On the eve of the university’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the night and morning of June 8-9, 2001, Tropical Storm Allison flooded basements, knocked out power and phone service, and paralyzed the campus. It did $200 million worth of damage to equipment, infrastructure, and ninety buildings and facilities. The storm wiped out years of scientific research and destroyed priceless books and documents. Classes resumed within a week, although some buildings remained closed for weeks.
UH became the first major Texas university to provide a building specifically designed to provide independent accessibility to disabled students when it dedicated the Justin Dart, Jr. Center for Students with DisABILITIES. Dart contracted polio in 1948 before going on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UH and become an advocate of human rights for women, people of color, and the disabled. He was later known as the “father of the Americans with Disabilities Act” for his role in assuring its passage. The center’s office provides accommodations and services to students with temporary or permanent health impairments, physical limitations, psychiatric disorders, or learning disabilities; staff members serve as liaisons between students and faculty, administrators, and community agencies.
The Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, a student-initiated project funded by student fees, changed the look and feel of the campus when it opened. Home to what was then the nation’s largest collegiate natatorium, where Cougars divers Yulia Pakhalina and Anastasia Pozdniakova trained before winning Olympic medals, it was later recognized by the National Intramural-Sports Association as an outstanding facility. In 2014, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center served an average of 3,275 people daily.
Led by Dr. Stanley Woo and Dr. Lloyd Pate, the College of Optometry set up clinics at Reliant Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center to serve Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Their team treated over 2,800 patients, including those with eye diseases, and dispensed over 1,500 pairs of glasses. The University Eye Institute later served 1,236 additional patients, dispensing 1,064 pairs of glasses and 138 pairs of contacts and performing 118 ophthalmic procedures. Sixteen other UH departments and programs also rendered aid to Katrina survivors. In addition, UH enrolled 1,600 students from Xavier, Tulane, Loyola, and the University of New Orleans, and provided a temporary home to Loyola University’s law school, which moved its entire operation to the UH campus.
Renu Khator started her tenure as the eighth UH System chancellor, the thirteenth University of Houston president, the first Indian-American to head a major U.S. higher education system, and the first woman UH System chancellor. During her tenure, UH experienced record enrollment, research expenditures, and fundraising. Accomplishments included launching the Energy Research Park, a $1 billion construction plan that encompassed a football stadium, refurbished/expanded University Center, parking garages, student housing, classroom and lab buildings, a state-of-the-art health and bio-medical sciences facility, and a strategic partnership with the Texas Collegiate Regional Center to foster innovation, accelerate technology commercialization, and promote entrepreneurship at UH.
The “Red Friday” tradition began, calling on the UH community to wear red to show their Cougar Red Spirit.
The Texas Medical Center welcomed UH as a member institution on October 8, 2009, to strengthen collaboration in education, research, planning, and policy development to benefit the Houston community. The University of Houston’s College of Pharmacy had been a member since 1980.
UH embarked on its most important physical expansion when it acquired the 74-acre Schlumberger complex directly east of the campus and launched its Energy Research Park to house academic programs, research labs, and start-up companies. ERP represented one step toward becoming the world’s foremost energy university and a nationally competitive Tier-One research university.