"Oh, future bright, 'neath the purple and white..." Our alma mater's introductory lyrics are fitting as SFA embarks on its celebration of 100 years of Lumberjack history, tradition, leadership, scholarship and service. We officially kicked off our centennial on Jan. 28 with the annual SFA Gala, honoring generous benefactors and showcasing the impact their giving has on our university. That night, we also announced that funds raised during the recent Elevate SFA capital campaign totaled more than $121 million for scholarships, faculty and program support, and facility enhancements. Fifty percent of those funds were contributed by SFA alumni, so I want to personally thank you. With your support, we well surpassed our goal of raising $100 million by our 100th year.
Throughout 2023, I encourage you to visit sfasu.edu/centennial regularly to learn more about planned celebrations, centennial memorabilia, and the people and events that make up SFA's unique history. In particular, please save the dates of Sept. 14-18 when the university will host a number of special centennial weekend events on campus.
As we celebrate our history, we also look forward to the start of a new, exciting era for SFA. The Board of Regents voted last fall to accept the invitation of The University of Texas System to become a member of one of the largest and most prestigious university systems in the country. The 88th Texas Legislature will decide on the enabling legislation. Benefits of our affiliation are already making an impact, including the system's commitment to provide at least $1 million annually in need-based student aid through its Regents' Promise Plus endowment. In addition, our decision to affiliate with the UT System created the financial capacity to provide most SFA employees with a 6% salary increase that became effective Feb. 1.
Those of you who live in the area and travel up and down North Street are no doubt aware of the ongoing expansion and renovation of the Griffith Fine Arts Building. It is undergoing a stunning transformation! Our faculty members will be moving into the new facility over the summer, and I hope many of you can join us for some very special grand opening events planned in the new building during our centennial weekend. Across campus, Hall 16 has been razed, and that site is being prepared for the construction of a new dining hall. In addition, planning has begun in earnest for a significant expansion and improvement of our forestry and agriculture facilities, a project that will also be financially supplemented by funds available through the UT System.
I would also like to update you on a few personnel changes happening within the administration. We recently welcomed Dr. Lee Furbeck to campus as vice president for enrollment management, and she has hit the ground running. Dr. Brandon Frye, former vice president for student affairs, recently accepted a position at another institution, and the national search for his replacement is getting underway. Meanwhile, Carrie Charley, executive vice president of Campus Living, Dining and Auxiliary Enterprises, has graciously agreed to serve in the interim vice president role. The search for SFA's 11th president is being conducted by the UT System. A large number of SFA representatives have been appointed to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee empaneled by the UT System Chancellor James Milliken, and additional updates on that front will be shared with the SFA community in the coming weeks.
As you know, my term as university president will soon come to an end, and I am looking forward to returning to life as a retired Lumberjack. I was deeply humbled when the Board of Regents voted in January to remove "interim" from my title, allowing me to serve as the university's 10th president. This honor was the icing on the cake of my SFA career, and I want to thank the regents for their kindness and trust in me. I have truly enjoyed working with them, as well as countless students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of this extraordinary institution I have called home for more than 45 years. As all of you reading this will surely agree, "happy mem'ries we'll hold; all hail to SFA."
Axe 'em, Jacks!
Dr. Steve Westbrook '81 & '89
Stephen F. Austin State University