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Rather Communication Building and Smith-Kirkley Hall

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The Buildings of Sam Houston State University website documents the changes of the SHSU campus in Huntsville, Texas from its inception in 1879 through tomorrow. The alumnus-run site details changes to the physical campus with information about the academic, residential, and historical buildings, other prominent campus landmarks and biographical data.
The idea of investigating the varied histories of the buildings came soon after I started as a student. Walking around the grounds it wasn't hard to ask who Belvin, Evans, Kirkley, and Pritchett were and wonder about their contributions to the campus.

It wouldn't be until the Fall 1997 semester that I found a way to act on my interest. One of the main projects for RTV 370 (Media Program Planning and Scripting - or something like that) was learning what it took to develop a television series. We had to come up with a premise and then document the steps we would need to take had we actually been putting together this particular program. That meant mock budgets, simulated schedules, draft scripts, genuine worries, and all the fun that comes when those activities are done for a grade.

Since I had been intrigued with the campus grounds since my first visit to Huntsville during high school, it was only natural to devise some sort of catch-all "university history project." In its original form the program was to tell the university's history by identifying those people honored on weathered plaques and articulately carved cornerstones found on the sides of buildings. The concept captivated the instructor as well, a staunch fan of documentaries, and he decided that such a project could be produced. Therefore I was asked back to the course for the Spring 1998 semester where this program became the class project. My part in taking the class again (which I suppose I accepted knowing I surely couldn’t get lower than an A) was there to help develop the multi-part documentary series that carried the tentative title of "Beacon of Education: the Building of Sam Houston State University." It was set for eventual air on KSHU television.

Research consisted of interviewing a handful of current and former instructors and administrators; videotaping the campus as it was in 1998; visiting the Peabody Library, where we setup a scanner and spent a week scanning old copies of the Alcalde; taking over the Thomason Room of the Gresham Library, where we unearthed treasures in the university archives and probably boggled the mind of the curator; and taking a self-guided tour of the then 146-year-old Austin Hall, in which I stumbled upon a very unlikely treasure in the form of a jar of mustard. (You had to be there.)

Of course, one's senior year is hardly the time to begin something as momentous as documenting over one hundred years of university history. Graduation was around the corner and before long those four years in Huntsville - as well as this project - were a distant memory.

Five years later I happened upon my "project" and wondered what all had changed over in Huntsville. Surprisingly, in those brief years I found a number of significant changes to the campus skyline. Since the documentary was never completed, this website was put together in 2003 so that the hours of research would finally get some sort of public showing.

Plus, I figured someone else might get a kick out of it as much as I did.

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