Just before Spring Break, a couple ambassadors were able to hear Fox Host Brian Kilmeade speak about his book, Sam Houston & The Alamo Avengers.
Put on by the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and hosted at the Walker County Education Center, Miranda and I enjoyed Mr. Kilmeade’s energetic and humorous presentation. As he put it himself, he was quite enthusiastic about Texas history for a New Yorker. He was introduced by Mac Woodward, the former mayor of Huntsville and the SHMM Director.
Mr. Kilmeade then began by sharing how he got started in writing historical accounts such as the book in discussion. We learned that he had a passion for history, especially that which very few people were aware of. He told us about another of his novels, George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, and explained that what drew him in was the relatively unknown fact that these six people did more for the American Revolution than anyone else.
According to Kilmeade, intelligence agencies like the CIA still keep records of and analyze the tactics of these spies, as they were groundbreaking for gathering intel.
He then spoke a great deal about Sam Houston, and his relationship with Andrew Jackson. Houston served in the War of 1812 under Jackson, who was a general at the time. Apparently, Jackson became Houston’s mentor, and was grooming him throughout their friendship to become president one day. He supported Houston’s endeavors, and helped prepare him to lead settlers to Texas. Kilmeade said before this, Houston had tried his hand at being a farmer, being a clerk, and even spent time living with a Cherokee tribe.
Mr. Kilmeade spoke about how the fight for Texas was largely demonstrative of the American spirit; it was fought for by pioneers, many of whom risked everything to start a life in Texas. He mentioned that courage is great, but it needs to be calculated.
After the Battle of San Jacinto, Kilmeade said that, although Sam Houston may have wanted to avenge the lives lost at the Alamo, he instead honored their memories by maintaining his composure while negotiating with General Santa Ana, and succeeded in gaining Texas from Mexico.
Kilmeade then wrapped up his talk with a few questions, talking about his writing, his career, and the political climate. He consistently praised American values, and deemed Sam Houston as an all-around American man.
After the lecture, we were able to take a picture with Mayor Woodward…
and exchange a few words with him and his wife, Leanne. We enjoyed hearing about our university’s namesake, and having the chance to hear someone speak so passionately about his life and contributions to Texas.
Every year, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences honors excellence, recognizing those that have embodied success as practitioners or in teaching in the halls of academia. This year, the College of recognized Professor of Philosophy Frank Fair and former County Judge Frank Robinson. Appropriately, the evening was marked by warmth, camaraderie, and even inspiration, fitting qualities for the humanities fields.
Dean Zink opened the event…
…and Chris Tritico MC’d the event, introducing speakers for both of this year’s recipients.
Fair, the faculty recipient of this year’s award, is only the eighth faculty to be recognized by the college, joining Dr. Caroline Crim, Dr. Richard Cording, Dr. Mattie Medford, Dr. James Olson, Dr. John Holcombe, Dr. Joseph Clark, and Dr. Walter Bennett. After joining the faculty in 1971, quickly made an impact, being involved in the community and in creating new programs at SHSU. He was instrumental in establishing the college’s teaching conference, was active in the Honors College, the Writing Across the Disciplines program, and in Academic Challenge. Fair also brought the journal Inquiry to SHSU, promoting research on philosophical inquiries and the promotion of critical thinking among SHSU students. (As prospective law students, this caught our attention!) His efforts, deservedly, led to him being awarded with the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1989 and the Excellence in Service Award in 1992. In 2011, he was given the Piper Teaching Award, a recognition given to only ten faculty members across the state.
Amidst the sweep of this forty-five year career, CHSS Alumni Advisory Board member Paula Lenz offered an up-close-and-personal view of Fair. With a voice that at times cracked, Lenz noted the impact that Fair had on her life and the way in which she saw the world. Although Lenz majored in English, she took Fair’s philosophical lessons with her, helping her in a successful career as the Director of the North Houston Association.
