The start of a new academic year is always an exciting time at Stephen F. Austin State University, but this fall promises to be an especially memorable one for our Lumberjack family.
In July, we celebrated the opening of the Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building, a visually stunning, $46 million facility that opened to students with the start of fall classes. Named for two of the university’s most faithful supporters, this new hub for SFA’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs provides a unique, collaborative and high-tech learning environment for our STEM students that is second to none. Soon SFA graduates in these disciplines will be making an even greater impact across Texas as part of our state’s broader initiative to prepare more young people to enter high-demand STEM fields.
The timing of the opening of this state-of-the-art building — with its modern, all-glass façade revealing the planetarium’s impressive new 52-foot dome — will create an interesting juxtaposition with the celebration of SFA’s 95th anniversary Sept. 18. On that special date, and throughout the coming year, we will all be thinking about those early days at SFA when just a few hundred students and their teachers were laying the groundwork for what is now approaching a century of Lumberjack history, tradition, scholarship and pride.
If you are like me, you can’t help but wonder what Dr. Alton W. Birdwell, SFA’s first president, would think of our exceptional university if he could see it today. I hope many of you will be on hand Sept. 18 to enjoy cake and purple ice cream with us as we mark this historic occasion. And while it’s on your mind, go ahead and save the date for Sept. 18, 2023, for SFA’s centennial celebration. Planning for that momentous event already is underway.
In the meantime, we have much to look forward to this fall, including the first athletic events under the leadership of new Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey, who arrived at SFA this summer. He replaces retired director Robert Hill, and he is just as strongly committed to SFA student-athletes’ continued success, both in the classroom and on the field of play. Please join me in welcoming him to the Lumberjack family.
The annual Battle of the Piney Woods game against Sam Houston State University is set for Oct. 6 at NRG Stadium in Houston, and the SFA Homecoming game against Lamar University will follow Oct. 27 in Homer Bryce Stadium. Wherever this letter finds you, I hope you are able to join us “’mid Texas pines” to support the Lumberjack football team and all of our athletic programs this year.
Our cheers will be bolstered by the enthusiasm of a record-breaking 1,426 May 2018 graduates and other newly minted alumni who are receiving Sawdust in the mail for the first time this fall. To them I say, “Welcome to the fold.” And to all of our SFA alumni, friends and fans, I would like to express my gratitude for your unique contributions to making SFA an extraordinary place to live, learn and grow for the past 95 years.
Axe ’em, Jacks!
Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University