SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

SFA Heritage Series - Daily Sentinel, August 9, 1998

An Introduction to the Heritage Series (1998)

A host of energetic people throughout the decades, from presidents and their wives to faculty members, staff, and students, have undertaken to evaluate, preserve, and celebrate the achievements of those who sustained SFA during its eighty-five years of existence. As the diamond anniversary year of SFA's opening began in 1998, the Daily Sentinel honored the history of the university in a series of Sunday inserts to supplement the regular coverage of the year's events. Daily Sentinel special editions on SFA go back to September 11, 1923 on the eve of the college's opening. The research to produce and coordinate the pages came from The Center for East Texas Studies, but many SFA faculty, administrators, friends, and townspeople contributed selections to the fall series.

Dr. Jere Jackson - Regents Professor of History

Birdwell on Education in East Texas

In countless articles and speeches in the period from 1925 to 1938, many around the time of the Texas Centennial in 1936, SFA's First President Alton Birdwell talks about the development of education in East Texas. Dr. Birdwell himself played a major role in this development. Birdwell's purpose in tracing the past was, quite obviously, the promotion of better efforts in the future.

Karle Wilson [Baker] on Nacogdoches in 1906

In 1905-06, Nacogdoches was attempting to secure the transfer of the Baptist College from Rusk, Texas, to Nacogdoches. Miss Wilson had studied at the University of Chicago and knew the value of a good university to a community. The following letter, addressed to the Editor of the Sentinel, is evidence both of Karle Wilson Baker's fine writing style and her commitment to having a college in the community. Years later, she taught at SFASTC, bringing added prestige to the college as Texas' most famous poet.

"Nobody need to be told what a college can do for the spirit and atmosphere of a town. The spirit of Nacogdoches today is a gift from the men of the past; the spirit of the future will be the gift of the men of today." (KWB)

Final Years of the Old University

By 1900, the Old Nacogdoches University was in trouble. The trustees tried institutes, selling off part of the property, and turning the school over to caretakers. Nothing worked.

The story of the demise is told through several intersting documents. First, there is the notice for the Nacogdoches Normal of 1889 publised in the Daily Sentinel. Second, two segments on normal schools from Dr. Birdwell's history on education in East Texas. Third, the conclusions from a paper done by Lois Foster Blount, a member of the SFA History Department, in 1928, on the end for Nacogdoches University.

The Birth of the SFA Movement in Nacogdoches

East Texas Normal School announced; Nacogdoches declares it intention to go after it. Mass meeting called and plans made, but legislative mistake makes the Supreme Court to declare the legislation unconstitutional. The origins of the famous brochure "Twenty Three Reasons Why" can be witnessed in the making. The organization of the citizens committees can also be seen in the accounts from the Daily Sentinel.