St. Philip’s College Celebrates 125th Anniversary

March 1, 2023

DSO Communications

St. Philip's College Campus

This is a special year for St. Philip’s College. It is kicking off its 125th anniversary on March 1.

St. Philip’s started in 1898 as a church school where a small group of African American girls learned marketable skills – cooking, sewing and caring for the sick. At the time, there were limited opportunities for blacks to advance in the workforce and fewer opportunities for the children and grandchildren of emancipated slaves to build skills.

St. Philip’s began as a private school under the leadership of Bishop James Steptoe Johnson, who also founded the Texas Military Institution. A lawyer and Confederate, Johnson was the son of a prominent slave-holding family in Mississippi. He became an ordained priest in 1871.

Within a few years, the bishop hired then-23-year-old Artemisia Bowden, the daughter of former slaves. Bowden dreamed that St. Philip’s would be a great school. In her 52 years, she grew the institution from a day school to a normal school to an industrial school to a junior college. 

Part of Bowden’s legacy is the establishment of San Antonio Union Junior College District, known today as Alamo Colleges District. The uncertainty of funding led to the decision to first align with the local school district, then create a college district.

St. Philip’s filled a need to educate Blacks in San Antonio. Because there was such a lack of access to education and training for African Americans, the college drew students from across Texas and from neighboring states where there were no opportunities for continuing education and degree attainment.

Bowden ushered the college through the expansion of the GI Bill, which resulted in an enrollment boom, and the integration of white students. Her dream was for St. Philip’s College to become a baccalaureate-offering institution.

In August 2015, Saint Artemisia Bowden was named president emeritus by Alamo Colleges District Board of Trustees and was named a saint, a holy woman by the Episcopal Church.

SPC works with industry partners to ensure that what students learn in the classroom aligns with the skills needed in the workforce. In many programs, its lab equipment surpasses what students find in the real world, so our graduates are qualified through emerging technologies and prepared for the future.

On January 26, St. Philip’s College earned approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to begin offering a bachelor of applied technology in cybersecurity degree, pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This is the realization of Saint Bowden’s dream.

Congratulations on its 125th anniversary. St. Philip’s College and its president, Dr. Adena Williams Loston are celebrating its 125th Anniversary with a 12-month lineup of events and observances in honor of this historic occasion. For more information, visit: