SFA University

March 26, 2020 - Among music industry professionals and educators in Texas and throughout the U.S., the name of Darrell Holt is synonymous with jazz excellence.

The late Holt, former associate professor of music at Stephen F. Austin State University, is among the inductees in the inaugural class of the Texas Jazz Educators Association’s Hall of Fame. The announcement was made at last month’s Texas Music Educators Association convention in San Antonio where some of Holt’s former colleagues from SFA, former students and admirers from across the nation heard the news.

Darrell Holt

Dr. Deb Scott, professor of trombone in the SFA School of Music, was among those who spoke during the induction ceremony that honored Holt’s legacy and included the announcement of six additional first-class inductees. Among those were two other people with strong jazz connections to SFA – music alumnus Wayne Dyess, ’70 and ’71, and a former director of the Swingin’ Axes jazz band and former chairman of the SFA music department, Gene Hall.

Scott spoke of how Holt “left a lasting impression on our faculty and students,” she said.

Laura Holt Treadaway, Holt’s widow, expressed great appreciation for the honor and the acknowledgement of Holt’s love of music.

“What a wonderful honor this is for Darrell to be selected, along with these other amazing jazz musicians, to be inducted into the TJEA Hall of Fame,” she said. “Our family is so, so proud for him and so grateful to all those responsible for making his nomination possible. What a wonderful tribute to him, and we know he would have given all the glory to God for this honor and for his talent.”

Holt taught various jazz courses, arranging and music theory at SFA from 1968 to 2000. According to his biography published by Northeastern Music Publications Incorporated, Holt was a nationally recognized jazz instrumental and vocal clinician during most of his life. Holt performed extensive work in recording studios as a conductor, arranger, composer and performer, having produced more than 40 albums. Among his Nashville studio work was for a CD for then young country music artist LeAnn Rimes. As a performer, Holt was an accomplished pianist, vocalist and trumpeter. He worked with such nationally recognized entertainers as Rich Little, Bob Hope and B.J. Thomas. Holt's works have been performed by the San Antonio, Dallas and Nashville symphonies, as well as the Symphony of Southeast Texas and the Kingwood Pops. He received numerous commissions, including a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. Holt passed away from heart complications in 2000. Donations to an SFA scholarship honoring Holt can be made at https://forms.sfasu.edu/giving/onlinegift.asp?give-to-other=Darrell+Holt+Music+Scholarship.

Dyess graduated with a Bachelor of Music from SFA, where he was selected as music alumnus of the year in 1990 and inducted into the School of Music Wall of Honor. He earned his Master of Music from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Doctor of Education from the University of Houston, having also completed additional graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin. Dyess was also the principal trombonist with the Symphony of Southeast Texas and performed regularly throughout the United States and internationally with several groups, including Keith Brion’s New Sousa Band and the Brass Band of Battle Creek (Michigan). From 1970 to 1974, Dyess was trombone soloist and section leader of the “World’s Finest” United States Navy Band. Dyess joined the music faculty at Lamar University in 1977. He was professor of trombone and director of jazz studies at Lamar University upon his death in 2013.

A saxophonist, arranger and music educator, Hall graduated with an M.A. from North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, and after playing with a number of bands in Texas and working in radio, began teaching at his alma mater in 1947. He received his doctorate from New York University. Hall's North Texas State dance band was selected as the best in America among college groups by the American Federation of Musicians in 1959. Hall developed a jazz program at Michigan State University, where he had accepted a teaching position. He later served as chairman of the music department at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, and at SFA. He was a principal mover in the formation in 1968 of the National Association of Jazz Educators and served as its first president. Hall received the Hall of Fame Award from the International Association of Jazz Educators in 1981. In 1992 he received the Down Beat Achievement Award for Jazz Education. Hall died in Denton in 1993. The Dr. M. E. "Gene" Hall Award, given at the annual North Texas Jazz Festival in Addison, was named in his honor.

Others named to the inaugural class were John Murphy, Leon Breeden, Conrad Johnson and Edward Trongone.

Stephen F. Austin State University Professor of Theatre Angela Bacarisse works on a homemade hat she is constructing for medical professionals who are combating COVID-19 during a medical supply shortage.

March 24, 2020 (Nacogdoches) – Standing outside a window of the School of Theatre costume shop at Stephen F. Austin State University, a Nacogdoches volunteer waited for a faculty member to hand her a package of elastic and cotton fabric. The items will be used to assemble surgical mask coverings to be used by local hospitals.

