I distinctly remember being 8 years old and riding in our family car, squished in the middle of the back seat, as I am the youngest of four. As we drove along, I saw a billboard along Highway 59 that read, “Visit Nacogdoches, The Oldest Town in Texas.”

We were traveling to Nacogdoches to help my oldest sister move into her residence hall at SFA, and I wasn’t particularly happy about it. In fact, I was more than a little pouty about the concept of losing my idol to this thing called “college.” That billboard, however, softened my resolve. If she had to leave, at least she was going to the oldest town in Texas. After more than an hour of playing slug bug and asking, “Are we there yet?” we pulled in front of two of the tallest buildings I had ever seen — the twin towers of Steen Hall. Suddenly, “college” didn’t seem too shabby.

Forty years later, I find myself now living in the oldest town in Texas, sitting at a desk inside the Charles Bright Visitors Center, poring over spreadsheets and hotel occupancy tax projections to try to find money in the budget for more billboards — this time digital ones — to help spread the word about the historic hamlet known as Nacogdoches. Talk about a full-circle moment!

In 1991, I came to SFA to work for the Department of Residence Life as a hall director for Kerr Hall. In 1992, I began my coursework for my master’s degree in education. I found myself in the unique position of being able to pursue two of my life’s passions — education and student affairs. The fact that I got to do this on the idyllic SFA campus was just gravy.

I grew professionally within Residence Life, soon taking on the role of advisor for SFA’s Residence Hall Association, as well as advisor for the Texas Residence Hall Association. I was entrusted to attend admissions recruiting events and speak on behalf of housing and Residence Life, as well as serve on several university committees representing my department. I was blessed with caring and invested peers and supervisors.

My classes were engaging and thought provoking. The synergy of receiving instruction among like-minded people and from such knowledgeable professors is an experience I have yet to find again. It felt like I was just getting to the good stuff when my academic advisor informed me I had the credits to graduate. It was with great pride that I walked the stage to receive my Master of Education and cemented my place in Lumberjack culture.

A lot of life has happened between my departure from Nacogdoches in 1994 and today. I am now the mother of two amazing daughters. One is soon to begin her junior year at SFA, while the youngest bides her time until she, too, can assume her place as a Lumberjack.

Additionally, I find myself with a new passion for travel and tourism, which I get to use every day as I lead the promotional efforts of marketing Nacogdoches to the state, region, nation and world as a premier travel destination.

And to think, all of this came about from one billboard.