Gen. Sam Houston had an early birthday party, thanks to Sam Houston State University.
The SHSU Alumni Association, along with University President Dana G. Hoyt, hosted a celebration of Gen. Sam Houston’s 222nd birthday Tuesday in Austin.
The alumni association board of directors organized the event, held at the Bullock Texas History Museum, where alumni, faculty, staff and members of the Texas Legislature gathered to honor one of Texas’ founding fathers.
The birthday celebration, which is organized every two years, has been assisting SHSU’s advancing presence in Austin, Hoyt said in a speech at the event.
“We are really pleased at Sam Houston State that [the alumni association has] started doing this and that we’ve been able to be more and more involved with the legislature,” Hoyt said. “I really think that has helped us in the last few years become a little bit more visible here in Austin.”
Hoyt stated that SHSU’s internship program that sends students to Austin to work with Texas legislators has also been increasing SHSU’s state presence. In reference to these interns, Hoyt said the university has been increasingly training Texas’ workforce.
“We educate a lot of what I think the Texas workforce is in need for,” Hoyt said. “We have over 50 percent first generation students, still. 80 percent of our students work.”
Hoyt further boasted the university’s statistic of being first in the state in placing students in the workforce within 12 months of graduation.
Senior criminal justice and political science major Guadalupe Cuellar is an SHSU intern in the office of Rep. Will Metcalfe R-Conroe. She echoed Hoyt’s thoughts on how the event helps SHSU advance its name.
“I think it’s an amazing event to be able to be here from Sam Houston to get their name out there,” Cuellar said. “We’re definitely fond of this university so the alumni association, President Hoyt and the Texas State University System. I think it’s a great event.”
Cuellar believes Sam Houston’s life is a legacy in which SHSU’s students can follow.
“I think based on his leadership, I feel like he should be an example for every student,” Cuellar said. “I feel like Sam Houston [State University] is filled with a lot of [diverse] students, so we can all succeed just like Sam Houston. We can learn bits and pieces of him and what he did and kind of take that as an example that we can do great things as well.”
Charlie Vienne, director of the alumni association, agreed with Hoyt and Cuellar on the event’s importance regarding of the university and Sam Houston’s legacy.
“I think it’s all about recognition,” Vienne said. “I think it’s about associating Sam Houston the man with the university [and] getting his name out there so when the legislature hears the name Sam Houston, not only do they think the man but the university as well.”
The event’s planning takes about two years and requires several meetings between alumni association members, according to Vienne. Planning for the next celebration began today.
Vienne said the alumni association attempts to attract as many legislators as possible to the event during the planning process.
“We spend two days here in Austin,” Vienne said. “We have the alumni association board of directors meeting here in Austin on Monday and then we take the board and their spouses to dinner on Monday night. Then Tuesday morning we all meet at the capitol and we contribute to the legislative gifts to send out to all the legislative offices throughout the capitol and remind them to all come to the event.”
Vienne said Tuesday’s event saw 300 alumni attend.
Former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and SHSU class of 1956 graduate Gib Lewis stressed the importance of the legacy Sam Houston left in Huntsville and the university community.
“We’re honored that [Sam Houston] chose Huntsville,” Lewis said. “He had always been a big supporter of education. When he went through all the founding of this state, he emphasized higher education. That’s one reason we have Sam Houston [State University]. If it wasn’t for him…[the university] wouldn’t even be in existence.”
Lewis further expressed how students can learn from Sam Houston’s example.
“Unlike a lot of people, Houston didn’t gain a lot of wealth. He was a very humble guy when he died,” Lewis said. “You didn’t see him – like many people who came to Texas – accumulate thousands and thousands of acres. He came for a purpose and he stayed with that purpose. When he resigned as governor… he went up and lived a very humble life in Huntsville.”
Lewis said he enjoyed the event and how it shows the quality education available at SHSU.
Although the celebration was held Tuesday, Sam Houston’s birthday falls on March 2. The Sam Houston Memorial Museum will host several events on that day, as well as a celebration of Texas Independence Day.