Criminal Justice Center turns 50

The Sam Houston State University George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center is commemorating its 50th anniversary this week.

The center will celebrate its 1965 founding with special events starting Thursday. With such rich history and superior programming, a committee formed in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the college with several different events.

College of Criminal Justice Associate Dean for Academic Programs Holly Miller, Ph.D., said one event taking place that will benefit students is a scholarship golf tournament.

“We decided to host a 50th anniversary College of Criminal Justice scholarship golf tournament in honor of our 50th anniversary and, hopefully, as a new tradition to annually support scholarships for our students,” Miller said. “People from the college, university and community are participating in the tournament.”

Miller said the golf tournament will not disappoint as it will have a special theme.

“We are making the tournament a criminal justice focused tournament that will be memorable and fun for the participants,” Miller said. “For example, we will have handcuffed putting, pardons and dead ringers. Our famous College of Criminal Justice barbecue pit will also be at the tournament feeding our golfers, faculty, students and staff. The barbecue is open to all.”

An anniversary gala will be held Friday night to highlight the successes of the college during the past five decades. It will begin with a cocktail hour in the Criminal Justice Center lobby that is open to all.

The gala will then proceed to the Lowman Student Center ballroom where those with a ticket will be welcomed for dinner.

“The evening will consist of displays of historical and current programs,” Rita Watkins, executive director of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, said. “The CJ time capsule is a highlight. It is amazing the change and growth the college and center have experienced. It is exciting to reflect on our history because I remember roaming the halls as an undergraduate at SHSU. It is also a way of looking forward because there is so much more that we can do in educating future criminal justice professionals.”

The college’s criminal justice program began as a result of three men. Former director of the Texas Department of Corrections George J. Beto, former president of Sam Houston State College Arleigh B. Templeton and local legislator David W. Crews.

Beth Kuhles, College of Criminal Justice communications officer, said the history of the college has given it national prestige.

“The College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University is one of the oldest and largest criminal justice programs in the country, setting the stage for education, research and practice in such diverse fields as law enforcement, corrections, victim services, forensics and security,” Kuhles said. “It offers the longest running Ph.D. program in the discipline, producing nearly 300 scholars around the globe and continues to educate and train leaders in the field through its academic programs and affiliated professional institutes.”

Police Research Center director and chair of the 50th anniversary planning group Larry Hoover, Ph.D., said the college has significantly shaped the field of criminal justice throughout its history.

“The College has been at the forefront of change in criminal justice throughout its history by researching [the] best practices, training professionals in the field and educating undergraduate and graduate students,” Hoover said.

Programs benefitting not only the college, but also the field of criminal justice as a whole are also offered through SHSU. Kuhles said the Criminal Justice Center is home to a variety of organizations to cater to several disciplines.

“The Criminal Justice Center hosts professional development programs and research institutes in a wide variety of disciplines, including law enforcement, corrections and crime victims” Kuhles said.

One such program is the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT).

LEMIT executive director Rita Watkins said the organization also marks a milestone this year and will continue to benefit the area of criminal justice.

“We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year,” Watkins said. “LEMIT was created…with the vision to deliver executive development, not to train but to create global thinkers that can impact locally.”

LEMIT has been working with SHSU students to develop future criminal justice pioneers.

“LEMIT does work with both graduate students at the Ph.D. and Masters level with research opportunities and LEMIT attributes much of its success because of the undergraduate student assistants that help program teams develop and coordinate much of what we do at all of our programs,” Watkins said. “We love our students because LEMIT is an introduction into the practitioner’s world. They make connections that help them after graduation from SHSU. We are very proud of them.”

For a full list of events and locations, visit the criminal justice 50th anniversary website.

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