SHSU’s homecoming week has been an annual celebration since the mid-1940s, each year’s events bigger than the lasts. Last week, from Oct. 10 to 15, SHSU’s Bearkats dedicated each day to the heroes in their lives.
Student Activities’ Program Coordinator for Special Events Steven Begnaud felt ‘Heroes Will Rise’ was the perfect theme because one doesn’t have to have super powers to make a difference in someone’s life.
“We can all define a hero as something different, which is what makes it so great,” Begnaud said. “A hero could be a firefighter, military personnel, a parent, a sibling, a stranger, or literally anyone. How we define that is up to us.”
To launch the week, a Kickoff Rally hosted at Bearkat Plaza allowed students and Sammy the Bearkat to meet the Houston Zoo’s Hanna the Bearcat. Some select students even got to pet her. Freshman Tate Ashby appreciated the opportunity to learn about Bearcats.
“I’ve always thought Sammy was cool, so it was cool to meet a real-life Sammy,” Ashby said.
Next was one of the biggest homecoming events. The Sam Jam Carnival at Holleman Field on Oct. 12 offered free rides, games, and classic carnival food and snacks.
After experiencing the carnival, SHSU freshman Savannah Burrus has a newfound appreciation for Sam’s activities.
“I decided to go because many of my friends were going, and I love small town carnivals,” Burrus said. “It was obvious how much work was put into the carnival because there were legit rides, good supervision, and exceptional food. I will definitely be attending the rest of the homecoming events after experiencing this.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be homecoming without the annual parade. For the first time, the Huntsville ISD’s homecoming overlapped with Sam’s, so we combined ISDs to create a mega parade of nearly 130 participants. On Oct. 13, the streets were packed with floats decorated like comic-based cities and people dressed as heroes.
Program Council’s Chairman for Entertainment Maya Palacios believes it is important to include an activity the entire town can be a part of.
“It’s a great way to bridge the gap between high school and college and show that we care about the community,” Palacios said. “It gives kids something to look forward to and proves that it may not be a big town, but it still has a lot to offer.”
Oct. 14 was no less exciting as the Program Council hosted their Homecoming Movie – the Suicide Squad. The giveaways consisted of a lawn chair, and various nifty cups filled to the brim with goodies such as pens, hand sanitizers, and even sunglasses.
“This movie is about villains taking on the superhero persona, and we found it cool that they’re doing something good,” Palacios said. “It fits in with our theme because our heroes, even if they’ve done bad, have also done a lot of good to make sure the world is becoming a better place. It gives a new image and edge to the word hero.”
Later that day was the 44th Distinguished Alumni Gala featuring Duke Austin, James Lopez, Mia Gradney, Jerry Streater, and Nan McRaven. These recipients were selected in early April and Alumni Relations spent the next few months creating biographical videos in their honor to be premiered during the reception.
The guests then received their award from President Hoyt, and gave a brief speech. Associate Vice President for Alumni Association Charlie Vienne feels students have a lot to learn from these alumni.
“I think it shows students what kind of talent SHSU is putting into the workforce in all career fields, whether it’s criminal justice, business, or fine arts and mass communication,” Vienne said. “I think it’s beneficial for students to see how these alumni stay connected to the university and do things in their community to support them and make them grow.”
Finally, Oct. 15, the day of the big game, was the busiest. At 10 a.m., Alumni Relations hosted Alumni Coffee which offered coffee, baked goods, sports TV shows, and live jazz from SHSU’s own music department.
“Anytime we have an alumni association event or activity that has music incorporated, we try to use our students to put them on display to show alumni what our talent level is in our school of music,” Vienne said.
Later that afternoon, Black Alumni and Friends hosted a pre-game reception which provided an exclusive basketball practice with SHSU’s Head Basketball Coaches Jason Hooten, and Brenda Welch-Nicols. Live music was provided by Lloyd Hicks.
“The focus was to get the alumni engaged with the basketball teams before the season starts, so that they will come back to watch during the actual season,” Vienne said.
Then it was time for tailgating at Bearkat Alley. Free turkey legs and sausage on-a-stick was served and the first 1000 people to attend received free tumblers. There were various giveaways, but the most impressive was the annual Alumni Association Tuition Drawing Program.
For the ninth year, people could buy tickets to win 24 hours of in-state undergraduate tuition paid for, which is equivalent to about 5,000 dollars. The winner will be chosen on November 18th and will receive the money on their bearkat card before Christmas break.
“We award anywhere from 10 to 17 1,000 dollar scholarships from the program every year,” Vienne said. “This is our ninth year with the program and have awarded over 200,000 dollars directly to students with financial aid support and scholarships from the tuition draw program.”
At 3 p.m., it was time for the SHSU football team to face off against Abilene Christian University. During halftime, it was announced that Georgiana Reefer and Lawrence Jones Jr. were crowned homecoming king and queen. They also won a class ring along with the recognition.
Homecoming King Lawrence Jones Jr is honored to receive the award after his hard work and dedication to this university.
“It was exciting to win because I love this campus and the student body,” Jones said. “To have the opportunity to represent them on this level was incredible. I laughed a lot initially because honestly this is nothing I would have ever seen myself running for, certainly not winning.”
The win was obvious from the start and Sam Houston saw victory at Bowers Stadium with a final score of 48-21 to bring an end to homecoming week.