NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - More than 750 new graduates from Stephen F. Austin State University are entering the job market today. They're leaving college at a time when the national unemployment rate is 6-point-7 percent and the economy is on the skids. Yet, despite the worries of the world, the future for many of these grads is looking bright.
Most of these SFA graduates had to wait four long years for this day. Then they had to sit and wait anxiously for the moment their name is called.
Now that the worry of final exams, ordering caps and gowns and invitations, and just getting family and friends here is over comes the big step into the professional working world.
KTRE found Jeremy Brewster waiting with his family outside of William R. Johnson Coliseum with a big smile on his face and a handful of roses for his wife, Holly Nicole Powell Brewster, who graduated. He had this reaction, "I'm very happy. It's been a long four years. She's done good." We then asked, "What happens now?" "She goes to work," Brewster said with an even wider smile. Holly's family echoed Jeremy's excitement saying, "Yes, we are very proud!"
Jeremy's wife, a graduate from SFA's College of Education with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, is one of the fortunate graduates. She has a job already lined up as a third grade teacher in Jasper.
Dr. Jere Jackson, director of the Center for East Texas Studies and university historian was the commencement speaker. Dr. Jackson graduated from SFA in 1974 and is also a graduate of Longview High School. He's the professor responsible for preserving the history of Stephen F. Austin State University and placing historical markers on its campus.
His master's degree is from George Washington University, and he did post-graduate work at Oxford's Exeter College, at the Institute of Historical Research in London and at the University of Vienna in Austria. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. Despite his peripatetic spirit, he has remained on the SFA faculty since 1970.
"Both my wife and I are from East Texas pioneering families; Sarah is from Gilmer, and I grew up in Longview," he said. "We wanted to return to East Texas to be near our families."
Jackson began a study-abroad program at SFA in 1974, and he has given hundreds of SFA students and friends the opportunity to explore major cultural themes in the "open classroom of Europe."
"I pattern the trips on the Grand Tours of the 18th century," he said. "Many of the travelers have returned to travel with the group year after year."
In 1996, the SFA Board of Regents honored Jackson with a Regents Professorship. In addition, he has received the Teaching Excellence Award and the SFA Foundation's Outstanding Educator Award, and he is a former Professor of the Year.
Jackson served as chairman of the Nacogdoches County Historical Commission from 1976 to 2008 and wrote the historic overlay ordinances for Nacogdoches in the 1970s when he was a member of the city's first zoning board. He has received the Governor's Special Service Award in the field of historic preservation, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and the Texas Oral History Association's Award for African American History.
Sixteen historical markers have been placed on the SFA campus as a result of Jackson's efforts to tell the story of SFA, including four that will be placed in upcoming months as part of the university's 85th anniversary celebration.
"I served on the 60th and 75th anniversary committees, and I am now serving on the 85th anniversary committee," Jackson said. "History matters, if only to afford us opportunities for reflection. What we have done in the past matters, but only if we examine it thoroughly and honestly. Anniversaries allow us to look backward so we can plan forward rationally."
In addition to local and public history, Jackson has taught the history of Western Civilization, Modern Europe, World War I & II, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. A history of SFA prepared by Jackson is available at www.sfasu.edu/story.
More than 750 degrees will be awarded during Saturday's ceremony, including 659 bachelor's degrees, 98 master's degrees and five doctorates. Forty students will graduate cum laude, along with 45 magna cum laude and 40 summa cum laude graduates.