Sam Houston State University Class Ring

Founding Year: 1879

Mascot: Sammy Bearkat

Colors: Orange

Sam Houston State University is the third oldest educational institution in the State of Texas. Originally, the university campus was home to Austin College, the same school Sam Houston attended. Throughout the course of its history, Sam has undergone several name changes.

* April 21, 1879, founded as Sam Houston Normal Institute

* 1923: Sam Houston State Teachers College

* 1965: Sam Houston State College

* 1967: Sam Houston State University

SHSU is well known for their criminal justice program. Not only is it one of the largest and oldest criminal justice program, but it was nationally ranked as the top 5 programs by the Journal of Criminal Justice. SHSU also boasts the theater and dance programs being ranked top 25 nationally by Dance Spectrum Magazine. The university also offers the only Professional Golf Management Program in Texas.


Although the school was found in 1879, it wasn’t until 2003 when the university found its beloved official ring. The ring was designed and revealed by a proud committee of SHSU alumni, student body, and faculty members. The group envisioned a ring that would symbolize the pride of SHSU and stand the test of time. Today, this ring has become an engrained tradition of the SHSU. Each element of this ring was carefully chosen to accurately capture the significance of Sam Houston and the university’s pride. On one side of the ring, 1879 is engraved with the student’s graduation year. On the opposite side is Austin Hall, one of the oldest buildings used by an educational institution. The heart of the ring includes SH and a star, which symbolizes the State of Texas. On the inside of the ring, the word “Honor” is cast around the band to imitate the same ring Sam Houston’s mother gave him when he joined the U.S. army. "never disgrace it: for remember I had rather all my sons should fill one honorable grave, than one of them should turn his back to save his life." -Elizabeth Houston students wear the ring so that the school name face them, upon graduation, graduates can face the ring the other way, symbolizing that the graduate is prepared to take on the world.

Ring Celebration and Tradition

The first official ring ceremony was held in 2004. There ceremony celebrates the achievements on the night of the ceremony, each SHSU ring spends the night at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Sam Houston’s home. It is held to respect understudies who have taken part in the ring Tradition. The event happens amid the Fall Semester and gives a chance for family, recognized alumni, and college delegates to honor the students' achievements.


Birth of a Mascot

Believe it or not, the university’s athletic teams were actually nicknamed “The Normals”. It wasn’t until 1923 Sam Houston State University coined the term “The Bearkats” when the Texas government changed the name of the school from Sam Houston Normal Institute to Sam Houston State Teachers College. The mascot originally had early derivatives of “Bearcats” or “Bear Cats”.  A bearcat actually is a kinkajou, a carnivorous mammal native to South America 10 to 12 inches in length with whiskers like a cat that sits up on its hind haunches like a bear. he popular local motto of the time was, “tough as a Bearkat” However, the animal was actually more made up than real, which settled the spelling as “Bearkat”. SHSU actually had a real kinkajou mascot in 1952 but the animal could not be domesticated and was released into its natural habitat. The current Sammy Bearkat became an icon at different SHSU sporting events in 1959.

Bearkat Camp

Like with any other university, SHSU has a 4 day orientation for incoming freshmen. New students embrace and learn about the SHSU traditions and pride that have become integrated within the culture. The incoming freshmen engage in many student led activities. These group activities provide the students with team building exercises and opportunities to build lasting friendships with other freshmen as they become a part of the SHSU student body.

Bearkat Alley

This is the official tailgate area during football season. During every home game, the school hosts a variety of organizations and clubs who set up camp around the North side of Bowers Stadium. What makes this unique is each organization cooks a variety of tailgate foods, which is free for all those who attend the tailgate. There are also giveaways for pride shirts, towels, face paint, and other mascot gear to show of the Sam Houston pride!

Tree of Light

The Tree of Light Ceremony is one of Sam Houston State University’s oldest and cherished traditions. Each year, the University President lights the tree. There is also a collection for donation of canned food items, Christmas carols from the choir, and a rendition of “Jingle Bells”, in which the audience takes their keys and “jingles” in sync with the tune. Before taking their exams, it has been customary for students to leave pennies on the base of the statue of Mr. Lawrence Sullivan Ross aka Sul, for good luck. Sul was the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas’ president from 1891 – 1898 and the tradition to “put a penny on Sully” is more than just a petition for good luck. It is said that Ross would help students with their homework, and when students would ask how they could repay him, Ross would reply with, “A penny for your thoughts.”

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