Houston Graduate School of Theology had its beginnings in the Friends Institute of Religious Studies which offered continuing education courses for students and pastors in the Evangelical Friends Church (Quaker) beginning in 1976. Dr. Delbert P. Vaughn, Friends pastor, had fostered a vision which included seminary training for Friends pastors in Houston. There was, at that time, no full-time Protestant seminary degree program located in Houston. Thus, in 1983, he and his wife, Dr. Carol C. Vaughn, began the seminary. At that time, the Articles of Incorporation for the Institute were amended to change the name of the school to the Houston Graduate School of Theology and to offer Master of Divinity courses.
HGST met for its first classes in the Institute of Religion, located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. Drs. Ronald and Barbara Worden moved from the college classroom to give leadership to the academic stature of the school. Thirteen students enrolled in summer courses, twenty-six in the fall, and by 1987, the school reached an enrollment of one hundred and forty-two students. As space was at a premium, additional classroom and library space was leased at the Adams Petroleum Center on Fannin Street. As time progressed, the difficulty in operating the school from two locations became evident, so the school was unified at the Adams location in 1991. In 1992 the school began offering the Doctor of Ministry degree.
The school was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1986. At that time the school began to offer the Master of Arts degree with areas of research focused on a selection from the Master of Divinity curriculum. Relationships with the Association of Theological Schools were established and the school was granted Associate Membership in 1988 and became a candidate for Accreditation in 1994. In the spring of that year, a request was received from the Friends Yearly Meeting in North Carolina to offer off-campus courses. A course of study was designed and begun under the leadership of Dr. Frank Scurry.
The premature closing of the Adams Petroleum Center in 1996 brought about another location change for HGST. Adequate facilities were obtained through a relationship with Central Congregational Church (now the First Evangelical Lutheran Church) on Holman Street between the Medical Center and downtown Houston. The move postponed an accreditation evaluation visit from the Association of Theological Schools until the fall of 1996. A two-year accreditation was issued the school, to be revisited in 1998.
Dr. Vaughn retired in 1997 and the board selected Dr. David J. Robinson, Friends Pastor and former Board of Trustees Chairman, to become the second president of the school. The school achieved initial accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools in 2001.
In July 2002, Dr. David Robinson resigned as President of the school to assume the position of Superintendent of the Mid America Yearly Meeting of the Evangelical Friends Church. Dr. Keith A. Jenkins was elected to serve as the seminary’s third president in June 2003. In 2005, the school added a MA in Counseling and moved to its current, larger location at 4300-C West Bellfort. The seminary’s current and fourth president, Dr. James H. Furr, was selected by the Board of Trustees in July 2010.