This spring will mark my 50th year serving Stephen F. Austin State University, and in that time there have been many unforgettable moments. The most recent of these was shared by many other proud alumni, as well as 50 million television viewers—the Lumberjack Marching Band’s first-ever performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Our LMB was one of only four university bands chosen to march the famed route this year, and the band members and directors planned, rehearsed and raised money for a year and a half to prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime performance. As one of SFA’s most visible groups, the LMB continuously represents our alma mater on campus and around the world with an unparalleled combination of talent and Lumberjack spirit that has provided the soundtrack for countless SFA memories for our alumni.
There were many other highlights this fall, including the recording of SFA’s highest-ever first-time, first-year retention rate. At 71 percent, the retention rate passed the previous record set in 2014. During the past five years, the university’s retention rate has increased by 6 percentage points. This is a testament to the many innovative success initiatives our faculty and staff members have developed to ensure more of our students earn their SFA diplomas.
Learning about other languages and cultures through international programs is now part of the academic experience for many SFA students, and the university recently was recognized for the study abroad opportunities it provides. The university was named a top provider in the fourth annual Study Abroad Rankings by the country’s largest study abroad review website, Abroad101. This award is especially meaningful because it is based on student reviews of their study abroad experiences. Our faculty members and the Office of International Programs devote many hours to developing study abroad opportunities to benefit our students, and their efforts are highly deserving of this recognition.
For the second consecutive year, the Lumberjack basketball team was invited to participate in a featured game during ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon. Although the game was held at Northern Iowa rather than SFA this year, the high-profile match-up was an appropriate start to what should prove to be another exciting year for our basketball programs.
Alumni who are not able to be at William R. Johnson Coliseum to support the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks in person this basketball season can now watch every home game on ESPN3. As part of ESPN’s college initiative, SFA is now live streaming all home football, soccer, volleyball and basketball games, enabling Lumberjack fans to keep up with our teams—whether they are just down the street or on the opposite side of the globe.
Another possible change on the horizon for SFA would have many long-term benefits for our Lumberjack family. Recently, the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association approved a joint resolution to establish SFA as a tobacco-free campus. I have accepted the resolution and asked the SFA Employee Wellness Advisory Board to make policy recommendations. I hope to carry a proposed policy to the January meeting of the Board of Regents.
As fall gives way to the holiday season, I wish you many blessings in the coming year. Thank you for your continued support of SFA and its students and programs.
Axe ’em, Jacks!
Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University