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. In 1926, the articles of incorporation were amended to create its modern structure as an independent school corporation governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.
Today, TU operates as an independent, nondenominational university.