Inside the shop, located on the bottom floor of SFA’s Griffith Fine Arts Building, Angela Bacarisse, Stephen F. Austin State University theatre professor, and shop supervisor Barbara Blackwell were safely distanced from each other as they sewed more mask coverings, as well as hats.

Their work, along with the work of a small band of local seamstresses they have organized, is part of a grassroots effort in communities across the nation to help support local medical communities in combatting the spread of COVID-19.

“We saw on the internet that everybody is doing this,” Bacarisse said, adding that hospitals in various parts of the country have solicited assistance online and through social media to construct the masks using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-compliant pattern. “I wondered if there was really a need here, so I reached out to a representative from SFA’s Dewitt School of Nursing, who put me in contact with representatives from local hospitals, and they said ‘yes!’”

Kristine Sutton, chief nursing officer at Nacogdoches Memorial Health, said she was thrilled the costume shop and seamstresses are banding together to make a difference for health care workers on the front lines of a scary and unpredictable situation.

“The staff members are worried about protecting their patients and themselves to the highest degree possible, because they’re in such close proximity to patients and the virus is so contagious,” Sutton said. “We can’t take care of sick people if we’re not healthy. It’s really touching that these community members are using their own skills to be part of our team providing that front line of defense.”

Bacarisse and Blackwell have been joined by faculty and staff from other SFA departments, community members and some costume shop alumni to assemble the items. They are using fabric from home, as well as stockpiled fabric from the costume shop, along with fabric donations from the public. Hospital officials will pick up the finished items.

While a handmade mask does not offer the kind of protection that health care professionals really need, layering the handmade masks with reused surgical masks can provide another layer of protection. Using cotton fabric, the masks are assembled in such a way that N95 masks or respirators can slide inside. The do-it-yourself masks also can serve as a reminder to not touch the face.

“I’ll be honest, when I first heard about the idea of home-sewn masks, I was skeptical because the masks we typically use are medical grade and disposable for infection control reasons,” Sutton said. “But these masks are going to be a great second-line barrier for our staff. We’ll protect our medical grade masks behind the sewn masks, and at the end of the day, we can take them off and throw them in the wash. Our staff will be so relieved to know that they’re guaranteed a clean start at the beginning of their next shift.”

Bacarisse and Blackwell each said they have underlying health issues that put them at greater risk for contracting the virus, and they wanted to do their part to help during the public health crisis.

“We want to support the medical community in any way we can, and we have the skills to do this,” Bacarisse said.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help sew the masks and hats may contact Bacarisse at abacarisse@sfasu.edu.

March 23, 2020 Nacogdoches — To assist in efforts to keep the Nacogdoches community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen F. Austin State University has closed the Steen Library, Homer Bryce Stadium and Johnson Coliseum to the public.

Steen Library will remain open during modified hours for faculty, staff and students, according to Jonathan Helmke, director of the library. Faculty, staff and students should consult the library’s website for its latest hours of operation.

Homer Bryce Stadium and Johnson Coliseum will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future, said Ryan Ivey, director of athletics at SFA.

“While we understand and appreciate that members of our community enjoy using the track and stadium on a regular basis, unfortunately, the guidelines from the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies require us to close our facilities to ensure the health of Nacogdoches citizens at this time,” Ivey said.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus on the SFA campus, but university leaders have established several precautions, including canceling on-campus events and classes for the remainder of the semester.

To learn more about SFA’s COVID-19 response, visit sfasu.edu/covid19.

March 20, 2020 - The Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents voted Friday during a telephone conference meeting to grant SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon the temporary authority to suspend university policies and take any necessary lawful action to help cope with COVID-19 without obtaining prior board approval.

Brigettee Henderson, chair of the Board of Regents, said the authority will automatically terminate once the university resumes normal operations, unless terminated earlier by the board.

“This global pandemic has already caused significant disruption to the university’s operations,” Henderson said. “The situation requires the university’s swift action to help minimize the impact to SFA’s students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders. Granting this authority will help speed up that response time.”

Henderson also recognized SFA’s administrators, faculty and staff for their diligence in dealing with the national emergency.

“Our campus community is to be commended for all the work they are doing to serve our students,” Henderson said. “The main priority is to keep everyone safe while also ensuring our students complete the necessary coursework to progress in their degree program. It has been no small task to convert classes to an online format, but that has been accomplished.”

The university announced March 19 that courses will continue to be taught in an online or distance format for the remainder of the spring semester, as well as throughout the summer semesters.

“Although we have faced many challenges during the past few weeks, we also have seen the SFA and Nacogdoches communities come together,” Gordon said. “Although our students are not here in Nacogdoches physically, they are foremost on our minds. We will continue to do whatever is possible to ensure their educational needs are met.”

