The Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District founded Houston Junior College as a public institution after students requested HISD superintendent E. E. Oberholtzer create an institution of higher learning in Houston, where they might continue their education. Oberholtzer became president of the college.
The summer session opened with classes held at San Jacinto High School on Holman Street. By the fall, Houston Junior College had 232 students and a faculty of eight. The college held night classes only to avoid conflict with the high school’s schedule.
The first issue of The Cougar was published, and the bi-monthly student newspaper became the first extracurricular student activity at HJC. The paper began weekly publication in 1935.
John R. Bender, the school’s first physical education instructor and coach of early on-campus athletic teams, is credited with naming the college’s mascot—the Cougar. He loved the animal, which he saw as a symbol of courage and tenacity, admirable traits for both athletic teams and students. Bender coached the Washington State Cougars early in his career.