In 1959, the South Texas Junior College, which for 11 years had been intrinsically tied to the destiny of the South Texas College of Law, decided to become accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). It was a major step for the College, since SACS, established in 1895, had a very rigorous process for accreditation and there were several hurdles to jump over before being approved. We are lucky in the archives to have the personal correspondence between Chester Cochran, South Texas director of development, and Gordon Sweet, Executive Secretary of SACS, during the process of initial accreditation.
The College began investigating the process in 1956, and by late 1958 reached out to the organization to apply. The preliminary site visit was promising, but there were concerns: namely, that the Junior College had no separate Board, the library was in several unconnected rooms, the Registrar and the Dean of Students were the same person, there were not enough women for a co-educational college, and the faculty did not do enough service through committees and administration. After several site visits and a lot of letter writing (and some rented limousines for the SACS officials, and a few golf games at the Houston Country Club with John Kelsey and other influential Houstonians), Mr. Sweet was pleased to offer the final report and acceptance.
When SACS offered their accreditation to South Texas, many substantive changes had occurred, probably in what felt like a whirlwind to the college community. Faculty were shown to be more engaged, the library built out new space, the students had created a Student Government Association, and most importantly, the Junior College had begun to administratively de-tangle itself from the College of Law (the Colleges would break permanently in 1966).
Even today, a visit from SACS, like the one that occurred this past April, is a flurry of activity as the University puts its best foot forward for inspection. During the first round of this process nearly 60 years ago, it must have felt like quite an accomplishment indeed to make it through the gauntlet.