Clara Boyett, Amy Bennett and Shaun Roberts

eft to right: Clara Boyett, Amy Bennett and Shaun Roberts

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Dean’s Circle at Stephen F. Austin State University is celebrating a milestone this year, marking a decade of recognizing the accomplishments of students within the SFA College of Fine Arts.

Established by Dr. A.C. “Buddy” Himes when he arrived at SFA as dean of the College of Fine Arts, the Dean’s Circle is an external support organization of community members founded in 2008 and “dedicated, in part, to nurturing potential young artists within the College of Fine Arts,” according to Himes.

The Dean’s Awards not only recognize the recipients for what they have already accomplished, but the awards are also designed to inspire students to reach deep from within to aspire to a higher level of excellence, Himes explained. Monetary awards are presented to recipients to help them further their educational and professional pursuits within the fine arts.

“Obviously, a $3,000 cash award is a huge benefit for any student to receive,” Himes said. “But the real value is the affirmation that the recipient and his (or her) classmates sense. When art, music or theatre majors wonder what it takes to be successful in their respective discipline, they need only look to the Dean’s Award recipient in their school as a role model.”

Former Dean’s Award recipients continue to find successes in reaching their higher education goals and in establishing careers.

Shaun Roberts, recipient of the first Dean’s Award in Art presented in 2009, is now an assistant professor of art in the SFA School of Art where he is also area coordinator for painting. After graduating from SFA, he went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington in 2012, after which he was among only 50 students nationally awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Roberts’ work has been in many juried, group and solo exhibitions across the nation, including exhibitions in the Art Museum of South East Texas in Baytown; First Street Gallery in New York City; the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia; and the University of Southern Mississippi Museum of Art in Hattisburg, among others.

Amy Bennett, recipient of the first Dean’s Award in Music in 2009, is in her ninth year in education as a band director in Lamar Consolidated ISD. Her bands have received multiple consecutive sweepstakes awards at the annual UIL Concert and Sight-reading Contest. She enjoys serving as a clinician and adjudicator as well as participating as a speaker and performer in education conferences throughout Texas. In 2014, Bennett completed her Master of Education in administration and supervision from the University of Houston-Victoria. She travels internationally with the music ambassador organization Star of Texas, continues to perform professionally around the Houston area and serves as an oboe instructor with Bocal Majority and SFA Band Camps.

Clara Boyett, recipient of the Dean’s Award in Music in 2014, is pursuing a D.M.A. in piano performance and pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma. She is an active teacher, with current positions including graduate teaching assistant at OU, adjunct piano instructor at Randall University, and piano instructor at Imagine Music and Arts. She previously held a graduate teaching assistantship at Baylor University and co-founded/directed the Austin Avenue Piano Lab, a group piano outreach program for musically underserved children in Waco.

“These students represent only three examples of the many success stories that have come out of the work of the Dean’s Circle over the last 10 years,” Himes said. “These students, and their classmates, contribute so much through the College of Fine Arts to the quality of life in Nacogdoches. I hope the community will, in turn, help perpetuate the good work of the Dean’s Circle by joining us for our 10th anniversary celebration.”

Student awards presented each spring are the Ed and Gwen Cole Dean’s Award in Art, the Naioma Shannon Dean’s Award in Music, the Dr. Robert Sidnell Dean’s Award in Music Education, and the George and Peggy Schmidbauer Dean’s Award in Theatre.

Additionally, in 2014, the Dean’s Circle completed the College of Fine Arts’ first-ever endowed professorship, currently held by Dr. Charles Gavin in the School of Music.

“While other colleges at SFA have endowed professorships, the Dean’s Circle endowment is not only the first for the College of Fine Arts, it is also the first ever for any SFA college resulting from the efforts of an external support advisory board of dedicated community volunteers,” Himes said.

Dean’s Circle members raise additional award monies each fall through the annual Winner’s Circle. The Winner’s Circle, which will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Dean’s Circle, is at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Red House Winery, 108 E. Pilar St. in downtown Nacogdoches. For more information about the event or about joining the Dean’s Circle, contact Himes at (936) 468-2801 or at