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Sunday, September 17, 2023

A century of learning at Kerrville's Schreiner University

Schreiner Institute, as it appeared in 1923, 100 years ago.
Click on any image to enlarge.

On December 31, 1917, our community received a remarkable gift.

In the early days of Kerr County, just before the Civil War, a young immigrant moved here. His life was not an easy one: he lost his parents when he was young, and was on his own at 16. There were many years of hardship and even poverty for the immigrant and his family and some traces of his homeland never went away. Even late in his life he spoke with a slight accent, a faint echo of his first language, French. Some of his manners were a bit foreign, too. 

Yet he loved Kerrville and Kerr County and his actions proved his feelings for our community.

The immigrant was a hard worker, and he was smart. His business acumen was phenomenal. He was not trained in business; his father had not been a businessperson; he was never an apprentice, learning from a mentor. He had little formal education. 

However, he was a gifted businessman, with an eye for value, and he was an excellent merchant. He built a great fortune. 

His customers liked him, and his community trusted him: they elected him to several public offices, including county treasurer, an office he held for decades. 

Late in his life, after providing for his large family, he gave a lot of his wealth away, in gifts large and small, mostly benefiting the community of Kerrville and our neck of the Texas Hill Country.

The gift which has touched the most lives was his gift of a school on the outskirts of Kerrville, a preparatory school for boys.

The immigrant had the idea for the school before World War I. He announced his plan: On December 31, 1917, he would donate $250,000 to establish the school, along with 140.25 acres of land in Kerrville, with the provision work on it could not begin until the war was over and at least a year had passed from the signing of the peace treaties.

In the years after the announcement about the school, the immigrant added to his gift; the total he gave for the school eventually added up to a little over $550,000.

1923 Schreiner Football Team
It wasn't until 1922 that construction on the school began. Three buildings were erected: a three-story main building, a dormitory, and a headmaster's house. The architectural style of the buildings was described in the Kerrville Mountain Sun as "English Colonial," a style "which is specially adapted to the rugged surroundings and has the further advantage of being very homelike." 

When the cornerstone was dedicated, the immigrant was there.

In September, 1923, 100 years ago, the school opened its doors to students. Again, the immigrant was there for the festivities.

That immigrant, of course, was Charles Schreiner; the school he founded was Schreiner Institute, which is today known as Schreiner University.

In its 100-year history, Schreiner University has only had six presidents: Dr. James Delaney; Dr. Andrew Edington; Dr. Sam Junkin; Dr. Thompson Biggers; Dr. Tim Summerlin; and Dr. Charlie McCormick. I’ve been fortunate to have known five of the six leaders of the school.

As the university celebrates its 100 years of serving students, it’s important to remember the immigrant merchant who founded the school and the hundreds of men and women who have taught there since 1923. The gift of the school, along with the many lessons taught there by dedicated instructors, have made our world a better place.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is especially proud of one Schreiner graduate: his lovely wife, Ms. Carolyn, who graduated from Schreiner College with a teaching degree, which she used as a first-grade teacher in Kerrville for several decades. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 16, 2023.

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