Dr. Baker Pattillo

Visitation for longtime SFA President Dr. Baker Pattillo is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Twilight Ballroom of the Baker Pattillo Student Center.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the Grand Ballroom of the BPSC. Dr. Jeff McDonald and the Rev. Steven Newton will preside. Vista Drive parking will be reserved for family members and dignitaries.

Interment will be in Mason Cemetery in Arp, Texas, under the direction of Cason-Monk Funeral Home of Nacogdoches. According to an email sent by Interim President Dr. Steve Westbrook, Pattillo’s family wishes to remind everyone that Fridays at SFA are Spirit Fridays, and purple attire is encouraged.

His passing leaves us all with a void that will be hard to fill, but his legacy will last well into the future as his accomplishments over the past 52 years at SFA will live on,” the email said.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Baker Pattillo Scholarship Fund – SFASU Foundation, P.O. Box 6092, Nacogdoches, TX  75962   Attn: Baker Pattillo Scholarship Fund.

Pattillo, 75, died Saturday at his home, the Juanita Curry-Boynton House on campus, surrounded by his family. He was preceded in death by his sister, Carolyn Louise Pattillo; his father, the Rev. Leroy Pattillo; and his mother, Mauree Pattillo. Survivors include his wife, Dr. Janice Anderson Pattillo; daughter, Paige Pattillo Brown; son-in-law, Dr. Todd Alan Brown; and grandson, Jackson Baker Brown. He was born in Camden, Texas, on June 22, 1943.

The president died a few days before he was to officially retire from SFA. In the weeks leading up to his death, Pattillo underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor and was resting at home, according to emails sent to students and faculty and staff members.  

Pattillo was appointed interim president in July 2006 and named SFA’s eighth president the following January. He was the only SFA president to have been a graduate of the University.

An article published by the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel around that time read, “Pattillo not only brings to the job a passion for higher education but also for the purple-and-white."

In 1965, Pattillo was awarded his Bachelor of Science at SFA. In 1966, he received his Master of Education from SFA, and in 1971, he earned his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. While attending TAMU, he worked two to three days a week at SFA. Pattillo had been employed by SFA since 1966 when he was the assistant director of placement and student financial aid.

“My entire adult life has revolved around SFA, and having a role in leading the University is the most fulfilling job I can imagine. Working with colleagues from across the campus to develop and implement a vision for the future of SFA is an inspiring and humbling challenge,” Pattillo is quoted as saying on his page of the SFA website. “I am continually impressed by the determination and ingenuity that faculty and staff members invest in maintaining the quality of our University and the opportunities for our students.”

When his family moved to Arp in 1956, he quickly became a committed Arp Tiger. When he was 15, he began sitting near his future wife in church. Their relationship became closer, and they married in 1966.

During his years as president of SFA, Pattillo guided more than $425 million in campus projects, including the Student Recreation Center, three residential buildings, three parking garages, a nursing building, an early childhood building, the STEM building, new entry signs and a Student Success Center. During his last working day as president, he put forth plans for the construction and/or renovation of four additional buildings, which the Board of Regents approved the following day.

Dr. Jere Jackson, regents professor of history and university historian, has known Pattillo since 1970 when Jackson came to work at SFA. He said one of Pattillo’s important character traits was that he knew how to listen.

“So many people don’t know how to listen, and he was a quiet man who would frequently ask people what they thought about this or that or the other,” Jackson said, “and would actually listen to what they responded. He did that with students, too. He was very solicitous of what the students needed and wanted, and he listened to what they wanted. And that’s how we got the student center we now have.”

The BPSC houses restaurants, study areas, printing services, a bookstore and much more for students who may need it.

Jackson fondly recalled a conversation he and the late president have laughed about over the years. When Pattillo was head of Student Affairs, they were talking about the conflict between sports and academics at SFA.

“Dr. Steen was the president at the time, and Dr. Steen said, ‘I know many university presidents across the state of Texas who have on their tombstone that they opposed athletics as a reason for their death,’ and Baker and I laughed about that on many occasions,” Jackson said. “One occasion was when he had to make the very strong decision not to go forward with the baseball park at SFA… I think he did what he thought was the best for SFA at the time.”

Pattillo was known for his work with students. In a Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel article from 2006, Pattillo said “I want every SFA student to have the opportunity to attend an event at the president's house at least once while they attend SFA. This isn't just a place for me to live; it's a place for me to share."

Student Regent Kate Childress serves on the Board of Regents and worked with Pattillo. She met him in 2015 when she was invited to his home for a Student Leader dinner that Pattillo and his wife hosted.

This invitation was very exciting for me, and it was an honor to meet Dr. Pattillo. He was so generous and welcoming, as he was interested in making connections with each student in attendance, by asking us our majors and what we were involved in at SFA,” Childress said. “Working with him during my student regent experience, I observed a true Lumberjack that was hardworking and dedicated to SFA. He has made a huge impact on campus in his many years of service to the University. He is a legacy and will truly be missed.”

One goal of Pattillo’s was for SFA enrollment to reach 13,000. Last fall, the University achieved a record enrollment of 13,144. He was recognized for his many achievements by receiving the 2011 Citizen of the Year award from the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce and the 2017 Silver Bucket Award by the Texas Forest Country Partnership. During his years at SFA he enjoyed working and developing close relationships with SFA students, regents, faculty and staff, as well as leaders at the state and national level.

“My passion for SFA extends through every member of my family,” Pattillo said on his SFA web page. “Spending time with my family is the most important thing to me, but with our shared interest in SFA, much of our time together revolves around the University.”

 

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