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 The University of Tulsa is a private, independent, doctoral-degree-granting institution whose mission reflects these core values: excellence in scholarship, dedication to free inquiry, integrity of character, and commitment to humanity.


History & Traditions


The University of Tulsa has its roots in the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls, a small boarding school in Muskogee, Indian Territory, which was founded in 1882. In 1894, at the request of the Synod of Indian Territory, the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church elevated the academy’s status and chartered it as Henry Kendall College, a name that honored the first general secretary of the Home Missions Board. The first classes in the new college were held on September 12, 1894.

In the years following, financial difficulties prompted school officials to ask the Synod of Indian Territory to assume control, sell the school’s land and seek a new location. Successfully courted by the business and professional community of Tulsa, which was booming after the discovery of oil at Glenpool, Henry Kendall College moved to Tulsa in 1907, the year of Oklahoma’s statehood. Several years later, a new college, to be named after oilman Robert M. McFarlin, was proposed for the city. Aware that Tulsa was not large enough to support two competing colleges, the Henry Kendall College trustees proposed that the contemplated McFarlin College and Kendall College affiliate under the common name “The University of Tulsa.” A charter for the university was approved on November 9, 1920. By 1928, the articles of incorporation had been amended to create the modern structure as an independent school corporation governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Today, TU operates as an independent, nondenominational university. A top-rated research institution, the university welcomes students from many different faiths and countries. The TU campus fosters a rich, diverse experience for students and faculty regardless of religious or cultural background through a strong belief in mutual respect and understanding.


Most top universities have beloved traditions and TU is no different.

Ringing the Cupola Bell

One of the oldest traditions at TU, dating back more than a half-century, graduating seniors ring the cupola bell after completing the last final exam of their TU careers. Many students ring the bell again on Commencement day.

Homecoming Bonfire

It wouldn’t be fall on a college campus without Homecoming and TU kicks it off in style with a bonfire on Dietler Commons. The band plays, cheerleaders rev up the crowd, and representatives from the student body, alumni, faculty and administration light the bonfire together.

Carols and Lights on Sharp Plaza

A beloved tradition in England is also a cherished tradition in the TU family. Everyone gathers at Sharp Chapel for the Festival of Lessons & Carols. The festival is also when the lights are first illuminated, signifying the beginning of the holidays.


Springfest is a chance to grab a blanket, kick back and hear some live music. Recent years have seen some big acts brought to campus, where the concerts have been moved from the commons to the Reynolds Center to accommodate large crowds.

Toilet Bowl

For nearly 40 years, the residents of John Mabee Hall, also known as “The John,” have organized the Toilet Bowl flag football game each spring. At halftime, the Toilet Bowl queen is crowned; and there’s a big party following the game.


Internationalization Initiative

Dr. Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute for International Education, advised America’s university trustees that, “U.S. institutions of higher education need foreign policies, but not in the traditional sense of the phrase. Their leaders need to formulate institution-wide policies to assess their current engagement with the world and future strategic agenda.”

TU’s ‘foreign policy’ is reflected in our mission statement, to educate “men and women of diverse backgrounds and cultures” to “welcome the responsibility of citizenship and service in a changing world.” As part of this mission, TU has identified internationalization as an institutional priority. The internationalization strategic plan seeks to make international, intercultural, or global awareness is a central formative experience for all TU students.

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With more than 1,200 students from 79 countries, The University of Tulsa provides a safe and welcoming environment for students from all nations. The University of Tulsa’s growing academic reputation has placed us among the top 100 schools in well-known U.S. publications that rate institutions of higher learning; and our College of Engineering and Natural Sciences enjoys international renown. Here at TU, faculty, administrators, students and staff value our diverse campus population because it enriches the educational experience for all.

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