Whenever and wherever the story of SFA is shared with future generations of Lumberjacks, 2018 will undoubtedly be remembered as a historic year for our alma mater. We ended the spring semester with a record-breaking number of graduates — 1,426 to be exact. In July, we held the grand opening of the beautiful and technologically advanced $46.4 million Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building, which welcomed students on the first day of fall classes. Just 12 days later, the university recorded the largest headcount in SFA history with 13,144 students enrolled in classes, an increase from the previous fall of more than 4 percent. Our growing enrollment is the result of countless large and small efforts initiated across campus by members of the faculty, staff and administration — often working hand-in-hand with alumni — in support of our goal to provide transformative experiences to an ever-growing number of Lumberjacks.
The exciting enrollment news was still sinking in when, on Sept. 18, our alumni joined with current students, faculty and staff, Nacogdoches community residents, and local and state leaders to celebrate SFA’s 95th anniversary. Among the honored guests was our oldest living SFA alumna, 99-year-old Esthermay Johnston of Austin. I’m proud to say my grandson, 5-year-old Jackson Baker Brown, also was recognized as SFA’s youngest alum. He is a lifetime member of the SFA Alumni Association and a recent graduate of the SFA Early Childhood Lab. Other highlights of the anniversary included the release of a special 95th anniversary video and a pledge by current SFA students and faculty and staff to perform a combined 95,000 hours of community service this school year in honor of this important milestone.
As we look back at the accomplishments from the past year, we also are looking forward to more excitement on the horizon. During an October meeting, the SFA Board of Regents voted to advance an expansive and progressive plan to complete approximately $116 million in new construction projects that will be taking shape as we approach SFA’s centennial anniversary. These will include a long-awaited fine arts expansion, a centralized welcome center and additional renovation to provide a one-stop shop for student support services, a new first-year residence hall, a new or renovated dining hall and a new basketball performance facility that will positively impact our ability to recruit top-notch athletes for the basketball program.
I hope these recent milestones and bold future plans serve to bolster the pride you have in SFA and that you will take the opportunity as the calendar turns to 2019 to renew your commitment to supporting your alma mater however you can. Wear your purple unabashedly, encourage the young people in your life to visit SFA during their college search, get plugged into on-campus and alumni programs, and establish or contribute to a scholarship that is near and dear to your heart. Your support will be as critical to SFA’s future success as it has been during its first 95 years.
In closing, I would like to wish everyone in the Lumberjack family many blessings this holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Axe ’em, Jacks!
Baker Pattillo 1965 and 1966
President, Stephen F. Austin State University