Home I-10 corridor TMI Episcopal marks 125th anniversary with yearlong observance

TMI Episcopal marks 125th anniversary with yearlong observance

Coed school started as all-male military academy; once nicknamed ‘West Point on the Rio Grande’

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TMI Episcopal moved from Alamo Heights to its present site on the far North Side about three decades ago. The private school is celebrating a 125th birthday. Photo by Collette Orquiz

Celebrating 125 years of existence, TMI Episcopal will continue following a proven path built on tradition, academic success, spiritual growth and adaptability, educators said.

“Who we are is who we’ve always been, and that’s a school that raises great human beings,” said the Rev. Scott J. Brown, headmaster.

The coed, private, college-preparatory institution for pupils in sixth through 12th grade is holding a yearlong celebration to honor its founding with a military focus in 1893 by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

Activities are planned for both students and the community.

An anniversary party Oct. 3 featured a birthday cake, while students organized a disco-inspired homecoming theme of “125 Stayin’ Alive.”

“We remember our history and we respect our history and we still try to bring that back into everything we do,” said Allan Rupe, Class of 1980, who’s been an art teacher there since 1990.

125 years of TMI Episcopal: Texas Military Institute campus in Alamo Heights (top); West Texas Military Academy cadets marching near Fort Sam Houston in 1908 (middle, left); All Saints Chapel at current campus, TMI Episcopal (middle, right); aerial view of the Texas Military Institute campus. Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

The birthday observance culminates with a special gala on April 6 as part of Stars Over TMI, the yearly fundraiser. Events can be found at tmi-sa.org/page/tmi-125th-anniversary.

Looking ahead, as TMI grows there’s been expansion talk and possibly adding an elementary school. This academic year, 475 students are enrolled, with 10 to 12 learners per class.

“It’s tricky finding the right balance. How big do we want to be? If we get too big, then we lose a lot of that community, kind of family feel that we have here,” said Sherry Brown, director of the English department.

Hired in 2011, her husband and their children attended TMI.

Nestled on the far North Side in the foothills of the Hill Country, the school — though not as big as some local private campuses — gives students room to follow their passions, whether it’s academia, sports or something else, teachers said.

“We certainly have a standard of academic rigor. We also want kids that we feel like we can help or are intellectually curious,” Sherry Brown said. “We really are interested in the whole child. It’s not just an academic benchmark they have to meet.”

TMI is situated on a bluff overlooking Interstate 10 West at 20955 W. Tejas Trail. The current campus opened 30 years ago and sits on 80 acres.

Originally known as the West Texas Military Academy, it was established by the Right Rev. James Steptoe Johnston. Some even called it “West Point on the Rio Grande.”

It would remain WTMA until 1926, changing to Texas Military Institute. In 2005, it became TMI-The Episcopal School of Texas (shortened to TMI Episcopal in 2017).

The first campus opened on Government Hill near Fort Sam Houston and moved to Alamo Heights in 1911. Known as “Old Main,” WTMA’s building was designed and built by graduates Willard and Guy Simpson.

Other historical highlights include the acceptance of females in 1972 and becoming military-optional in 1974.

“Part of the reason we’re still here is our ability to adapt. We have been able to change from an all-male military school, to bringing in females, to bringing in civilians to the school, and adapting to the culture and the changing times,” Rupe said. “The schools that couldn’t do that are gone.”

Rupe was part of the military program at TMI and a battalion commander. His father was one of the architects who helped create TMI’s current campus.

The art teacher met his late wife, Betsy, on campus. She was a science instructor and they worked on the yearbook together. After her death from cancer, a yearbook scholarship in her name was established.

Their three sons attend TMI.

About one-fourth of students are in the Army JROTC program, known as the “Keepers of Tradition.”

Notable graduates include Gen. Douglas MacArthur, actor Dan Blocker of “Bonanza” fame, astronaut David Scott, banker Tom Frost, former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, Ambassador Henry E. Catto Jr., La Quinta Inns founder Sam Barshop and longtime columnist Maury Maverick Jr.

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