The start of a new academic year is always an exciting time to be at SFA. Even after spending more than 50 autumns on our beautiful campus, I still look forward to the sights, sounds and unique traditions that make fall one of the best times to enjoy being a Lumberjack.

As always, we have much to look forward to this semester: new students, faculty members, programs, projects, and opportunities to engage with our alma mater and fellow alumni. But before looking ahead, I want to ensure some recent SFA news didn’t escape your notice.

In April, we celebrated the naming of the Robert and Kathy Lehmann Chemistry Building. Over the years, the Lehmanns have contributed to SFA scholarships and to the advancement of many university programs, including fine arts, modern languages, hospitality, athletics, nursing, the College of Sciences and Mathematics, and the Women in STEM initiative. Their generous support is a testament to their strong commitment to the success of our students and the advancement of the university. Naming the chemistry building in the Lehmanns’ honor will ensure their contributions will never be forgotten.

I also want to take this opportunity to recognize the extraordinary contributions of our students in the area of volunteer service. In addition to attending classes, being involved in the university and, in many cases, working on or off campus, our students logged a total of 103,740 hours of community service during the 2016-17 academic year. Nearly 2,000 students participated in The BIG Event held in April, providing volunteer service at more than 150 residential and community sites throughout Nacogdoches County — all in one day. The BIG Event, along with other service-learning initiatives such as MLK Day of Service, Alternative Breaks and Jacks Give Back, provide invaluable opportunities for our students to make a difference in others’ lives while they work toward their SFA degrees.

For the third-straight year, SFA was awarded the 2016-17 Commissioner’s Cup recognizing the top athletic program in the Southland Conference. This is the fifth time SFA has received this honor, and we are now tied for the most all-time wins since the competition was instituted 15 years ago. With the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches and staff members, as well as the support of our alumni and Lumberjack fans far and wide, we hope to be sitting alone in the all-time category by next summer.

Some of your first opportunities to support SFA athletics this fall will be Lumberjack football games. I hope you’ll mark your calendars for the first game of the 2017 season against Southern Methodist University Sept. 2 in Dallas, the first home game against Southern Utah University Sept. 9, the annual Battle of the Piney Woods against Sam Houston State University Oct. 7 at NRG Stadium in Houston and the Homecoming game against Houston Baptist University Oct. 21.

As we look forward to the new academic year, we also are addressing some financial challenges. As expected, higher education is absorbing a significant portion of state budget cuts. That translates to a reduction of more than $5 million in SFA’s general revenue operating funds for the upcoming biennium. Our administration and faculty and staff members have been diligently working to make difficult but necessary adjustments while striving to keep the impact on our students and academic programs to a minimum. Despite these challenges, our commitment to providing transformative student experiences remains as strong as ever.

In May, we celebrated the largest graduating class in SFA history with more than 1,400 students receiving degrees and joining the ranks of proud SFA alumni. I encourage them and all of you to continue to nurture your relationship with SFA by visiting campus, attending games and other university events, and wearing your purple with pride as often as you can. Thank you for all you do to make SFA such a special place to live and learn.

Axe ’em, Jacks!

Pattillo Signature

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