SFA alumni Michelle and Harmon Smith take a photo together on a beach.

Stephen F. Austin State University alumni Michelle and Harmon Smith, both 1985 accounting graduates, have endowed a new professorship at the Schlief School of Accountancy in the Rusche College of Business.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University accounting alumni Michelle and Harmon Smith have endowed a new professorship in the Rusche College of Business’ Schlief School of Accountancy.

The Smiths, both of whom graduated from SFA in 1985, know how important faculty members are to a student’s college experience and career launch.

“We firmly believe that the faculty of a university is critical to student success,” Michelle said. “Those faculty members who actively engage with students and challenge their critical thinking make a lasting impact.”

The Michelle and Harmon Smith Endowed Professorship is the seventh professorship for the Rusche College of Business and the fourth for the Schlief School of Accountancy. The faculty member chosen for this professorship will be committed to engaging students in meaningful learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom, said Dr. Tim Bisping, dean of the Rusche College of Business.

“Attracting and retaining innovative faculty members who seek new and creative methods to best prepare students for rewarding careers and success in life is essential to the mission of our college,” said Bisping, who will oversee the selection of the professorship recipient. “The Michelle and Harmon Smith Endowed Professorship will help ensure we continue to attract exceptional faculty members to benefit students for years to come.”

Michelle was born in Michigan and moved many times with her family, eventually ending up in Waco when her family settled there during her senior year of high school. Harmon, who grew up in Hughes Springs, was the first in his family to graduate from college. Both visited bigger universities but decided SFA was the right fit for them.

Harmon remembers how much SFA faculty members helped him prepare for a future beyond East Texas.

“My freshman English composition teacher, Dr. Diane Corbin, instilled confidence in me that, despite being from a small town and having a modest upbringing, I could achieve anything I wanted,” Harmon said. “My world history teacher, Dr. William Brophy, taught me to ‘live’ history instead of just reading about it. His personal interactions with Dr. Martin Luther King made a huge impression on me.”

SFA faculty members also shaped the way he thought about accounting, which would become his future career.

“My intermediate accounting instructor, Sharron Graves, taught me how accounting could influence key business decisions instead of just reporting the numbers,” Harmon said. “She also demonstrated a belief in my potential through her role as our Beta Alpha Psi sponsor.”

Beta Alpha Psi, the international honor organization for financial information students and professionals, contributed not only to Harmon’s professional life but also to his personal life. Despite having the same major, the Smiths didn’t meet until their senior year, when they were both members of the honor society and played softball on opposite teams at a Beta Alpha Psi event on SFA’s Intramural Fields.

“I knew when Michelle made a huge deal out of catching my hard-hit fly ball that she had some interest in me,” Harmon said. “While it took some convincing, she finally agreed to go on a date with me, and the rest is history.”

Michelle added, “Well, Harmon’s side of the story is mostly true. He had been flirting with me during the game and had boasted that there was no way I could get him out. When I did, it presented an opportunity for us to get to know each other better. We have been on the same ‘team’ ever since!”

Exactly one year after their first date, Harmon proposed to Michelle at Pecan Park, across the street from the Intramural Fields.

After graduating, they moved to Houston, where they got married, worked at small public accounting firms and had their first of three children. Job opportunities for Harmon at PulteGroup led the family to Michigan and several other states. Harmon retired as PulteGroup’s chief operating officer and executive vice president in 2019, and Michelle and he now live in Tequesta, Florida.

For more information on SFA’s Schlief School of Accountancy, visit sfasu.edu/acct.