Walter Hugh Bennett was born February 26, 1938 in Beaumont, Texas. He received is B.S. at Sam Houston State University in 1961 with a minor in Geography. He continued at Sam Houston, and received an M.A. in Sociology in 1962 with minors in Geography and Economics. Dr. Bennett went to Mississippi State University, and received his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1970.
Walter Bennett began his teaching career at Sam Houston State University. He was an instructor in the Sociology Department from 1962 to 1964. While working on his Doctorate from Mississippi State, he was a teaching and research assistant, and held a part-time faculty position. In 1970 Dr. Bennett became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Sam Houston State University, and in 1973 accepted the position of Acting Chair of Sociology. From 1974 to 1994 he continued as Chair of the Department of Sociology. He retired from Sam Houston in 2010.
The current Chair of the Department of Sociology, Dr. Alessandro Bonnano speaks of Dr. Bennett, "Walter has been a distinguished member of the SHSU Sociology department for more than forty years. He was the youngest faculty member appointed department chair in the history of the Sociology Department, 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. 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."
Dr. Bennett served a thirty-six year long teaching career through SHSU with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was able to observe of this tenure five hundred and twenty-two students within the TDCJ system proudly receive their SHSU diplomas in Sociology and minor's in Psychology. In recognition for his work in 2001, Dr. Bennett was presented at the Wynn Unit graduation a Distinguished Service Award by Lee College President, Dr. Jackson Sasser, and expressing appreciation for 25 years of service as an educator in the TDCJ Institutions. In September 2003 State Representative Lois Kolkhorst wrote to Dr. 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." Rep. Kolkhorst remarks to Dr. Bennett were a direct result of a correspondence between TDCJ students and Rep. Kolkhorst.
Dr. Joseph L. Clark received his BA from Texas Christian University in 1961, and earned an MA 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. There he taught elementary subjects for one year, then taught history at his home town high school. He also taught history and English at John Tarleton College in Stephenville from 1907-1910. Dr. Clark quickly stepped up the faculty ladder at SHSU moving from professor of history to department head, and finally to director of the Division of Social Sciences.
Besides his contributions as historian and educator, Dr. Clark was recognized for his efforts to set white and black men down to discuss racial conflict. He helped organize the Texas Commission On Inter-Racial Co-Operation and served as its president for twenty years.
A wide range of learning and keen interest in the people of Texas resulted in the publication of several history texts. Among his best-known writings are "The History of Texas," "A New History of Texas," and "History of the Negro in Texas."
In his years at SHSU, Dr. Clark was respected by both the faculty and administration. Though he once served briefly as a dean, he preferred teaching in order to continue classroom instruction and maintain close contact with student life. A room in the Newton-Gresham Library at SHSU containing the school's collection of Texas history is named in his honor, and a portrait of the former historian hangs in the Thomason room.
Dr. Clark died on September 23rd, 1969.
John Hannah, Jr. was born on June 30, 1939, to John H. Hannah, Sr. and Velma Youngblood Hannah. After graduating from Diboll High School in 1957, he entered the U.S. Navy, where he served for four years as an electronic technician on destroyer escorts. Upon returning to East Texas, he attended Sam Houston State University and graduated in 1964 with a degree in History and English.
Judge Hannah's public service career began in 1966 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives at the tender age of 26. He served three terms, and it was during his last term in office that he and others led a revolt against the old system of doing business at the people's expense.
While serving in the Legislature, Judge Hannah gave up his dream of being a history professor and started law school. He attended South Texas College of Law, as well as the University of Houston and the University of Texas. He passed the bar in 1971.
In 1973, he left the Legislature and 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 John Hannah U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District in 1977, a post that he held until 1981.
After practicing law in Tyler for ten years, Hannah returned to Austin in 1991, when Texas Governor Ann Richards appointed him Secretary of State, a position that he held until 1994. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Hannah to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Texas. He quickly became known to attorneys appearing before him as an intelligent and evenhanded judge, with a great judicial temperament. While he always maintained a firm control of his court, he was never without his humor and wit. Attorneys appearing before him often commented on the courtesy shown to them, and the compassion and fairness shown the parties. He became Chief Judge in 2001, and served with distinction in that position until his death on December 4th, 2003.
Ferol 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. Fresh out of Jewett in Leon County, Ferol Macon Robinson enrolled in 1938 at what was then Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville. Robinson 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 was born in Jewett on June 1, 1918, one of six children of Bob Robinson and Cloud Speer Robinson. He died Feb. 4, 2007 in a Huntsville hospital.
MR. RON GAY, has earned two degrees in political science from Sam Houston State University, first in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree, and then again in 1984 with a master’s degree. Since 2008, Ron has served with distinction on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Advisory Board, and in 2016 he was elected as its chairman where he continues to serve. He was elected to the Alumni Board of Directors in 2019, and he is a life member in the Sam Houston State University Alumni Association.
Gay began his marketing career with Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company in 1978. He then moved to Bryan-College Station to work for the Bryan Broadcasting Company in its marketing department. He eventually moved on to have a successful 22-year career as the regional marketing director for the Baylor Scott & White Health Plan. Today, Gay is a registered representative with Cambridge Investment Research. In January of 2017 he opened his own practice—Ron Gay Financial Services—in College Station, Texas.
