NACOGDOCHES, Texas - In the opening years of the 20th century, local citizens set about convincing the Texas Legislature to open a state college in Nacogdoches.
Toward that end, the group created an illustrated pamphlet titled "Twenty-Three Reasons Why Stephen F. Austin State Normal College Ought to be Located in Nacogdoches." Among these revelations were that the city offered a delightfully mild climate, cheap electricity and a good sewage system, rare natural beauty, a progressive business spirit, ample entertainment facilities, a high moral tone, and three two-story hotels. The 23rd reason given was that Nacogdoches "links old Texas with the new."
The townspeople prided themselves on the high value they placed on education, and their hard work and ingenuity paid off. In 1917, Nacogdoches was selected as the site of the newly chartered school, but progress was delayed by World War I. On Sept. 18, 1923, SFA welcomed its first students to class, and the rest, as they say, is history.
A Year of Celebration
The university's 90th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the coming academic year, and planning is under way for a variety special events and activities, according to Jill Still, vice president for university advancement and chair of the 90th anniversary planning committee.
"Excitement for the anniversary has been building for months, and there will be many opportunities for students, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of SFA to join in the celebrations surrounding this important milestone," she said. "Our 90th anniversary year is an appropriate time to honor SFA's proud traditions and extraordinary record of achievement while also looking ahead to new and exciting initiatives that will help ensure the continued success of our institution for many years to come."
Cake and Ice Cream
A 90th-anniversary celebration is planned for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Plaza. The event will pay homage to a tradition that dates all the way back to SFA's opening day. At the end of that first day of classes 90 years ago, the faculty, staff and students enjoyed cake in celebration of the 50th birthday of SFA's first president, Dr. Alton W. Birdwell. Likewise, members of the SFA and Nacogdoches communities will gather to kick off the anniversary year in true Lumberjack style - with birthday cake and purple ice cream. Nacogdoches Mayor Roger Van Horn will be in attendance along with other special guests, including legislative representatives and the oldest and youngest members of the SFA Alumni Association.
Austin Building Lighting
Each night beginning Wednesday, Sept. 18, the Austin Building located on the corner of Vista and Alumni drives will be draped with a 90th-anniversary banner and illuminated with purple lights.
The SFA Office of Development is spearheading a special fundraising campaign throughout September, encouraging students, alumni, parents, friends, and faculty and staff members to make a donation to the university in honor of the 90th anniversary. Donations may be made in any amount - including suggested gifts of $9, $19.23, $90, $192.30, $900 or $1,923. Gifts may be directed to the donors' area of choice: academics, athletics, scholarships or other. To make a 90th-anniversary gift online, visit sfasu.edu/give.
The first-ever SFA coin toss will be held at the Stephen F. Austin statue in Sesquicentennial Plaza. The coin toss will last 19 hours and 23 minutes, in deference to the university's first year of operation, and will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, and from 8 a.m. to 3:23 p.m. Wednesday, Sept 18.
SFA faculty and staff members, students, alumni, and friends will have the opportunity to donate coins to the SFA area or areas of their choice, including academics, athletics and scholarships. University representatives will be on hand to assist participants who wish to donate to a specific SFA college, department or scholarship fund.
The East Texas Research Center is encouraging alumni and others to donate SFA documents and memorabilia to help grow the University Archives in honor of the 90th anniversary. Greg Bailey, records manager and university archives librarian, says the ETRC welcomes donated SFA artifacts of all kinds, including photographs, journals, scrapbooks, school records, certificates and awards, correspondence - even old uniforms, letter jackets and the like.
"These and other unique items enrich our archives and play an important role in the documentation of the history of Stephen F. Austin State University," he said. "They also serve as primary resources for student and faculty researchers, as well as the East Texas community as a whole."
The ETRC also is collecting former students' favorite memories of SFA through the ongoing Alumni Memory Project. The project's goal is to collect, preserve and make available to the SFA community the history of student life at the university. Memories are added to the University Archives digital collection as they are received.
Donations of SFA memorabilia may be made in person at the ETRC, located on the second floor of Steen Library. For more information about contributing to the University Archives or the Alumni Memory Project, call (936) 468-4100 or visit library.sfasu.edu/etrc.
Also coinciding with SFA's 90th anniversary, the ETRC staff has developed the SFA Timeline, a pictorial view of the expansion of the university through the nine decades of its existence. The SFA Timeline features photographs and brief biographies of the university presidents, histories of college buildings, and narratives of significant campus events. This is an ongoing project that will periodically receive updates. Take a step back in time to see how the university has evolved since 1923. Visit the SFA Timeline at library.sfasu.edu/etrc.
In honor of the 90th anniversary, SFA students have pledged to complete 90,000 hours of community service during the 2013-14 academic year.
"The celebration of the 90th anniversary is an excellent time to highlight the impact our students make on our community, state, nation and world every year," said Dr. Adam Peck, dean of student affairs. "I am excited about what can be accomplished when our students meet their goal of 90,000 hours of community service this year."