During the meeting, the board also approved a wireless networking upgrade and the guidelines for use of the environmental service fee.

March 19, 2020 - For the first time since 2006, the Stephen F. Austin State University Bass Fishing Club has won the Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship. The competition was held Feb. 26 through 28 on the Harris Chain of Lakes, part of the Ocklawaha River basin in Central Florida. This is the third national championship victory in the club’s history.

On Feb. 28, marketing sophomore Ethan LeGare of Dallas and marketing junior Hank Harrison of South Padre Island weighed in the biggest bag of the day at 20 pounds, 8 ounces, giving them a total weight of 56 pounds, 5 ounces. They beat the Sam Houston State University team by an ounce.

In addition to the trophy, LeGare and Harrison won a $33,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Suzuki outboard.

The SFA team members also qualify as professionals for the 2020 Toyota Series Championship Nov. 5 through 7 on Lake Cumberland in Burnside, Kentucky. The championship awards $235,000 for first place.

LeGare and Harrison caught their fish by targeting grassy flats on points next to spawning pockets in Lake Beauclair, Lake Dora and Lake Eustis.

“The key to winning was adapting to the changing weather conditions and being versatile with our bait selection,” LeGare said.

On the first day of the competition, the SFA team took advantage of the barometric pressure being at its lowest point of the week due to a cold front moving in that night.

“The conditions on days two and three were tougher, but we slowed down our approach to the fish we were catching,” LeGare said. “With the barometric pressure being high on days two and three, slowing down and changing up our baits were key strategies to getting our fish to bite.”

The reservoirs and lakes near SFA helped the team gain the experience they needed to be flexible during the competition. Harrison added that the main reason he chose to attend SFA was to fish.

“I’ve always loved East Texas, but to have Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Toledo Bend Reservoir both within an hour from campus, I was sold,” he said. “Both of these lakes are consistently rated as some of the best in the country, and Sam Rayburn is in the running for the best lake in the world by Bassmaster Magazine.”

Because of these two reservoirs, as well as the numerous small lakes nearby, “There’s no better place to go to school and expand your skills as a fisherman than SFA,” Harrison said.

For more information on the SFA Bass Fishing Club, email Dr. Eric Jones, professor in SFA’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Science and the club’s faculty sponsor, at jonesej@sfasu.edu.


March 16, 2020 Nacogdoches – In response to the actions taken by Stephen F. Austin State University to restrict the possible spread of COVID-19, the College of Fine Arts has canceled all art, music and theatre events through April 5, and tickets already purchased for events scheduled during that time period can be refunded.

On March 12, SFA President Dr. Scott Gordon announced that spring break would be extended an additional two days, and beginning March 18, all SFA classes will be held in an online or other distance-learning format until April 6. Additionally, all on-campus events scheduled through April 5 are cancelled or postponed. Students are asked to remain off campus until in-person classes resume.

Although there are no confirmed cases of the virus on SFA’s campus, several cases have been confirmed in Texas. SFA followed the CDC recommendations for social distancing in making its decision to move to online class formats, according to information on the university website.

The fine arts calendar at http://www.finearts.sfasu.edu indicates the events that have been canceled thus far. But because of the uncertainty of  COVID-19 and the evolving circumstances associated with a pandemic, further cancellation of events is possible, according to Dr. A.C. “Buddy” Himes, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

“The College of Fine Arts wants to do its part to keep our campus and community safe,” Himes said. “Some of our fine arts events may be rescheduled, while others simply must be canceled due to time constraints and venue scheduling issues as we near the end of this semester. Please visit the CFA website at http://www.finearts.sfasu.edu for updates to this ever-changing situation.”

Refunds are available on request. Unrefunded purchases become donations to the respective events and programs. For details about advance ticket refunds or the possible rescheduling of certain events, contact the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For official information about SFA’s cancellation of on-campus activities, go to http://www.sfasu.edu/life-at-sfa/health-safety/health-clinic/coronavirus.

March 12, 2020 - Stephen F. Austin State University’s Spring Break will be extended by two days to provide time for SFA faculty members to move classes to an online or other distance-education format, until at least April 6.

Classes were scheduled to resume on March 16, but instead will be resuming on March 18 in an online or other distance-education format.  Faculty are being asked to utilize March 16 and 17 to prepare for this transition.  SFA staff members are expected to report for work as scheduled, and updates regarding campus operations will be announced via the university’s website at www.sfasu.edu/Covid19.

