John and Karen Mast of Nacogdoches have established a professorship in the Nelson Rusche College of Business at Stephen F. Austin State University. Baker Phares, center, will serve as the first John and Karen Mast Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance.

A Nacogdoches couple has established a professorship in Stephen F. Austin State University's Department of Economics and Finance to provide faculty salary funding with the intent to provide students with valuable real-word experience.

Banker Phares of Nacogdoches has been selected as the first faculty member to serve as the John and Karen Mast Professor. Phares holds a degree in government from Lamar University and a juris doctorate from Southern Methodist University. He served on the board of editors of the Southwestern Law Review and is board certified in estate planning and probate. Phares has served on the SFA faculty since 2009, and in 2012 received the Phi Alpha Kappa Outstanding Faculty award.

As senior lecturer and director of SFA's financial planning program, Phares will provide instruction to students that centers on real-world cases. According to Dr. Todd Brown, chair of the department, this knowledge is important because it is expected of entry-level employees in the financial sector where on-the-job training is no longer customary.

At SFA, we are able to provide both the theoretical knowledge and a hands-on education," Brown said. "That's one of the benefits of attending SFA, rather than a larger school. 'Hands-on' just isn't possible in a classroom with 200 students."

The Mast family has a history of supporting SFA. In 2012, John Mast and his brother, Dr. Travis Mast of Nacogdoches, and sister, Tricia Mast George of Dallas, created the Mast Student Investment Roundtable. Endowments created by their parents, A.T. and Patricia Mast, have benefitted SFA academic and art scholarships, the School of Nursing, and the Mast Arboretum.

"My father and grandfather really loved this town, and my father attended SFA for a year before he went off to war," John Mast said. "My parents had a great relationship with SFA and have given nice gifts to the university, but that was their contribution. We just thought it was important to carry that on with our generation and continue what they started."

The roundtable invests more than $400,000, which includes funds from the SFA Alumni Foundation, the SFASU Foundation and other funding sources. The group's ultimate goal is to invest the funds in a manner that outperforms the S&P 500. The students have achieved that goal on multiple occasions.

For more information about the college of business at SFA, visit