After 47 years in education and 13 years of serving as the dean of the College of Fine Arts, Dr. A.C. “Buddy” Himes will be retiring from the University on May 31.
Himes was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia, and has been pursuing a career in music since he first picked up an instrument. His father worked as an artist, self-taught musician and as a model maker, making designs for planes used in World War 2.
“I remember my father playing piano and writing arrangements when I was little,” Himes said. “Once I got into that and started writing my own arrangements, I knew exactly what he was doing.”
Himes started playing a trombone in the seventh grade and said was too big for him. It was so big he couldn’t play all the notes, but as passions generally go, Himes eventually grew into it and graduated from North Carolina Elon College. Later, he went to graduate school at the University of North Texas, where he earned his master’s and eventually his doctorate degree in the field of music.
Although Himes has since established himself in the field of higher education, he was not always as studious as he is now.
“That’s what makes me a good teacher and a good dean. I understand students who come here without realizing what it’s all about and if they’re going to make it,” Himes said. “I went from academic probation to the dean’s list in a matter of one year.”
While enrolled in Elon College, Himes was a part of a folk group with a couple of his friends called the White Oak Trio.
“I had a group with a tape recorder, and we thought we were really great, and we probably were for what we were doing,” Himes said.
Although the trio fell apart soon after its formation, looking back on the equipment they were working with allowed Himes to have a great appreciation for all the advancements in technology in the field of music featured at SFA, including state-of-the-art recording software, microphones, live sound, video game sound design and much more.
He has since published over 40 works and brought over $1.5 million in grants to the institutions he has served.
Himes attributed this switch in his life to maturation, but also to a professor by the name of Jack O. White, who modeled to him the importance of instilling passion in young students in a personal connection.
“The attention I got from Jack O. White is the same personal attention all the faculty give the students here so that they feel engaged; they feel they are a part of something and actually growing. They’re not just taking a class. They’re not just a number,” Himes said.
Gary Wurtz, the director of the School of Music, said that “A unique characteristic of his is that Dr. Himes has a mantra in which he firmly believes, and it is that the college of fine arts be seen as team players who are willing to meet all of the expectations placed upon us.”
This spark influenced Himes to not only graduate with his bachelor’s but pursue his career at UNT as well.
“The ink wasn’t even dry on the master’s degree. I graduated on a Saturday and went to work on a Monday,” Himes said.
His first job was a high school band director. He earned his doctorate while continuing to pursue music education, and eventually began teaching at colleges and found his way to the position of dean of the College of Fine Arts at SFA in 2007.
“When I came [to SFA], I saw a college that had nothing really wrong with it that was broken and needed to be fixed, but maybe on a plateau. If we had just a few more resources, we could really do something spectacular. I made it my goal to take it from that plateau up to the next level, and I believe it has been taken to the next level several times over,” Himes said.
Himes and his team have worked on upgrading the facilities of the fine arts department to accommodate the ever-growing student interest in the fine arts at SFA. Now, those plans are coming to fruition.
“It felt very rewarding to have this idea and take it this far. It had been talked about for 10-20 years, but never really got the momentum because the money wasn’t there or it was needed for something else until October of 2019 when we finally got the approval,” Himes said.
Although Himes would have liked to be able to finish the project he started, he decided now was as good of a time as any to retire, as the University has been restructuring much of its staff in recent years.
Florence Lunsford is the assistant to the dean in the college of Fine Arts and has been working with Dr. Himes since 2009. “We all have worked together as a team to accomplish his goals and we aspire to follow those same goals and objectives after his retirement. Our success is a result of his leadership and we hope to continue to carry on his legacy for years to come,” Lunsford said.
“The Fine Arts are very important,” Himes said. “It is the one thing that connects us to what we are as human beings. ‘Fine arts’ is an expression of what it is like to be human. It is an expression of the human experience.”
Although he will be stepping down from the position of dean, Himes will be staying in Nacogdoches to continue to pursue his dreams as an artist and other passions, new and old.
His office is decorated with models of cars he has owned throughout the years and is actively involved in the rotary club here in Nacogdoches.
Himes has an extensive list of plans after retirement, including being heavily involved in car shows, skeet shooting, acquiring a pilot’s license and a private plane, flying camera drones and taking classes within the university’s art department to learn more about the newest software in editing technology.