About SMA / Our Beginning
The San Marcos Baptist Academy story began December 20, 1905, when the Rev. M. E. Hudson, a pastor in San Marcos, and the Rev. J. B. Holt spoke at a meeting in Lockhart on the need for a Baptist school in the southwestern area of the state. After their speeches, the Rev. T. J. Dodson, a pastor from Seguin, moved that the Baptists of Southwest Texas establish a school and that an educational rally be held in San Marcos on January 18, 1906.
At the rally, a committee was appointed to visit towns to secure bids for the contemplated school. The committee visited San Marcos, Lockhart, Seguin, Gonzales, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio.
Bids were opened at a meeting held in San Antonio, March 15-18, 1906. On the recommendation of Dr. J. B. Gambrell and Dr. J. M. Carroll, the committee agreed to establish an Academy in San Marcos.
The placement committee promised the City of San Marcos that if the citizens raised $13,000, the Baptists of Southwest Texas would raise a similar amount, giving a total of $26,000 for the school. On July 16, 1906, this proposition was accepted by the San Marcos citizens, and fifty-seven acres of land in the most scenic section of San Marcos were given for the campus.
Dr. Carroll was asked to visit San Marcos to make a speech and counsel with the citizens on ways to raise their promised funds for the school. At a mass meeting on the courthouse lawn, Dr. Carroll pointed out the advantages of a properly financed Baptist Academy. He estimated the cost would be at least $50,000. At his suggestion, the $13,000 pledge was raised to $25,000, and the denomination was to match that amount. The Business Men’s Club of San Marcos adopted Carroll’s suggestion and elected him president of the proposed school and leader of the forces to raise funds.
Dr. J.M. Carroll Named First President
In San Marcos on September 19, 1906, trustees were elected by the Conference of Southwest Texas Baptists. In their first meeting they ratified the action of the San Marcos Business Men’s Club by electing Dr. J. M. Carroll as the first president of the San Marcos Baptist Academy.
On January 22, 1907, Dr. Carroll submitted general plans and specifications for thefirst building, which was approved on April 9 of that same year. On July 10, 1907, the Academy received its charter from the state of Texas. The cornerstone of the first building, eventually named Carroll Hall, was guided into place by Dr. Carroll’s daughter, Edena May, on December 19, 1907.
By the time Carroll Hall was completed, the contributions from the citizens of San Marcos had reached $40,000, almost doubling their original pledge. The history of San Marcos Baptist Academy cannot be written without recognizing the devotion, generosity, and loyalty of the citizens of San Marcos.
San Marcos Baptist Academy opened its doors for the first day of school on September 24, 1908, with an enrollment of 200; by the close of the first year, the enrollment was 277 including day students. Eleven students graduated that first year.
Dr. J. R. Pentuff was the first dean and he had thirteen faculty members. Originally the curriculum was organized into a program of study that consisted of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in the preparatory department and four years of high school. In the high school program of studies, students were required to complete four years of Latin forgraduation. During the 1908-1909 term, a band was organized. The policy was to provide for aesthetic as well as spiritual, social, and academic training. It was Miss Edena May Carroll who selected the green and purple of the mountain laurel as the Academy colors. Athletics were part of the Academy culture from the first year of operation. Both a football team and baseball team were fielded in the 1908-09 school year.
In 1910, at the request of the Board of Trustees, the Academy was passed to the patronage of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The school has been affiliated with the BGCT ever since.
The administration of Dr. Carroll, who resigned in 1911, is credited with the erection of four permanent buildings, the securing of a well-trained Christian faculty, and the enrollment of a student body of more than 200 annually. His tasks were tremendous and his achievements extraordinary, opening the door to an even greater future.
Presidency Passes to Prof. Thomas G. Harris
As successor to Dr. Carroll in 1911, the Board of Trustees turned to one of their own charter members, Professor Thomas G. Harris, who had served as president of the Southwest Texas Normal School, now Texas State University. During Dr. Harris’ administration, the Academy was placed on the list of accredited schools by the Secondary Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In 1913, the Board of Trustees created the position of Vice President and Field representative. Dr. B. A. Copass was chosen for this position to raise funds to liquidate the indebtedness against the Academy. He served as a solicitor for both money and students, and it was largely due to his service that the Academy’s indebtedness of $110,105 was liquidated. When President Harris terminated his five-year administration in January, 1916, prospects for the future of the Academy were bright.