Dick Eglsaer, the Vice Provost at SHSU, also spoke on behalf of Fair. While calling himself an “old-timer,” he noted that he was nowhere near as old as Fair, a comment that got a few chuckles, including a laugh from the Fairs…
The Marketing Department at SHSU also did a nice video for Dr. Fair…
…which included discussions from Fair’s peers, such as Dr. Gillespie and Dr. Botero, the latter of whom learned to drive from Dr. Fair.
Over dinner, Fair had a chance at his “rebuttal,” and his ten-minute speech illuminated the many qualities that had previously been identified by his peers.
His passion for teaching, his concern for students, his gratitude to work at a fine institution with excellent peers, and even in his 70s, an enthusiasm for what teaching will bring in the future.
Throughout both his speech and the speeches about him, his wife, Janet, was mentioned repeatedly. Following a long career as a teacher at HISD, she now works for SHSU as a mentor and, like Frank, is a leader in the community.
To young political science majors (and one lonely accounting major), it’s inspiring to us as SHSU Ambassadors to see a faculty member who has accomplished so much, impacted so many lives, and maintained the zest for continued service, and we were pleased to meet and congratulate him following the dinner.
Service was also the theme of the CHSS’s recognition of Judge Frank Robinson. Born in 1916, Robinson lived to almost 100, passing just last year. His life of service was attested to by an impressive group of speakers, including former Mayor Jane Monday…
Reverend Willett, Commissioner BJ Gaines, and Robinson’s daughter, who gave a truly moving speech that touched on Robinson’s role as family patriarch…
… community servant, and elected official.
Robinson served two terms as County Judge, was President of Rotary, a Distinguished SHSU Alum, and an active member of the First United Methodist Church. In fact, when the LEAP Ambassadors did a community “then-and-now” photograph of the church in 2012, Robinson was selected to stand (actually, sit) front and center for the outdoor photograph.
Although our role in the CHSS event was in a minor support capacity, we were thrilled to volunteer. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to see role models, to meet others who are active in the College, and to spend time with some really nice people. Chris Tritico, a Houston attorney and SHSU alum, was not only the MC of the event and the dinner…
…but he introduced himself to us, and offered advice and support.
We finally had a chance to meet Dan Beto, for whom we’ve long been grateful but not ever actually met. Beto is a member of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Foundation, and when he cannot attend some of their events, he sends us his invitations. Partially because of his generosity, we’ve seen people such as George H. W. Bush, Stephen Hawking, Bob Gates, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Ken Burns, and Bud Philbrook. It was fun putting a name with an invitation!
It’s always nice to see the Woodwards, who have been huge supporters of CHSS. Judge Robinson was once selected as Citizen of the Year by the Huntsville Item. Mac Woodward was nominated for this award this year, and we hope that he wins it this Thursday (Good luck, Mac!)
We always enjoy spending time with the current County Judge, Danny Pierce, and his wife, Cindy. Amidst this group, it’s likely that you’ll not only hear about service, but you’ll actually see it in action. This time was no exception. At the end of the Wall of Honor service, for example, we got to see Judge Pierce help WWII veteran Jerry Nemec to the golf cart. We’ve never actually met Mr. Nemec, but we volunteer a lot at the HEARTS Veterans Museum, and we know about his service to the community and the nation.
As part of its Mission Statement, the CHSS promotes “personal growth, competent professionalism, and responsible citizenship” and Dr. Fair and Judge Robinson–along with the many nice attendees–did a great job of embodying those qualities and illuminating the importance that humanities plays inside and outside of the classroom.
Dr. Abbey Zink is the Dean of CHSS. Her staff, Brenda McNeely, Christine Reeder and Deanna Briones did a great job of putting this event on. The CHSS Alumni Advisory Board helps oversee the nominations process and they vote to select the honorees. It was an honor to assist with this event.
LEAP students, looking to become more civically involved, had the opportunity to learn from Huntsville leadership Thursday afternoon. In what was considered “Local Government Day” at City Hall, LEAP students came prepared to re-enact a city council meeting, complete with scripts and councilmember assignments.
