Lutheran Concordia College in Austin from its founding in 1926 through its growth into a junior college, reflecting a detailed examination of school finances, expenditures, and the development of campus life. Documents pertaining to the construction of campus buildings may be of interest to historians of architecture and urban design. Also of note is George J. Beto’s 1945 letter to the Austin City Council discussing the expansion of Interstate Highway 35. Beto’s letter describes for city officials the highway’s predicted impact on Concordia, including the number of acres lost to construction.
Letters written in the 1920s and 1930s shift easily between English and German, with correspondents at times articulating their reasons for choosing to use one language over another. Letters written in German include not just correspondence among the Board of Control members, but also between Concordia’s local board and national Lutheran officers. The German language materials in the Correspondence series will be of interest to linguists and scholars of Texas’ German heritage, as well as those interested in the American German language used in the mid-West, and for ecclesiastical purposes during this time.
The Financial Records subseries (1948-1950, undated) consists of a selection of the institution’s bank statements, invoices, and stock transfers involved in the funding of Hirschi Memorial Library. Included in the subseries are bank statements from Wichita National Bank in Wichita Falls, Texas. The bank statements include information regarding the transfer of stock from John Hirschi to fund a library on the Concordia Lutheran College campus. Included are certificates of payment from the architect overseeing the library project, Carl H. Stautz, to general contractor J.M. Odom, as well as invoices from individual contractors including Schrader Plumbing and Jennings Electric.
The Printed Materials series (1921-2012) contains items printed for use by the institution’s administrators, as well as programs made available at public events. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s Ordnungen und Regeln (1921) is a guide to local boards of directors, providing information about administrative procedures. Contents are written in both German and English. Concordia University Texas’s copy, inscribed “R. Osthoff,” was owned by Lutheran Concordia College Board of Control chairman Rev. Reinhard Osthoff.
Important Facts and Records, 1932, was created by Henry W. Horst, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod board of directors from Rock Island, Illinois. This bound ledger contains photographs, blueprints, and carbon copies of inventories related to the property valuation of Lutheran Concordia College of Texas. The Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, Missouri owns an additional copy of Important Facts and Records, 1932.
Also within the Printed Materials series are printed programs from two musical performances donated by former Concordia choir director and piano instructor Carlos Messerli. "Lutheran Concordia College of Austin, Texas, Presents the Octet" is a program for a performance held on May 27, 1947. The program lists the names of musical pieces and their composers, as well as the Concordia students who performed them. This program includes information about a piano recital performed on the same date. A second 1947 program, "Hymns of the Christian Church Year," also lists musical pieces and their performers at Lutheran Concordia College.
The Concordia Scrapbook series (1926) includes a 17-page scrapbook of photographs featuring campus life and of students from Concordia’s first admitted class. This scrapbook shows the development of campus buildings and early, undeveloped Austin landscape.
Concordia College began producing bound volumes of its yearbooks in 1954, and the institution continued to publish yearbooks through 2008. The Selected Yearbooks series (1949-1950) pre-dates these commercially published volumes. The 1949 and 1950 Concordian volumes consist of mimeographed pages, bound with brads and illustrated with individually mounted photographs.
The Photographs and Negatives series (1926-1990, undated) contains materials from a variety of time periods. Images from 1926-1930 include professional photographs of Kilian Hall, the first campus building, as well as Concordia student body, student groups, and early school faculty. Photographs from the 1950s include images of new buildings, including Studtmann dormitory, Texas Hall, Kramer Hall, Memorial Gymnasium, and Birkman Chapel. Also included are a number of graduation photographs. Photographs from the 1980s show the construction of Woltman Activities center. In addition, the Portal to Texas History hosts the Theodore Schmidt Collection, a group of 73 photographs made available by the family of Theodore Schmidt, a Lutheran minister who was among the first class of students admitted to Lutheran Concordia College in 1926. Schmidt’s snapshots include casual photographs of campus life, recording student sports and recreational activities, with posed photographs of teams and clubs. In addition, his photographs illustrate off-campus student activities, including visits to Austin’s Barton Springs, Deep Eddy swimming pool, the Colorado River dam, and trips to Walburg, Texas.
The Films series (1926-1986) includes footage from three 16 mm films: the 1926 dedication of the Lutheran Concordia College of Texas; a 1943 promotional film created by George J. Beto, then a Lutheran Concordia College instructor; and a 1986 film, "Cloud of Witnesses," created by Concordia professor Philip Hohle. The 1926 dedication film highlights the opening of Kilian Hall for the first class of Lutheran Concordia College students. The Technicolor Beto film, funded by Concordia's Board of Control, was designed to highlight the school's physical plant, student life, and campus activities. "Cloud of Witnesses" provides a historical overview of Concordia’s origins and development. All films are hosted by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.
The Faculty Minutes series (1930-1958) includes four bound volumes that are hosted online at the Portal to Texas History: 1930-1952; 1952-1953; 1954-1956, and 1956-1958. Early minutes include faculty discussion of curriculum development and student deportment. Minutes were redacted at a previous date to maintain the privacy of students involved in disciplinary actions. Online minutes have been redacted to maintain privacy regarding student academic performance. All student records in this series are subject to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restrictions of seventy-five years from the date of creation of the record. Student and faculty directories included in the minutes would be of interest to genealogists and historians of secondary school development.
Restrictions on Access
The Concordia University Historical Online Collection is a digital collection available through the Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/partners/CUA/, with films available through the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, www.texasarchive.org. Access to physical copies is restricted due to fragility of materials.
Restrictions on Use
Concordia University Texas (CTX) is the owner of the materials in the Concordia University Texas Historical Online Collection unless otherwise noted. Reproductions for research, publication, and other uses may be obtained from The Portal to Texas History. Written permission must be obtained from CTX before any publication use. CTX does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.
Concordia University Texas Historical Online Collection, Concordia University Texas; hosted by the Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu.
When using materials from the Theodore Schmidt collection, please use the following: Used by permission of the family of Theodore Schmidt, which has made historical material available to the Concordia University Texas Online Collection, Concordia University Texas, Austin, Texas, hosted by The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu/.
This collection was processed by Colleen Hobbs and Angelica Delgado, 2015.
Detailed Description of the Papers