One year ago, in the fall issue of Sawdust, I was introduced as the new president of SFA, and what a year it has been. While there definitely have been heartbreaking times, many moments have been invigorating and encouraging. I saw firsthand the indomitable spirit that has sustained SFA throughout its almost 100-year history.
Although much of the Lumberjack family has been physically separated, the connections created and instilled at SFA are stronger than ever. As you will read in this special issue of Sawdust, Lumberjacks on campus and across the nation rose to the challenges of working remotely and demonstrated extraordinary leadership and vision to move forward in challenging times. In fact, I am calling this issue of Sawdust “The Resilience Issue.”
During the spring semester, faculty members moved all coursework to a distance learning format due to the trial-by-fire COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, SFA faculty members are attuned to the needs of students and prepared to provide instruction in a variety of ways in order to meet those needs, especially in the uncertain time in which we find ourselves living. We will emerge as a stronger institution as the country recovers from this pandemic.
There were many “firsts” during the spring semester, but perhaps one of the most monumental was the first-ever virtual commencement ceremony. While in-person ceremonies are certainly preferred by most students, we were pleased with the responses we received from our new alums, and we look forward to the achievements they will make in years to come.
Although the campus this summer was quiet without the usual presence of students, construction projects that were already underway at Johnson Coliseum and the Griffith Fine Arts Building continued, and these facilities will be spectacular upon completion. The Board of Regents honored generous donors to the university by naming rooms in their honor — the Bill and Barbara Gandy Men’s Basketball Lounge at Johnson Coliseum, and the Harry and Carolyn Downing Engineering Resource Commons in the Cole STEM Building. I am grateful to the Gandys and the Downings for their giving spirit and their contributions that help us provide students with exceptional experiences that enlighten, challenge and prepare them to lead successful and impactful lives.
So many things have changed in 2020, but one thing that remains steadfast is that Lumberjacks — like the Gandys, the Downings and the individuals featured in the stories in this magazine — make the world a better place to live. We do this by helping others and by giving back. SFA needs your support, and you can help ensure we continue producing graduates who are viable, essential and productive members of our society by donating today at sfasu.edu/give. If you would like information regarding endowed scholarships, naming opportunities, or gifts of real estate, or if you would like to include SFA in your will, please contact the Office of Development at 936.468.5406.
Even in times of uncertainty, SFA’s values and its mission have remained the same. As always, we welcome the excitement and challenges of this new academic year. We have a bright future ahead, and I know the trials we have experienced will make us better and stronger than ever.
Axe 'em, Jacks!
Dr. Scott Gordon
Stephen F. Austin State University