This brief history of the Sylvans was prepared by Dr. Mike Fountain, the club adviser from 1981 - 2011. I have lightly edited it to update some of the content since Dr. Fountain's retirement in 2010.
The Forestry Department was organized in 1946 under the direction of W.R. Owens. The Sylvans Social Forestry Club was officially recognized on campus with the adoption of its constitution on December 17, 1946. Undoubtedly, most, if not all, of the initial students in forestry at SFA in the early days of this program were involved in the Sylvans. Additionally, the majority of the students were WWII Veterans. The 1947 Edition of the Stone Fort contains a picture of the initial 28 members of the Sylvans, including C.L. Mallory (1st Sylvans President) and Kenneth Morgan (1st Sylvans Adviser). The Sylvans name likely was chosen to avoid confusion; the primary men’s social club on campus at the time was called The Foresters. The Stone Fort picture also shows J. Neuville Bogard and Johnny Long as members of the Sylvans. These two men were the first graduates with a BS degree in forestry from SFA (both graduated in May, 1947).
The primary function of the Sylvans at its establishment was to provide a forum for professional development for the students. Speakers from within the profession were brought to campus to focus on the various fields within forestry and on the types of careers available in forestry. The Sylvans also held an Annual Forestry Field Day that was a major event on the campus. The field day was replaced with “Lumberjack Day”, which is now held annually during the festivities associated with Homecoming. Lumberjack Day is designed to allow participation in Lumberjack sports, such as crosscut sawing, by students and organizations not sponsored by the ATCOFA. An interesting sidelight to the history of the Sylvans was the founding of a group known as the Laurels in the Fall of 1961. This organization was composed of the wives of forestry students and they assisted the Sylvans with various events each year.
In 1958, the Association of Southern Forestry Clubs (ASFC) was organized by the University of Georgia. The first ASFC Conclave was hosted by Georgia and representatives from SFA attended and participated. The Sylvans thus became one of the founding members of the ASFC. The Annual Conclave eventually became the primary focus of the Sylvans. Each year the sylvans host a runoff day, usually the first Saturday in March, to select the participants for the Annual Forestry Conclave. The Sylvans have built a strong reputation among the participating schools as a “club to be reckoned with”. The Sylvans placed first or second in 33 of the 35 Conclaves from 1985 to 2022, and has won seven of the past eight! Conclave was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID. SFA has hosted Conclave five times: 1966, 1977, 1994, 2005, and 2017. Since 1977, SFA has won Conclave every time but once that it has been held in Texas. Texas A&M hosted Conclave in 1986 and 2002. SFA placed first both times. The Sylvans remain one of the strongest organizations in the ATCOFA. However, the original purpose of serving as the “organization for professional forestry students” has been reduced since the inception of the SFASU Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters.
In its history, the Sylvans have been blessed to have many of top students serve as officers. More than fifty students have served as the President of the Sylvans; several students have served more than one year, while many served only one semester. Ms. Mackenzie Woolley of Azle, TX is the only President who has held the presidency for 3 years. During the early years, all faculty members in the Department of Forestry served as Sylvans’ advisers. As the Department grew and more organizations were added, the number of faculty who served as an adviser to the Sylvans was reduced to 1 or 2 per year. A complete history of the Sylvans is available which lists the faculty advisor(s), president, and conclave placement of the Sylvans since 1964.
Several faculty members served for extended periods:
- Mr. Kenneth Morgan: 1946 to 1949
- Dr. Nelson Samson: 1953-1961 (and again in 1964)
- Dr. Robert Baker: 1957 to 1962
- Mr. Ellis Hunt: 1961 to 1965
- Dr. James Howard: 1978 to 1981
- Dr. Michael S. Fountain: 1981 to 2011
- Dr. Jeremy P. Stovall 2011 to present