The institution that is now Sam Houston State University was established as Sam Houston Normal Institute in 1879. But while Marks is the institution's 11th leader, his "Normal" counterparts were known as "principals."
Harry F. Estill, who was fifth in succession, was the first official "president," although Henry Carr Pritchett may have been referred to as president in the latter stages of his administration.
It is not certain just how many "investitures" or "inaugurations" have taken place. A formal event for the Normal's first leader almost certainly did not. Bernard Mallon died only 11 days after the school opened on Oct. 10, 1879.
Mallon was succeeded by H. H. Smith, who came to Sam Houston from his position as superintendent of the public schools in Houston, and who left in 1881 to work as a journalist for the Atlanta Journal.
Smith's successor was Joseph Baldwin. Sam Houston State, which inherited Austin Hall from the departed Austin College, can legitimately claim to own the oldest in-use educational facility west of the Mississippi. But it can only claim to be the oldest teacher-training institution in the Southwest, because Baldwin helped found older institutions in Missouri.
Baldwin headed the Normal School from 1881 until 1891. Under his presidency, in 1890, Old Main was built and occupied, allowing space for an additional year of study for students wishing to remain beyond the traditional two-year program.
President H. Carr Pritchett's tenure (1891-1908) saw the continued expansion of the campus, including the addition of Peabody Library, the first college library building in Texas.
The name "Peabody" itself is an interesting sidelight in the story of higher education in the South, and in Huntsville. George Foster Peabody was a New England banker and merchant who was dedicated to helping build education in the South after the Civil War.
The Peabody Education Fund was at first used for public school support. Its officials soon realized, however, that without good teachers, schoolhouse bricks and mortar would be useless. Thus began the idea for a "normal" school in Texas, and Sam Houston Normal Institute was the result.
Beginning in its first year of operation and continuing for 25 years, Sam Houston Normal Institute was the beneficiary of direct contributions from the Peabody Fund. In its first year, for instance, more than a third of its budget was provided by the fund.
Soon after the Peabody Fund discontinued its support, Harry F. Estill, a member of Sam Houston Normal Institute's first graduating class, became president. By 1908 he had already served 26 years on the Normal faculty. Under his leadership the curriculum was expanded to four years and the first baccalaureate degree awarded in 1919.
In 1923 the name of the institution was changed to Sam Houston State Teachers College and two years later the college became a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1936 graduate programs were offered for the first time, and the first dormitory for women, Belvin Hall, was built.
The institution's next leader, Charles N. Shaver, was also a graduate and its first Texas-born president. During his five-year tenure (1937-'42) the first men's dormitory was built, and emphasis was placed on pre-professional programs.
Harmon L. Lowman took over for Shaver and was known for ideas, innovations and rapport with the students. He served as president for 22 years, expanding the campus in the area of residence halls and instructional facilities.
Lowman air-conditioned the campus with equipment once destined for a World War II aircraft factory, but never used for its original purpose. He got a similar "deal" on the former prisoner of war camp near Riverside that became known as Country Campus. By 1964 the enrollment exceeded 5,000.
Arleigh B. Templeton became president in 1965. Not only was Templeton a Sam Houston State grad, but was born in Walker County . Sam Houston State Teachers College was renamed Sam Houston State College in 1965 and four years later Sam Houston State University.
During Templeton's tenure the university enjoyed tremendous growth: the criminal justice program was developed; the Newton Gresham Library and several instructional facilities were added; and by the time of Templeton's resignation in 1970 enrollment had surpassed 8,500.
Templeton is retired after serving as president of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas at El Paso.
Elliott T. Bowers, who replaced Templeton in 1970, totaled 52 years at Sam Houston State as a student, administrator, and president. Bowers, who retired in 1989 and lives in Huntsville, directed development of the East Campus, which includes the University Theatre Center, Teacher Education Center, Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum, and George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center.
Under the Campus Master Plan of 1982 other facilities were added: the Dan Rather Communications Building, Health/Kinesiology Building, Lee Drain Building, Fine Arts Building, and a 13,000-seat stadium and field house (named the Elliott T. Bowers Stadium and Field House in honor of Bowers in 1989).
Under Martin J. Anisman (1989-1995) academic emphasis included increased admissions standards and creation of an Across the University Writing Program and a Learning Assistance Center. The Texas Regional Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES) was established and the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas moved to the SHSU campus from Austin. The Katy and E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center was built as an outgrowth of the General Sam Houston Bicentennial Birthday Celebration and the Sam South complex developed.
Thursday's honoree, Bobby K. Marks, served as interim president after the resignation of Anisman. He was named to the position on a permanent basis on June 4, 1996.
Marks announced Aug. 27 that his administration will focus on the areas of the use of technology for instructional programs, on student retention, and on fund-raising.
Marks was born in Louisiana and moved to Beaumont, graduating from Beaumont High and later Lamar University. He came to Sam Houston State in 1960 as an instructor of management, has since been promoted through the academic ranks and has served as both dean of the College of Business Administration and vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Services.
Having grown to a current enrollment of more than 12,500 students, Sam Houston State University now offers an extensive range of bachelor's and master's degrees, a doctor of philosophy degree in Criminal Justice, and expects to receive final approval in January for its second doctoral degree, in education.
With its ties to Texas history and Texas hero Sam Houston and a record of 117 years of service to the people of the state under leaders from Bernard Mallon to Bobby Marks, Sam Houston State University's promotional claim as "a great name in Texas education" has a solid ring.