Founders Day to celebrate university history

Various members of the university and Huntsville communities will come together to celebrate Sam Houston State University’s Founders Day on Saturday.

Director of Alumni Relations Charlie Vienne said even though this is only the second year Founders Day has been commemorated, it is becoming a yearly event.

“Founders Day is important in the history of SHSU as it is a celebration of the university’s founding on April 21, 1879,” Vienne said. “Founders Day is a new tradition that will commentate (sic) the founding of our university annually.”

University President Dana G. Hoyt, Ph.D., will welcome guests during the lunch session. Hoyt said this day is quickly becoming an important part of the university’s heritage.

“Founders Day is one of Sam Houston State University’s signature events that brings alumni back to celebrate the university’s successes and to hear about some of the exciting academic programs and research projects in which our current students are participating,” Hoyt said. “It’s a meaningful way to honor our proud heritage and the bright future envisioned by the founders of this institution to which our alumni, faculty and students continually contribute.”

Prior to the lunch session, the day will kick off with registration and a continental breakfast followed by the opening session to be led by Sam Houston Memorial Museum director and mayor of Huntsville Mac Woodward. Museum marketing coordinator Megan Buro said there are significant ties between the day and the museum.

“We felt that since the Founders Day event was being held at one of our facilities it would be a great idea to have our celebration to kind of round out the day,” Buro said. “Tie in the Museum to Founders Day.”

Vienne echoed the historical significance of the Founders Day celebrations.

“The events and speaking programs are put together to feature our faculty,” Vienne said. “It is unique because it is being held in conjunction with the Margaret Lea Houston Birthday Celebration on the museum grounds.”

Vienne said guests will be exposed to notable things taking place at SHSU through the speaker sessions.

“Alumni and friends can expect to learn about many great things happening at SHSU from top faculty in their field, from research and programs affecting the university, state, region, and nationally,” Vienne said.

Peter Roussel, Warner Endowed Chair of Journalism and professor of mass communication, will speak on his firsthand experiences throughout his career.

“The title of my session is ‘Eyewitness to History,’” Roussel said. “In my career in the White House and other venues I have been most fortunate to know experiences that have given me a front row seat at the unfolding of historical moments. My presentation, including photographs, will highlight some of these moments.”

Roussel said he feels the day has significant impact in honoring the university.

“For me personally, it’s a chance to give back to this great university by sharing experiences that will hopefully be of interest to alumni and of benefit to students and others as they pursue their careers,” Roussel said. “This event, which honors the founders of SHSU and highlights ongoing work by members of the faculty, was launched at the initiative of President Dana Hoyt.”

Roussel said the speaker sessions will give past, current and future students a chance to learn more about what is in store for the university’s future.

“It is an occasion where alumni and others can come together in saluting the past and learning about current faculty projects while welcoming a future for SHSU that is surely bright,” Roussel said.

A catalpa tree was chosen to symbolize SHSU’s Founders Day because of its association with Sam and Margaret Houston. According to the Founders Day website legend says, “Margaret planted two catalpa trees on the Woodland House property symbolizing the couple’s relationship.  While the original trees have been lost, a seedling took root in front of Sam and Margaret’s home – a testament to the legacy of strong bonds and enduring relationships.”

The Founders Day celebrations will take place at the Katy and E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center beginning at 8:30 a.m.

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