He is not only dedicated to serving Sam Houston State University, but he is also active serving his local community. Since 1980 he has been an active member of the College Station Noon Lions Club serving in numerous leadership positions at the local, district, state and international levels. In May 2021, he was inducted into the Texas Lions Hall of Fame in recognition of more than four decades of service to his community, state and nation. He is also an active member in the Knights of Columbus where he also served at the local, state and international levels. Gay is a Knight of the Grand Cross in The Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a Papal honor bestowed on him by Pope John Paul II. He has held countless leadership positions in other well-respected organizations over the years, including the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce and the College Station City Council.
Ron Gay has dedicated his life to the service of Sam Houston State University, his local community and the state of Texas. He and his wife, Terri, are both passionate world travelers. They currently reside in College Station, Texas and have three children and five grandchildren.
MRS. VANESSA F. HICKS-CALLAWAY, pursued her bachelor's degree from SHSU in political science with a minor in Military science while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as a military police officer. During this time, she also worked as a correctional officer in a maximum-security prison that housed death row inmates. Her service in the U.S. Army as a supply sergeant and intelligence officer included two separate deployments to combat zones ultimately earning her the Bronze Star Medal. She then continued her education by earning her master’s in human resources management from Central Michigan University. In 2011, she released a Christian self-help book called “Decision Precision Vision”, showcasing her devotion to Jesus Christ.
After retiring from the military following 26 years of dedicated service, she instructed junior ROTC students as a Senior Army Instructor and never lost her commitment to service. She has volunteered for multiple non-profit organizations, including the Old Landmark Committee, Disabled American Veterans/Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Warriors Weekend, Court Appointed Special Advocate, Victoria Bach Festival, Victoria Police Foundation, Community and Schools, The Gabriel Project, and the Victoria Business Education Coalition as a student mentor. She has also served as president in the Kiwanis Club.
Mrs. Hicks-Callaway worked as a congressional staffer in 2016 for the Texas 27th Congressional District, U.S. House Representatives for nearly 3 years. She helped lead the fight to re-elect Texas Senator Ted Cruz as his field director for the South-Central Region in the 2018 midterm election. She previously served Texas governor Greg Abbott as his appointee for the council for Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke Prevention. This position is especially meaningful to her as a survivor of open-heart surgery. She remains active in politics and served as a secretary, outreach coordinator and Precinct 21 chair for the Victoria GOP. She is a county and state delegate for the Republican party of Texas and is a member of the Victoria County Republican Women's Organization and the Texas Federation of Republican Women. In line with her passion and commitment to helping others, she is a Veterans Service Officer for the Texas Veterans Commission and works as a motivational speaker and plans to write another Christian self-help book.
She has been married to fellow U.S. Army Veteran Jason Ohm Callaway for 27 years and they have been blessed with two sons, Eric and Edward Callaway. Eric, who was a SHSU full scholarship track athlete, not only earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from SHSU in 2021, he also earned a Master of Science degree in Computing and Data Science from SHSU in 2023. Edward is currently a senior at Victoria East High School and plans to pursue a career in the arts.
DR. TERRY M. THIBODEAUX, received his first two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Education and a Master of Education, from McNeese State University in 1978 and 1980, respectively. He then went on to receive a doctorate in communication from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1986. Since 1987, he has dedicated more than 35 years of service to the Sam Houston State University community. He has been a professor, dean, department chairman and more in his years at the university, giving back to the students, faculty and staff around him.
From 2013-2020 he served as a university marshal, a presenter and mentor for incoming freshman events for seven years, as well as judged for the Miss Sam Houston Pageant for four years. In his time as dean of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and associate dean of CHSS he was dedicated to student success. He was an avid supporter of the SAM center and was an advisor in the center for years. Even after retirement he continued to support student success through advising.
As a professor, Thibodeaux excelled in making the class come alive. He offers trips to cultural festivals from surrounding states and areas. He invites guest speakers and lecturers, even musicians on a few occasions, to come speak to his classes. Students to this day keep in touch with him because of his willingness to commit to the classroom and the students. All this is seen on his high scoring teacher evaluations, his development of community engagement courses and his willingness to serve as the Lambda Pi Eta, the communication honor society, advisor. For his commitment to students in and outside the classroom he has won the 2001 Texas Communication Association’s Educator of the Year Award. Recently, he was nominated for a Keys of Excellence Award by the SHSU Orange Keys.
He also served as a member of the editorial board for the undergraduate journal, The Measure. For the last several years he has served on the advisory board for the Texas Review. In 2019, he served on the search committee for a new managing editor for the Texas Review Press. He has served as a paper reviewer, panel moderator and committee member as an active member of the Southern States Communications Association (SSCA). In 2004 he was elected president of the SSCA. Over the years he has published several peer review articles, authored one book chapter, co-authored a book and wrote a textbook.
He has always strived to engage, promote and cultivate a diverse academic community sitting as department chair. He also helped pursue an environment for new faculty to feel welcome and have somewhere to go to feel supported and ensure we are keeping a strong focus on the students.
Past Wall of Honor Recipients: