As you know, the spring semester did not begin at all like we had hoped. One of our most beloved and respected alumni, Dr. Baker Pattillo, passed away just days before the start of the new year and his planned retirement after 52 years of SFA service, the past 12 as university president. Dr. Pattillo’s loss continues to be deeply felt by everyone in the Lumberjack family, and his own family remains in our thoughts and prayers. As we move forward as a university, we are comforted by the understanding that Dr. Pattillo’s extraordinary legacy will continue to benefit future Lumberjacks for many generations.
In January, the Board of Regents selected the higher education search firm R. William Funk & Associates to help find the best possible candidate to lead SFA during what is surely to be a period of historic growth and expansion. Planning has already begun for more than $115 million in new construction projects to be completed as we approach the university’s 100th anniversary in 2023. These progressive plans include a long-awaited fine arts expansion; a centralized welcome center and other renovations needed to provide a one-stop shop for student support services; a new first-year residence hall; a new or renovated dining hall; and a basketball performance center. Comprising one of the largest building initiatives in SFA history, these projects will better position the university to provide the transformational experiences we promise our students and will particularly enhance the experience of our first-year Lumberjacks.
The 86th legislative session also is well underway, and SFA’s 2020-21 Legislative Appropriations Request includes $2 million to fund a unique STEM/early childhood initiative. This would allow faculty members to develop best practices for the professional development of teachers and rich learning experiences for young children. These practices would be sustainable and replicable across Texas. A tuition revenue bond capital request to construct a $48 million Natural Resources Science and Innovations Laboratory also has been put forward. This multidisciplinary facility would replace several outdated buildings, increasing efficiencies and expanding teaching, research and outreach capabilities across all programs within the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, as well as military science.
Three areas within the McGee Business Building recently were named in honor of longtime SFA supporters Michael J. Hopkins ’70 of Dallas, Walter E. “Loddie” Naymola ’78 of Austin and Lou Ann Richardson ’83 of Dallas. The Michael J. Hopkins Lobby, Walter E. Naymola Innovation Hub and Lou Ann Richardson Classroom were dedicated in January and have greatly enhanced the learning environment for our students in the Nelson Rusche College of Business. We are grateful for the generous support of these SFA alumni, and the dedications ensure those contributions will not be forgotten.
We also recently welcomed new head football coach Colby Carthel to campus, kicking off an exciting new era of Lumberjack football. His high energy, proven success at turning a football program around, and willingness to actively engage with internal and external stakeholders make him exactly the right coach for SFA at exactly the right time. We couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for SFA football with coach Carthel at the helm.
I’m sure you’ll agree as alumni of this remarkable university we have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to. Thank you for your continued support as our university moves forward from a position of strength and stability. We hope to see you back on campus soon.
Axe ’em, Jacks!
Steve Westbrook 1981 and 1989
Interim President, Stephen F. Austin State University