A Bright Future Awaits The Pride


1906 from the Library's Northeast Texas Digital Collections

Etta Mayo, first lady of East Texas Normal College

Joshua V. Chanin

On Sept. 14, President Rudin named Ms. Judy Sackfield the new Vice President for Student Success and Dean of Students at Texas A&M University-Commerce—an appropriate appointment in view of Sackfield’s long-established connections with the university and her tireless efforts to foster student success and development for more than 20 years. 

In celebratory fashion, I write this article to briefly describe a couple of women during the university’s 131-year history who, like Dean Sackfield, were dedicated in promoting the institution’s vision and assisting thousands of Lions in their academic journeys and beyond.

Henrietta “Etta” Booth Mayo, wife of President William L. Mayo, is credited for establishing the music department at East Texas Normal College. During her 28 years as a music instructor, Etta Mayo assisted her husband in educating hundreds of young women and preparing them for professional careers in social work and teaching (despite Southern society’s attempts to keep them in domesticity). Etta Mayo also oversaw the popular spring music festival every year where award-winning musicians, including William Waugh Lauder of Chicago, performed on campus. Moreover, the president’s wife took an interest in student development outside the classroom, proudly sponsoring the Amothenian Society (East Texas’ first social club for women) and the Lightfoot Society (East Texas’ debating club for men). Following her husband’s death in spring 1917, Etta Mayo and the citizens of Commerce contributed thousands of dollars to renovate the campus’ academic and residential facilities. Until her death in Sept. 1918, Etta Mayo supported women’s suffrage, once writing “that men and women should be on an absolutely equal basis.”

Julia B. Hubbell certainly left a profound impact on this campus. Hubbell, a distinguished graduate of the University of Florida and George Peabody College in Tennessee, was a history professor and the dean of women at East Texas State for over 20 years. She partnered with Presidents Sam Whitley, Arthur Ferguson, and James Gee to enlarge the number of course offerings for students; despite often being the only woman in the meeting room, Hubbell did not allow male colleagues to challenge her authority. Hubbell was also a favorite administrator among students, regularly evaluating first-year coeds’ academic performances and cheerily supporting students in extra-curricular activities on campus. Toby McDowell Rives Harty, the first and only dean of women at Texas A&M in College Station, recalled Hubbell as “One of the kindest women I have ever met.” A male residence hall named after Hubbell was constructed in 1968 (it was located where the Cain Sports Complex currently sits). Prior to its demolition in 2007, it was commonly believed that Hubbell’s ghost would eerily walk Hubbell Hall at night, occasionally watching passerbys through a third-floor window.

Etta Mayo and Julia B. Hubbell made progressive strides at East Texas State in preparing Lions to succeed in their professional careers. The university, including myself, now looks forward to Judy Sackfield, along with a host of other women administrators, continuing to stimulate students’ minds and nurture a thriving Pride.