Jim and Margaret Perkins were the recipients of this year’s Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award. The two were honored at an event Wednesday at Headliners Club in Austin. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, president, The University of Texas at Tyler; Dr. Steve Westbrook, interim president, Stephen F. Austin State University; Jim and Margaret Perkins; Dr. Juan E. Mejia, president and CEO, Tyler Junior College; and Dr. J. Blair Blackburn, president, East Texas Baptist University
January 26,2023 — Presidents, chancellors and the leaders of more than 100 Texas higher education institutions honored Jim and Margaret Perkins from East Texas by naming them recipients of this year’s Texas Higher Education Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony held in Austin this week.
They were co-nominated by faculty and staff from Stephen F. Austin State University 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 and I are honored to receive this recognition from such prestigious organizations representing institutions of higher education and applaud their collaborative efforts to promote higher education in the great state of Texas,” Jim Perkins said.
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 their 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.
“Jim and Margaret are longtime champions of SFA,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA’s interim president. “Together, they provide extraordinary support to the college of education with its mission of preparing competent, successful, caring and enthusiastic professional educators from diverse backgrounds. In addition, they support our JacksTeach program, which helps students in our science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs earn secondary STEM teaching certifications while earning degrees in their respective disciplines.”
The Perkins family is active in numerous civic and community activities in East Texas, including the Nacogdoches ISD Education Foundation and the Regents Academy in Nacogdoches.
Distinguished Service Award recipients are selected by the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors and the Texas Association of Community Colleges. The award has been presented 43 times in the past 45 years.