Every autumn, Lumberjacks look forward to familiar sights and sounds heralding the start of a new academic year. This year is no exception as we welcome new and returning students to campus and begin another challenging and rewarding semester. But this fall, those returning to class or visiting campus also will notice some distinct changes to the SFA landscape.

Todd Hall and Gibbs Hall have been razed to make way for the construction of a new $46 million science, technology, engineering and mathematics facility. The Board of Regents voted in April to name the structure the Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to these cherished SFA benefactors whose generous support of our students, faculty members and programs has changed the lives of countless grateful Lumberjacks. Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in November and should be completed by fall 2018.

The new semester also marks the start of Dr. Steve Bullard’s first full academic year as provost and vice president for academic affairs. He was named to the position this past spring, having previously served as interim provost and as dean of the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture. Dr. Bullard brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the post and is strongly committed to the overarching goal of SFA’s new strategic plan, providing transformative experiences for our students. I am pleased Dr. Bullard has joined our administrative team and look forward to working with him to further strengthen our university.

In the spring, we also welcomed new head men’s basketball coach Kyle Keller to campus. Coach Keller brings 25 years of experience to SFA, including the past five seasons as an assistant coach at Texas A&M University. He and the Lumberjacks are already hard at work preparing for what we all hope will be another historic basketball season. I look forward to seeing many of you at Johnson Coliseum as we cheer on the Lumberjacks to victory.

Like all other public universities in Texas, SFA is being affected this fall by the Legislature’s passage of the Campus Carry Law, which permits those properly licensed to carry a concealed handgun on our campus. In accordance with the new law, the university has designated the following areas where carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited: Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, Human Services Building, Student Health Services Building, third floor of the Rusk Building, locations of sporting events and athletic competitions, and portions of the University Police Department. In addition, SFA became a tobacco-free campus this fall, meaning the use of all tobacco and vape products is now prohibited on SFA property. I am grateful for the extensive work contributed by SFA faculty and staff members to both of these important issues, which were studied by the university in depth before the relevant policies were enacted. The safety and well-being of all members of the SFA family remain our top priorities.

There is one more change coming to SFA that you will likely never see, but you will definitely hear beginning in early 2017. With funding provided by the Charles and Lois Marie Bright Foundation, the bell tower atop the Griffith Fine Arts Building will be restored and enhanced this fall. Ten bells will be added to the existing 15 to create a carillon, a two-octave musical instrument consisting of 25 cast-bronze, cup-shaped bells. The carillon’s melodies will commemorate special on-campus occasions and holidays, serving to enhance the campus, celebrate SFA’s unique history and welcome Lumberjacks back home for generations to come.

Axe ’em, Jacks!

Pattillo Signature

Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University