The afternoon began with Mayor Woodward talking to students about the importance of civic involvement . We learned about his resume as mayor and of the ins and outs of holding the office. Mayor Woodward gave us a good portion of his afternoon to chat and answer questions before his next event. Taking his place, City Secretary Lee Woodward instructed us on city government and how it works. She spoke about the mission of the city, the different positions held by city workers, and what she does, specifically, as city secretary. Students, often coming to Huntsville from Houston where they are not as involved in the local happenings, listened intently, learning of all the opportunities that await them as members of the Huntsville community.
After learning about Huntsville’s Council-Manager system, students engaged in the exercise of the afternoon, acting out a city council meeting as members of the council and mayor. Each student was assigned to a different position, ranging from mayor to city attorney to hospital administrator, and we read from a script and extemporized the happenings of a typical city council meeting, including the proposal of a texting and driving ordinance–a topic of particular interest to college students.
We had the chance to be coached throughout by City Secretary Woodward and Professor Yawn, both of whom have extensive experience in the Tuesday night council meetings. Students acted their parts well for the most part and, in some cases, argued the proposal of the ordinance with the fervor of actual city council members. In all, we acted through two separate council meetings, with each of us switching roles.
Overall, we did pretty well. One of the most difficult things was adjusting to parliamentary procedure. Another was understanding the various rules under which city governments have to operate. If nothing else, this was a good exercise to know how hard council members work for virtually no pay ($10 a meeting).
Ending the afternoon, students enjoyed cupcakes from and chatted about the excitement of being mayor or a councilmember for a few hours. We explored the park behind city hall and saw Charles Pebworth’s “Totem #1.” Inspired to become involved and entrenched in city politics, LEAP students left city hall eager to make a difference in the community. We would like to thank Mayor Woodward and City Secretary Woodward for their hospitality and for hosting LEAP during such an educational afternoon.
After an eventful afternoon with Ms. Nancy Bocskor, LEAP Students headed to the Elliot T. Bowers Honors College Let’s Talk event for an evening of informative conversation with some of the state’s most esteemed professionals. LEAP students enjoyed diverse speakers ranging from FBI Special Agent and SHSU Alum Daniel Fuentes to Honorable Robert Eckels, President of the Texas Central High-Speed Railway.
Kicking off the event, President Hoyt was in attendance to speak briefly about the growth of Sam Houston State University and a few of its accomplishments. LEAP students received the privilege of enjoying dinner and conversation with a variety of speakers. Ariel Traub enjoyed dinner with Mrs. Barbara Cargill, Texas State Board of Education District 8 Member and Chair of the Board. She was impressed with the conversation and indicated the discussion offered “valuable insight to problems with our education system along with some possible solutions.” Kaitlyn Tyra, who also sat at Cargill’s table, echoed Traub’s sentiments, enjoying the opportunity to “ask questions concerning our schools and learn about changes underway.”
Karla Rosales and Megan Chapa dined with SHSU Alumni Ms. Patti Foster, a traumatic brain injury survivor. Megan Chapa found Foster “extremely inspirational!” and Karla Rosales found both the human story and the science behind it to be fascinating and encouraging.
Alex Galvan had the pleasure of having dinner and conversation with Dr. Carl Rollyson, Editor of the Hollywood Legend Series, and author of some 40 books—including two on Marilyn Monroe. According to Galvan, “it was wonderful to learn more about this icon, and get the back story on one of the 20th Century’s most intriguing legends.”
After dinner, co-chair of the Let’s Talk Advisory Board and Dean of the College of Health Sciences, Michael Lacourse helped close the evening with remarks. But the end of the event wasn’t the end of the evening. The LEAP Center students had an opportunity to meet with local officials attending the events…
…speakers from other tables, and revisit with Nancy Bocskor, who stayed late to visit with the honors students.
Overall, Let’s Talk gave students the opportunity to converse with professionals whom they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact with and gave them the opportunity to learn about topics personally interesting to each student. Many thanks to all the speakers, Ms. Jacel Angel, and the Elliot T. Bowers Honors College for a wonderful evening.