For 55 years, SFA was a major part of the life of Dr. Baker Pattillo. It is where he began as a student, became an administrator and, beginning in 2006, led the institution as its eighth president. Pattillo, the first SFA alumnus to serve as the university’s president, died Dec. 29. Pattillo was born in Camden and attended high school in Arp, where he lettered in football three years, served his team as co-captain, and earned All-District and All-Area honors. He served on the high school newspaper staff, and his classmates elected him “most likely to succeed.”

Pattillo earned an associate degree from Tyler Junior College. He enrolled at SFA in 1963 and received a Bachelor of Science in English and history in 1965 and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling in 1966 from the university. That same year, he married his high school sweetheart, Janice Anderson, and joined the university staff as assistant director of placement and student financial aid.

After earning a doctoral degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University in 1971, Pattillo continued to advance in his service to SFA. He was appointed dean of student services at age 30 and vice president for university affairs at age 36 before being named to the university’s top job in 2006.

The Pattillos’ lives were centered around SFA. Janice received a master’s degree from SFA, taught elementary education courses and established SFA’s Early Childhood Laboratory, eventually serving as chair of the Department of Elementary Education. The couple was honored by the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce as Citizens of the Year in 2011.

As an SFA leader, Pattillo guided $425 million in campus construction projects, including the Student Recreation Center, three residential halls, four parking garages, new entry signs and a Student Success Center, as well as new academic buildings: the DeWitt School of Nursing, the Cole STEM Building and the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, named for his wife by the SFA Board of Regents.

The ECRC is a part of the James I. Perkins College of Education. Perkins, who served on SFA’s Board of Regents from 1969 until 1981, said Pattillo’s love for SFA and his strong family upbringing made him one of the university’s very best presidents.

“His leadership skills, ability to get along with people and financial acumen were all keys to his great success,” Perkins said.

Pattillo served as chairman of the Southland Conference Board of Directors (President’s Council) and as chair of the Southland Conference Advisory Council. He represented the Southland Conference in the Division I Presidential Advisory Group, providing input to the board and NCAA staff. He also represented the Southland Conference as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision CEO Group, which provides oversight of FCS football.

Elected by the presidents of fellow Southland Conference universities to serve on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, Pattillo was known as a strong advocate dedicated to ensuring the academic and athletic success of student-athletes.

“Dr. Pattillo had a tremendous love for his family and for SFA, and he was always the greatest supporter of the Lumberjack and Ladyjack sports teams,” said Tom Burnett, Southland Conference commissioner. “For those of us fortunate to have worked with and for him, it is a great loss.”

One of Pattillo’s major goals was for SFA’s enrollment to reach 13,000, and that goal was surpassed in August when the fall enrollment totaled 13,144. Under his leadership, the university had recently launched the silent phase of a $100 million capital campaign to help position SFA for its next phase of institutional growth, and in the final Board of Regents meeting Pattillo attended, regents approved four construction projects for up to $125 million.

Pattillo’s work often took him to Austin and Washington, D.C., to visit with lawmakers regarding issues of importance to the university. Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, former U.S. senator now serving as permanent representative of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, called Pattillo “a wonderful leader who had dedicated his life to building SFA into the university it is today.”

Funeral services held in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Jan. 4 were attended by more than 1,000 mourners, including one standing more than 7 feet tall and weighing in excess of 330 pounds. Chief Caddo, one of the largest trophies in college football, has been featured at football games between SFA and Northwestern State University since 1961 and was delivered to campus by NSU administrators as a tribute to the president they called “a gentleman, a tremendous leader, a fierce competitor and a loyal friend.”

Dr. Baker Pattillo Scholarship

A scholarship has been established in Pattillo’s memory to ensure his student-focused legacy continues. Donations can be made online at or by sending a check made payable to the SFASU Foundation to:

SFA Office of Development
P.O. Box 6092 – SFA Station
Nacogdoches, TX 75962
Please write in memo: Dr. Baker Pattillo Scholarship.

To make a gift by phone or to discuss other ways to support this scholarship, call the Office of Development at 936.468.5406.