SFA alumni endow business professorship to ensure ‘inspirational’ faculty for future Lumberjacks

Jo Gilmore, marketing communications specialist • 

July 1, 2022

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Christine “Chris” Sanner Berry and Jimmy “Jim” Berry, both 1985 graduates of Stephen F. Austin State University, have endowed the new Sanner-Berry Business Professorship in SFA’s Rusche College of Business as part of their long tradition of supporting education inside and outside the classroom.

“We have always believed in the importance of education, both formal education and through life experiences,” said Chris, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and broadfield communications with an emphasis in photojournalism. “Whatever the means of learning people experience — university, trade or apprenticeship — education offers the opportunity to expand their horizons and, by doing so, creates even more opportunity for the next generation.”

This professorship is one way the Berrys can ensure future Lumberjacks have the opportunity to learn from accomplished faculty members just as they did.

“As we reflected on the continued importance of getting the best professors and instructors at SFA to maintain and grow the Lumberjack experience, we became convinced this was a significant way to help make that impact,” said Jim, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting and is a retired partner and past vice chair for Deloitte & Touche. “We know the endowment will serve Lumberjacks for years to come.”

The Berrys said several SFA faculty members contributed to their success, including Dr. Michael Roach, a professor of art, digital imaging and silver photography at SFA from 1967 to 2000; and Dr. Sammie Smith, a professor emeritus who taught at SFA for 26 years — 15 of those as chair of the accounting department — before retiring in 2006.

“Looking back on the care, attention and challenging environment presented by our respective colleges and departments at SFA, our professors taught us not only technical skills, but also life skills that we carry with us proudly,” Jim said. “We learned life lessons, such as putting in the hard work and effort, showing up, teaming well with your fellow students on projects — all while having some fun. You knew the professors were going to challenge you, but they cared and would take the time to help you be successful.”  

The faculty member chosen for this professorship must demonstrate the ability to engage students in meaningful learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom, said Dr. Timothy Bisping, dean of the College of Business.

“Attracting and retaining faculty members who innovate beyond traditional instructional methods to best prepare students for rewarding careers and success in life is essential to the mission of our college,” added Bisping, who will oversee the selection of the professorship recipient. “Our faculty members are committed to changing the lives of students for the better, and the Sanner-Berry Business Professorship will help ensure we continue to attract and retain exceptional faculty to benefit students for years to come.”

After graduating from Clarksville High School, Jim entered SFA as a first-generation college student. Chris, who graduated from MacArthur High School in Irving, was looking for a different environment where she could pursue some nontraditional areas of study. The two were introduced during a chance meeting at Kerr Hall in spring 1982.

Though it took Jim a year to officially ask Chris out on a date, they got engaged before their senior year and married in 1986 a year after graduation. Their children followed in their higher education footsteps. Their son, Reid, earned a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University and a Master of Arts from Royal Holloway, University of London; and their daughter, Kate ’19, earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Oklahoma City University and her Master of Interdisciplinary Studies from SFA.

“SFA has remained an important part of our lives, and we have found ways to give financially and other ways over the years,” Chris said. 

Jim added, “For anyone thinking of ways to support the university, there are many opportunities. SFA is easy to work with when pinpointing an approach that marries your goals to the university’s priorities.” 

To learn more about SFA’s College of Business, visit sfasu.edu/cob. To learn how to support SFA, visit sfasu.edu/giving.