“Given the ongoing global concerns around coronavirus pandemic, we want to do our part to keep our entire campus community safe and to contribute to the management of this growing public health crisis,” said Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president.

Face-to-face classes may resume on April 6, and the university’s Easter holidays, previously scheduled for April 9, 10 and 13, will not be observed so that lost class time can be recovered.

“We will closely monitor this dynamic situation and, if necessary, could possibly extend the date for resuming in-person classes,” Gordon said. “Students will receive information from their respective colleges and faculty with details regarding how course work will be conducted.”

All on-campus events scheduled through April 5 will be canceled or postponed, and event planners will be contacted by the Baker Pattillo Student Center beginning Monday, March 16. All university-sponsored student and employee travel, both international and domestic, scheduled for March 16 through April 1 will be canceled unless approved by senior university administrators.

Showcase Saturday, SFA’s open house event for prospective students, scheduled for March 28, also will be rescheduled.

To accommodate students whose presence on campus is necessary, limited food service operations will be provided in the East College Dining Hall beginning Sunday, March 15.

Students who live on campus and need to retrieve personal belongings may do so on Sunday, March 15, from noon until 9 p.m. or Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Although there are no confirmed cases on SFA’s campus, several cases have been confirmed in Texas.

“Any student or employee who is ill or who believes they may have been exposed to coronavirus cannot return to campus and should follow CDC guidelines for self-isolation,” Gordon said. “If any student or employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, we ask that they notify the university at www.sfasu.edu/COVIDabsence.”

Although the university’s plans are evolving, May commencement exercises are expected to continue as scheduled.

“We will be updating information on the SFA website, but we ask for patience as we seek to make the best decisions possible,” Gordon said. “Our primary guiding priorities are the wellbeing of the SFA community and allowing our students to complete all course requirements for the spring semester. Every decision is made with these priorities in mind.“

March 6, 2020 - Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host its annual Garden Gala Day Plant Sale from 9am to 2pm Saturday, April 4, at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center in historic Nacogdoches.

The sale will feature a variety of hard-to-find, “Texas-tough” plants, including Texas natives, heirlooms, tropicals, perennials, shrubs and trees, with an emphasis on pollinator friendly selections, as well as exclusive SFA introductions. The featured plants are extensively trialed before being offered to the public and are produced by SFA Gardens staff members and volunteers.

This popular event benefits the SFA Mast Arboretum, PNPC, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden and Gayla Mize Garden, along with educational programs hosted monthly at the gardens. Educational programs provided at the SFA Gardens reach more than 15,000 participants annually.

Parking will be available at SFA’s Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, and visitors are encouraged to arrive early and bring a wagon for their plants.

For more information and a list of available plants, call (936) 468-4129 or visit sfagardens.org two weeks before the sale.

March 6, 2020 - Stephen F. Austin State University is on a mission to help students graduate more quickly and with less debt, and departments across the campus, including two newly created teams, are working to implement changes to meet this goal.

According to Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president, the university is laser focused on student success and on-time completion in order to assist students in achieving their dreams.

“In addition to our recently approved tuition models and housing incentives, we are looking to find unnecessary bureaucratic policies and procedures and remove them,” Gordon said. “We are streamlining processes to serve our students better. Our goal is to have students graduate in four years and with a lower cost for their degree.”

Tiger Team

Designated as the Tiger Team, the top priority for the group is removing barriers that might stand in the way of success for new or continuing students. The term “Tiger Team” is used frequently in corporate settings and describes a group that includes knowledgeable individuals from different specialties working together to solve complex problems, according to Erma Brecht, executive director of enrollment management.

“Some of our practices or processes have become outdated due to technology enhancements, new initiatives or different expectations from how our students want and need to be served,” Brecht said. “The Tiger Team is committed to dissecting each barrier and offering an enhanced approach to overcoming these barriers, when possible.”

Anthony Espinoza, chief information officer, said the team is streamlining internal processes while looking for opportunities to better leverage the university’s investment in information technology.

“For example, students in the Perkins College of Education and in the Rusche College of Business can now review and electronically sign their academic advising forms online,” he said.

As an additional benefit, registration holds have been modified, and in some cases eliminated, to improve the student’s registration experience.

“The establishment of the Tiger Team demonstrates SFA’s commitment to our student’s success,” Espinoza said.

Course Scheduling

Anyone who attended college before technology became a part of the registration process probably remembers waiting in long lines with a registration form in hand, hoping to have a sticker added to the form indicating enrollment in the desired classes. While electronic registration has eliminated the need for long lines, sometimes enrolling in the most desired class session is still not without difficulties.

