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At the turn of the twentieth century, El Paso seemed the most natural location for a school of mines. Located at the Paso del Norte, a spot that provided a convenient crossing for not one but four transcontinental railroads and a one major interior railroad to the Mexican capital, El Paso found itself a rapidly growing city in support of the mining industry in the region. In addition to excellent rail transportation, the city boasted one of the world’s largest smelters and many mine supply companies. It is here in El Paso that many of its citizens—newspaper publishers, lawyers, elected officials, and, especially, business owners—determined to establish a mining school, organized and run by the state of Texas, for the benefit of their children within their community.

At the turn of the 20th century, mining and metallurgy schools represented the pinnacle of technical education in not only the United States, but throughout the world. The Texas legislature, despite having a state constitution that called for the provision of education within the state, was reticent to spend money on new schools of higher education. Over a span of ten years, from 1903 through 1913, the citizens of El Paso managed to persuade the reluctant legislatures to open not a new school of higher education, but a school of mines, thus overcoming their biases against spending state money on colleges.

The State School of Mines and Metallurgy opened on September 28, 1914, with its first class of twenty-seven students. In 1916, a devastating fire destroyed the main building of the school at its first location adjacent to Ft. Bliss. By 1918, the school had relocated to its current site on the western foothills of the Franklin Mountains, just above Mundy Heights. Here, a new set of wonderful buildings arose, inspired by the architectural designs of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

From its very beginning, it sought to meet the demands of the residents of the Paso del Norte region, transforming itself numerous times. Beginning as a small technical college, UTEP would transform itself within 15 years to a junior college, then to a four-year college in the 1930s, and, ultimately, arrive at the threshold of being recognized as a Tier One research university in the twenty-first century, a mere one hundred years after its founding. UTEP’s story is one of diversity, distance, and dedication. From this corner of the state, UTEP made history in ways that other community within Texas could.



Legal History


Fire of 1916


Junior College Movement

Community Engagement



Information Technology


Related Sites

For more on Texas history, be sure to visit the Texas State Historical Association and the Handbook of Texas Online.


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