The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously asserted that the only constant in life is change, and university life is no exception. As we welcome the change of seasons, SFA is undergoing big and small changes that will impact the institution for years to come.
A few of these changes can be seen and heard around campus, but some significant changes are not obvious to the casual observer. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of both.
This semester, we are celebrating the restoration and expansion of the Griffith Fine Arts Building’s historic bell tower. Thanks to the generosity of the Charles and Lois Marie Bright Foundation, 10 bells have been added to the original 15, creating a full two-octave carillon. Various melodies, including the SFA alma mater, can now be heard by those on campus and nearby, adding to the sense of pride and tradition felt by all Lumberjacks.
Across campus, construction of the Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building is well underway. Earlier this year, the SFA Board of Regents voted to name the building’s three-story glass atrium for Regent Barry Nelson, who passed away in November 2016. As chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, he was an integral part of the building’s planning phase and was particularly committed to including the atrium, which will be the building’s focal point. We deeply regret Regent Nelson will not be with us to celebrate the building’s opening in fall 2018, but we are comforted by the fact that such a significant aspect of SFA’s architecture will appropriately bear his name.
SFA faculty and staff members continue to work collaboratively with our alumni and other stakeholders across all areas of the university, embracing the changes necessary to fulfill the overarching goal of our “SFA Envisioned” strategic plan — transformative experiences for SFA students. Numerous action teams are diligently working to ensure we deliver on that promise, as well as achieve the plan’s supporting goals to attract and support high-quality faculty and staff members; foster academic and co-curricular innovation; redefine university culture; and increase connections both within and outside the university.
As we pursue these initiatives, we are aware of expected changes in state funding that will likely present new challenges. Glenn Hegar, Texas comptroller of public accounts, projects legislators will face a $9 billion reduction in available revenue as they construct the budget for the next biennium. Higher education will likely absorb a significant portion of this reduction. Additionally, Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a hiring freeze that will continue through August for positions funded by state appropriations.
As you can see, the changes we are experiencing at SFA involve both achievements to celebrate and challenges to meet head on. Be assured, we will continue to embrace both as we work to ensure SFA continues to be a source of pride for Lumberjacks across the state and beyond.
I encourage you to visit SFA soon. Perhaps take in an exciting Lumberjack or Ladyjack athletic event or enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens, which put on their best show this time of year. You are always welcome at your alma mater, and that is one thing that will never change.
Axe ’em, Jacks!
Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University