A new group dedicated to removing these difficulties includes each of the six academic deans and is called the LAN-CAT team.

“LAN-CAT stands for Leadership Actions Now - Course Availability Team,” explained Dr. Steve Bullard, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The deans of each of our six colleges provide the ‘leadership,’ since each course we offer is in one of their colleges, and since they are ultimately responsible for what’s offered each semester. The rest of the team includes administrators and staff members who can support the actions needed.”

Bullard said college students across the nation experience difficulties when trying to schedule specific courses during the semesters and time periods when they need to take them.

“We're taking every step possible to make sure SFA students have the courses and labs they need, when they need them,” he said. “This means creating new sections of courses when and where needed, and it also means putting faculty, staff and technology resources in the places where students need them most.”

For the spring 2020 semester, additional seats were offered in multiple courses, across all six colleges.

“Most of our attention is on ‘gateway’ courses like anatomy and physiology,” Bullard said. “These are courses that are required before a student can progress to the next level in their degree path or curriculum.”

Advising Task Force

Advising university students includes tracking individual success according to benchmarks, recording summaries of appointments, and contacting those who may need assistance in improving their academic standing. According to Dr. Marc Guidry, associate provost, SFA is utilizing a web-based program called Navigate to communicate with students, schedule their advising appointments and assist with other advising duties.

“Our advisors can use the system to contact students whose academic performance indicates they may need additional coaching, for instance, students who performed in ‘the murky middle’—meaning somewhere in the ‘C’ to ‘C+’ range—and who could elevate their performance with the right supports,” Guidry said. “Advisors also contact all probationary students to provide them with information and resources that can help them recover their academic standing, rather than being placed on suspension.”

The Navigate program also serves as an early alert system professors can use to issue an alert regarding a student who has missed too many classes or received a bad grade early in the semester, so that an advisor can intervene and assist the student, Guidry said.

“Navigate also contains analytics on our student success metrics that can track students with academic performance concerns or academic progress concerns,” Guidry explained. “We can also track things like graduation rate by credit range, that is, what percentage of students who took 15-18 hours graduated versus their peers who only took 12-14 hours in a given semester. What our internal SFA data show is that students who take more hours tend to have a higher GPA.”

Guidry said the Navigate program allows SFA to assess the effectiveness of advising interventions and improve the opportunities for student success.

15 to Finish Campaign

Many national research studies also show that college students are more successful — with higher grades and higher graduation rates — when they take at least 15 hours during the fall and spring semesters. SFA has launched a new 15 to Finish campaign to remind students that completing fewer than 30 hours per academic year is not equivalent to a four-year degree plan.

According to Bullard, federal financial aid policies require students to be enrolled in just 12 credits each semester to be eligible for assistance, and for some students, this creates an impression that 12 hours is “full time.”

“Students who only take 12 semester credit hours tend not to do as well academically, and they also run the risk of using all of their financial aid without reaching the 120-hour goal,” he explained. “Taking at least 15 hours each semester means students are more likely to graduate on time, since in eight semesters they can achieve the 120 hours required in most bachelor’s degree programs.”

SFA tuition beginning in the fall 2020 will be on a flat-rate basis beginning at 12 hours, so students may take as many as 21 hours for the cost of 12 hours.

“The most expensive college degree is the one you never receive because you fell short of completing all requirements,” Bullard said. “SFA's new 15 to Finish campaign, and the other efforts that are underway, will help ensure our students are successful.”

For more information about SFA admissions, sfasu.edu/admissions-and-aid.


March 6, 2020 - Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens will host a Veggie Gardening 101 workshop to share methods for growing successful vegetables in East Texas.

The event will run from 9am to Noon March 21, 2020 in the Brundrett Conservation Education Building, Room 101, at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, located at 2900 Raguet Street in Nacogdoches.

Jodi and Duke Pittman of Pittman Farms will lead the workshop. Participants will explore basic vegetable growing principles, including site selection, soil testing and preparation, appropriate vegetables varieties for East Texas, and common problems. Participants also will learn proper seed-sowing techniques with a hands-on project that they will take home.

“Growing your own vegetables is incredibly rewarding and not nearly as difficult as people imagine,” Duke said.

East Texas enjoys long growing seasons, and a variety of vegetables can be grown at various times throughout the year.

“There is nothing better than the taste of the first homegrown tomato of the season,” Jodi added.

Cost for the seminar is $30 for SFA Garden members and $40 for nonmembers. Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. To register for the seminar or for more information, contact the SFA Gardens education office at (936) 468-4129 or sfagardens@sfasu.edu.