Heather Nolan Yerkes, the daughter of Alvin and Melody Nolan of Lufkin, has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average during her educational career at Stephen F. Austin State University. Yerkes, a home-schooled student, will begin her career as a music teacher in Fort Worth. She is pictured with her husband, Jordan.

A Lufkin native will graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University today with a degree in music and a flawless 4.0 grade-point average.

Heather Nolan Yerkes credits organization and discipline for helping her maintain a perfect GPA with a busy schedule. She not only kept up with the usual coursework and studying and contended with a daily 30-mile commute to campus, but also attended numerous practices and mandatory recitals.

"People oftentimes think that being a music major is not very hard, but I would beg to differ," Yerkes said. Yerkes gives some credit for her success to her husband, Jordan, a Nacogdoches native, who gave much-needed support and encouragement along the way. The two were both music majors at SFA and had many of the same classes, which helped when it came to recitals and practice.

Yerkes has a strong passion for teaching piano, and while she was an SFA student, she taught approximately 30 students each semester at Music World in Lufkin. Her passion for teaching motivated her to succeed in school.

"I loved my job as a piano teacher, and I knew that I needed more education in order to be the best instructor I could be," she said. "Going to work every day was actually a huge encouragement to stay in school because I love to teach."

The couple recently moved to Fort Worth to follow Jordan's dream of building musical instruments and his new job with a company that builds and repairs pipe organs.

"It was somewhat difficult to leave all of my students, but I really wanted to be supportive and go with Jordan on a new adventure."

Yerkes plans to fulfill her dream of opening her own piano studio from home. She looks forward to the flexibility that comes with working from home and some well-deserved relaxation after four years of hard work.

Commencement begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the William R. Johnson Coliseum. Dr. Allen Richman, director of SFA's School of Honors, will be the speaker. Almost 600 degrees will be awarded, with 427 students receiving bachelor's degrees, 152 receiving master's degrees, and two students earning doctoral degrees in education.