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SFA announces intention to affiliate with The University of Texas System

After a comprehensive process evaluating affiliation with a university system, including responses and feedback from student, faculty, staff and alumni stakeholder groups, as well as the general public, the SFA Board of Regents voted during its special meeting in November to accept the invitation of The University of Texas System to become a member institution.

SFA regents thanked all participants in the process, as well as the Nacogdoches community, for their work evaluating system affiliation and the proposals of the four systems SFA was invited to join. Work began Aug. 22 and culminated in reports to the board Oct. 30.

"We are excited about the enormous opportunities this affiliation will provide for our students, faculty and staff," said Karen Gantt, SFA Board of Regents chair. "We know that the future of SFA will be enhanced by becoming a member of the leading university system in the country."

For updates on the affiliation process, visit

SFA launches centennial celebration

SFA's Centennial logoFrom being administered through a small shack on Washington Square to educating nearly 12,000 students a year on its beautiful 421-acre main campus, SFA has come a long way in 100 years. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Nacogdoches community have big plans to mark the university's first century throughout 2023.

"SFA's history is filled with incredible people and events," said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA's president. "Our campus and community have been looking forward to celebrating them." Centennial celebrations will take place throughout the year and will feature concerts and commemorations. Events will culminate in a weekend of festivities leading up to Sept. 18, a century after SFA opened its doors on the 53rd birthday of its first president, Alton W. Birdwell.

"This year, Sept. 18 falls on a Monday, so the centennial committee is busy planning a full weekend of events and activities, including concerts, a luncheon, dedications and a big birthday party," said John Branch, chair of SFA's centennial committee. "There will be more details as we get closer to the date."

For more information on SFA's history, as well as centennial events and memorabilia, visit

Jim and Margaret Perkins recognized with the 2023 Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award

Jim and Margaret Perkins were the recipients of this year's Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award. The two were honored in January in Austin. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, president, The University of Texas at Tyler; Dr. Steve Westbrook, president, SFA; Jim and Margaret Perkins; Dr. Juan E. Mejia, president and CEO, Tyler Junior College; and Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, president, East Texas Baptist University.
Jim and Margaret Perkins were the recipients of this year's Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award. The two were honored in January in Austin. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, president, The University of Texas at Tyler; Dr. Steve Westbrook, president, SFA; Jim and Margaret Perkins; Dr. Juan E. Mejia, president and CEO, Tyler Junior College; and Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, president, East Texas Baptist University.

Presidents, chancellors and the leaders of more than 100 Texas higher education institutions honored Jim and Margaret Perkins by naming them recipients of this year's Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony held in Austin in January.

They were co-nominated by faculty and staff from SFA and Tyler Junior College. The nomination referred to their establishment in 2006 of the James I. Perkins Family Foundation, which was created to support students, institutions of higher education and communities in East Texas. The Perkins family has generously supported SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education, the Tyler Junior College Foundation, The University of Texas at Tyler, The University of Texas School of Law and East Texas Baptist University.

Margaret Perkins is a former junior high and high school English and history teacher. She also served as a librarian, substitute teacher and board member for the Rusk Independent School District. Jim Perkins served on SFA's Board of Regents from 1969 to 1981 and spearheaded the development of the SFASU Foundation. He is an attorney serving as president and chair of the board with Citizens 1st Bank. He's also known for celebrating the fact that more than half of the bank's employees are SFA students or graduates.

Through the James I. Perkins Family Foundation, the couple continues to support student development, research grants and professorships at SFA. They have served as lead partners in the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce's Nacogdoches Opportunity for Better Learning Experience, or NOBLE, since 2000. This program annually awards 20 students from Nacogdoches County scholarships to attend SFA.

SFA expands lyrics to fight song

With an extra dash of pep and a few sprinkles of tradition, SFA's fight song was expanded in the fall with university-sanctioned lyrics.

The fight song stands as the longtime mantra of the university's athletic triumphs and is known for its vigorous brass melodies and drum line cadences. After a nearly yearlong development and approval period, the lyrics passed legislation by the Student Government Association in April 2022 and were approved by President Dr. Steve Westbrook the following month. The new lyrics were rolled out to students during summer Lumberjack Orientation and Jack Camp sessions.

