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Humanities and Social Sciences Introduces Wall Of Honor

Feb. 23, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences will introduce its new Wall of Honor with an induction ceremony on Friday (Feb. 25) at 4 p.m. on the first floor of the CHSS Building.

The inductees are Walter Bennett, Joseph Clark, John Hannah and Ferol Robinson.

“We have so many outstanding faculty and alumni from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and we wanted to have a way to honor them,” said Herbert O’Quinn (BS ’63), chairman of the college’s advisory board.

“We decided that placing plaques with their names in recognition of their accomplishments on a wall in the building and having a ceremony each year would be appropriate,” he said.

This year, the first plaques will be unveiled and the ceremony will feature a video presentation about each recipient. The ceremony will conclude with a reception.

Walter Bennett

Bennett received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1961 and a Master of Arts degree in 1962, both from Sam Houston State University. He went to Mississippi State University and received his doctorate in sociology in 1970.

Bennett first served as an instructor in SHSU’s sociology department from 1962 to 1964. In 1970 he was named an assistant professor in the department, and in 1973 he accepted the position of acting chair of sociology. From 1974 to 1994 he continued as chair of the department. He retired from Sam Houston State in 2010.

“Walter has been a distinguished member of the SHSU Sociology department for more than 40 years,” said Alessandro Bonnano, current chair of SHSU’s Department of Sociology. “He was the youngest faculty member appointed chair in department’s history, and the chair who served the longest term.

“During his illustrious career at SHSU, he distinguished himself for his dedication to the university, the department, its faculty and students,” Bonnano said. “I can safely say that in my long career in academia, I have not met a more dedicated member of the faculty than Walter. He has been and is an example for us all.”

Bennett also served a 36-year teaching career through SHSU with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In recognition for his work Bennett was presented a Distinguished Service Award by Lee College in 2001.

In 2003 State Representative Lois Kolkhorst wrote to Bennett, “It is people like you that touch lives and inspire people. I appreciate all that you do for Sam Houston State and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. You’re truly making a difference in the lives of many.”

Joseph Clark

Clark received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Christian University and earned a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. He also attended the University of Virginia and the University of California and was twice a graduate fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

His teaching career began in Hereford in 1903. He taught elementary subjects for one year, then taught history at his hometown high school. He also taught history and English at John Tarleton College in Stephenville from 1907-1910.

He began his career at Sam Houston State as a professor of history. Later he was named head of the department and director of the Division of Social Sciences.

He helped organize the Texas Commission On Inter-Racial Co-Operation and served as its president for 20 years.

Though he once served briefly as a dean, he preferred teaching in order to continue classroom instruction and maintain close contact with student life. When the Estill Building was still the campus library, a room in the building was named in his honor. His portrait currently hangs in the Thomason Room of the Newton Gresham Library.

Clark died on Sept. 23, 1969.

John Hannah

Hannah graduated from Sam Houston State University in 1964 with a degree in history and English.

His public service career began in 1966 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives at the age of 26, and he served three terms.

He attended South Texas College of Law, as well as the University of Houston and the University of Texas, passing the bar in 1971.

In 1973, he was elected district attorney for Angelina County. He returned to Austin in 1975, as general counsel for the public interest group Common Cause.

After a private practice in Lufkin, President Jimmy Carter appointed Hannah U.S.
Attorney for the Eastern District in 1977, a post that he held until 1981.

Hannah practiced law in Tyler for 10 years. He returned to Austin in 1991, when Gov. Ann Richards appointed him Secretary of State, a position he held until 1994, when President Bill Clinton appointed him to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Texas.

Hannah became chief judge in 2001 and served until his death on Dec. 4, 2003.

Ferol Robinson

Robinson worked his way through college by selling milk from a family cow and went on to become a journalism professor and vice president at Sam Houston State University.

Robinson enrolled in 1938 at what was then Sam Houston State Teachers College and graduated in 1942. He then served three years stateside during World War II.

After the war, Robinson landed a job at Sam Houston as a teacher trainer and student recruiter. After receiving a master's degree there in 1947, Robinson left for the University of Missouri, where he earned a doctorate in 1953.

When Robinson returned to Sam Houston, Harmon Lowman, president of the school, asked him to head the journalism department. Robinson went to work, training students to be reporters and editors, public relations workers and teachers.

For 10 years before Robinson retired in 1981, he was vice president of the university.

"There are dozens of us, maybe hundreds, who would never have gotten through college without his assistance," said Jack Sheridan, a 1961 graduate of Sam Houston State and a reporter for the old Houston Post and Houston Press. "He found us jobs, grants, scholarships and convinced us every day that we could make it.

" ... It was decades after graduation that I realized his gift was 'giving of himself.' He did it in a completely unassuming way. He never achieved fame or fortune. But he lived a life of more substance and meaning than anyone I have ever known," Sheridan said.

"He was just the best dad you could ask for," said his daughter, Patricia Trammell. "He believed that men and women should be equal. If you aspired to a job, his idea was: You can do it.”

Robinson died Feb. 4, 2007.

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