The seal of the University of Houston, officially adopted in 1938, is the coat of arms of General Sam Houston, who claimed descent from a Norman Knight, Sir Hugh.
The legend is that Sir Hugh fought well at Hastings and was given lands by King William I on the Scottish border for his services. He built a stronghold there called Hughstown, and eventually, “Houstoun.” Sir Hugh supposedly became a vassal of Malcolm III, King of Scotland and son of Duncan I, who was murdered by Macbeth. Malcolm III returned from exile to kill Macbeth in battle and gained the Scottish throne in 1057. On a raid across the border into England, Malcolm III became hard pressed by opposing forces and Sir Hugh came just in time to save him.
In return, King Malcolm gave Sir Hugh a Scottish knighthood and better lands in Renwickshire. More importantly, the king gave permission for his rescuer to embellish and change his coat of arms. The simple escutcheon awarded by William the Conqueror, consisting of checkered chevrons (denoting nobility) and three ravens (strength and long life) was changed considerably. A winged hourglass was added above the shield and surmounting this, the motto, “In Tempore” (In Time). Greyhounds were placed at the sides to indicate the speed with which Sir Hugh came to the king’s aid. Martlets, gentle lowland birds symbolizing peace and deliverance, supplanted the ravens.
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 official colors of the University of Houston are Scarlet Red and Albino White. These were the colors of Sam Houston’s ancestor, Sir Hugh, and were adopted by UH at the same time as the seal. 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 layman’s terms, 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 Cougar sign, made by folding in the ring finger of the hand towards the palm, has several stories explaining its meaning. The true story of its origin, however, dates back to 1953, the first time UH played The University of Texas in football. Since this was their first meeting, members of Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity in charge of taking care of Shasta I, the university’s mascot, brought her to the game. During the trip, Shasta’s front paw was caught in the car door and one toe was cut off. At the game, members of the opposing team discovered what had happened and began taunting UH players by holding up their hands with the ring finger bent, saying UH’s mascot was an invalid and so were our players. Texas went on to win this game 28-7. UH students were very upset by this and began using the sign as notice that they would never let UT forget the incident. Fifteen years later, at their second meeting, the UH Cougars, proudly holding up the now adopted symbol of UH pride, fought Texas to a 20-20 tie.
UH did not play Texas again for eight years, our first year as members of the Southwest Conference. The Cougars were on a mission, and in front of 77,809 spectators (at that time the largest crowd ever in attendance at Memorial Stadium in Austin) slammed the lid on the disgrace Texas had attempted to put upon UH 23 years earlier. The final score was the University of Houston Cougars, 30, the Texas Longhorns, 0.
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
The BLAZE is an oil field warning siren that was chosen to represent the University’s ties to the petroleum industry. The purchase of the siren was completed in 1991. The Sigma Chi Fraternity has been in charge of the siren up to this point and gave it the name “The BLAZE” in honor of their fallen brother, David Blazek.
Each year a piece of the campus is transformed into a town called “Fiesta City” the site of a student run festival featuring live concerts, variety shows, carnival booths, multicultural performances, a barbecue cook-off, and a bake contest. Founded in 1940 by Dr. Kemmerer, Frontier Fiesta reached its pinnacle in 1953 when it was drawing crowds of 150,000. Typically, campus leaders like Jack Valenti and Welcome Wilson, Sr. were also leaders of Frontier Fiesta. Limitations on the time students could spend brought Fiesta to an end by 1961. In 1992 it was resumed and, though the site has changed four times, Frontier Fiesta continues to promote scholarship, community, and education in UH students, staff, and faculty as well as the community attracting 20 - 35,000 each year.
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.
Bayou Oaks Clock Tower
Constructed in 2003, Bayou Oaks residence complex is home to one of the University of Houston’s most visible landmarks: a five story clock tower. As part of Vice President Elwyn Lee’s effort to stimulate spirit and tradition, the lights in the clock tower were rewired so that they could turn RED, which they do, whenever there is a Cougar football victory or a men’s basketball win or a conference championship in the other sports. Go Coogs!
Rub the Cougar Paw
In 2003 John and Rebecca Moores, two alumni filled with Cougar Spirit and Pride, commissioned the Cougars overlooking Cullen Plaza. They were sculpted by the famous Alaska based artist R.T. “Skip” Wallen. Each weighs in excess of 1,000 pounds and together they symbolize the University’s Courage, Pride and Tenacity. The Cougars are part of the UH tradition – so is winning. The campus community and alumni “Rub the Paw” for good luck, especially during the week before Homecoming to show support for the team.
The history of the Cougar mascot dates back to 1947 when the Alpha Phi Omega organization sponsored a drive to purchase the school’s first live mascot. The name “Shasta” was chosen in a “name-the-cat” contest held that same year. Shasta has since retired, but her character and energy live on in every aspect of life at the University of Houston. Her fighting spirit is represented by our energetic student mascot at most sporting events.
In the fall of 1994, the Frontiersmen began running the UH flag across the field after each score at football games. In 1996, the Frontiersmen displayed the Texas Flag as well as the University of Houston flag at football games as a form of respect and obligation as the lone representative of the State of Texas in the newly formed Conference USA. The tradition has continued although other Texas Universities have joined Conference USA in recent years.
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