The idea to implement fight song lyrics came from T.J. Maple, coordinator of SFA's Cheer and Dance Teams. Having guided SFA spirit teams to 16 national championships in the past 17 years, Maple said it was hearing competitors from other schools sing along to their fight songs at sporting events and competitions that spurred the idea to expand the lyrics. To read the full lyrics, visit

SFA celebrates white cane safety, 50th anniversary of orientation and mobility program

SFA jointly celebrated White Cane Safety Day and the 50th anniversary of its orientation and mobility certification preparation program in October with a rally and march.

Festivities began on campus at the Baker Pattillo Student Center with a blindfold obstacle course arranged by SFA's Braille and Cane Club. The march culminated at the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center with an address from Dr. Lorenzo Smith, SFA provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and a reception with cake and ice cream.

Housed in the James I. Perkins College of Education's Department of Education Studies, the orientation and mobility program began in fall 1972 with support and guidance from the Texas State Commission for the Blind, which provided grant funding. Former SFA employees Bob Bryant and Bill Bryan administered the program, affectionately known as the "Bill and Bob program," for the next 33 years until the two retired.

Family-established endowment honors Music Prep's Pat Barnett

Pat Barnett An endowment honoring the late Pat Barnett was established by her son, Barry Barnett, to recognize the many contributions she made to the university's Music Preparatory Division in the School of Music.

The Patricia A. Barnett Fund commemorates her service as director of Music Prep from 1999 through 2019, during which time a number of advancements were made to the program's mission, including moving into what is now known as the Music Prep House and creating new educational opportunities for young musicians.

"Mom was very proud of the university for making its wealth of musical talent available to teach young students through the Music Prep program," Barry said. "She loved seeing the kids develop skill and confidence. She thought there was magic at the prep house, and we hope many others will join us in helping sustain and extend Music Prep's important mission."

Five-year English language learners grant awarded to SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education

The James I. Perkins College of Education was awarded a five-year $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance bilingual and multilingual education for school districts in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties.

Administered by the college's Department of Education Studies, the grant will fund a series of professional development sessions to prepare as many as 332 educators to teach and support English language learners. Those educators include SFA faculty members and education students, as well as East Texas pre-K through 12th grade teachers.

The grant, titled "Reaching All Individuals and Communities to Establish Success in Language Learning," is the third of its kind for the college, which was awarded $1.4 million in 2007 and $1.9 million in 2011.

SFA Gardens receives grant to research pineapple guava production

Pineapple GuavaThe Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture's SFA Gardens recently received grant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service to investigate the potential of pineapple guava as a new, low-input fruit and ornamental crop for production in Texas.

The project, funded through 2024, is a collaboration between SFA Gardens and Dr. Tim Hartmann, a Texas AgriLife extension specialist based in College Station.

"Pineapple guava has been grown in Texas for many years as an ornamental," said Dr. David Creech, director of SFA Gardens. "This project will evaluate the performance of over 20 cultivars, several of which are new to the United States."

SFA receives $100,000 grant for STEM summer camps

STEM logoSFA was among 17 Texas universities and community colleges to receive a grant to help fund summer science, technology, engineering and mathematics camps for students ages 14 to 21.

Gov. Greg Abbott made an announcement in July 2022 that nearly $1.3 million will be distributed through the Governor's Summer Merit Program to provide scholarships for approximately 2,231 students statewide to attend STEM camps this summer to help prepare them for future high-skill, high-demand jobs.

The program introduces young people to one or more of Texas' six focus industry clusters: advanced technologies and manufacturing, aerospace and defense, biotechnology and life sciences, information and computer technology, petroleum refining and chemical products, and energy.

The funds support SFA's College of Sciences and Mathematics STEM camps, which offer such activities as Vex robots, programming and flying drones, virtual reality simulations, computer science coding and programming, crime scene investigations, biology labs, nursing simulations, geology explorations with a fossil hunt, and more.

For more information about SFA's STEM summer camps, call the STEM Research and Learning Center at (936) 468-5814 or email