Campus Expands under President J.V. Brown
Professor J. V. Brown, superintendent of schools of Dothan, Alabama, was unanimously elected as the third president of the Academy by the Board of Trustees. The administration of President Brown was marked by expansion in several directions: the campus was enlarged, buildings were erected, the faculty was increased, and the curriculum was broadened. During that same year a two story frame residence, situated across the street from Carroll Hall, was purchased at a cost of $4,500 to be used as a home for the president.
JROTC Unit Granted to the Academy
With the military spirit pervading America in the war year of 1917, the Academy launched its program of military training. The United States granted the Academy a Junior Unit of the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Immediately, the uniform and the discipline of military life became part of the life of the students of San Marcos Baptist Academy, instilling self-discipline, patriotism, leadership, and responsibility. The Academy is currently recognized by the Army as an Honor Unit with Distinction.
Among the new buildings constructed while President Brown was in office were a frame building with adequate accommodations for the literary and fine arts departments, a twenty-bed hospital for boys, a fifteen-bed hospital for girls, and the laundry. In 1924, a $36,000 gift from Mr. H. L. Kokernot made possible a gymnasium, ultimately costing $60,000.
Franklin Leads Academy During Trying Times
When President Brown resigned in the spring of 1927, the Board of Trustees elected as his successor a man who had been a member of the faculty since 1920, Colonel Jesse Franklin, the first member of the faculty to be elected to the position of president. Under his leadership, freshman college work was offered for several years by the Academy. The classes were conducted by the faculty of the Academy, and students completing the courses satisfactorily received credit toward a college degree. The Extension Bureau of the University of Texas authorized the organization of classes in mathematics, history, and Spanish. Baylor University authorized the organization of classes in English through the Extension Bureau. This program was discontinued after a brief time.
The next few years were critical ones for our Texas private boarding school. Businesses were not prepared for the national economic crash which occurred in 1929. The enrollment dropped sharply as family incomes were reduced, and gifts were greatly curtailed. The academic standards of the school were maintained at the usual high level though serious financial difficulties began to arise, forcing the Academy into debt; and when President Franklin resigned in the Spring of 1931, the school was in serious financial condition.
President Cavness Guides SMBA Through Financial Difficulties
Once again a citizen of San Marcos and a member of the faculty of Southwest Texas State Teachers College was enlisted by the Board of Trustees when they selected Dr. Raymond M. Cavness as president. The financial condition of the school was exceedingly poor; nevertheless, a renewed spirit of enthusiasm and optimism was created by the incoming administration. An excerpt from an article in the San Marcos Record on the occasion of the Silver Anniversary in 1932 stated: “The Academy is endorsed fully in educational and boarding school circles everywhere, and is distinctly and outstandingly a school of applied Christian training.”
To meet a 25 percent reduction in enrollment due to the stress of the financial condition of the country, President Cavness made a number of adjustments in personnel, reducing the overhead expenses to correspond with the reduction in income. Neither the scope nor the standard of the curriculum was lessened, but fewer faculty members were needed. President Cavness and the Rev. R. L. Powell, former president of the Board of Trustees, toured Texas speaking to groups and raising money for the Academy.
President Cavness succeeded in operating the Academy within its income during his first year as administrator; however, the Academy could not continue to operate without assistance in carrying the weight of old obligations and its bonded indebtedness. During the next few years, help was received from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, from small endowments, and from the citizens and churches of San Marcos. In the heart of the Great Depression, the Academy operated in receivership with President Cavness serving as the receiver. Serious effort was made to work out the problems of the school and to remove the burden of indebtedness. Judge O. S. Lattimore, trustee president, made a loan of $10,000 of his personal money to help buy up the old obligations of the school. The school repaid Judge Lattimore as resources permitted with the final payment being made just two months before the Judge’s death. Meanwhile, the Executive Board of the Convention assumed the bonded indebtedness against the Academy. The receivership order was dissolved in the July, 1936 term of the District Court in Hays County.
Just when there was some relief from the financial strain, new trouble sprang up to plague the Academy in the form of a fire resulting in an 85 percent loss of the Administration Hall on October 23, 1936. This hall, erected in 1919, contained all the classrooms for the secondary school. Once again, Judge Lattimore came to the aid of the Academy by underwriting $25,000 of the expense of constructing a new building. This, coupled with the insurance and the credit extended by the Executive Board of the Convention, made possible the construction of a new recitation hall, the first fireproof structure. It was opened for use on September 14, 1937, and named Lattimore Hall in memory of the late president of the Board of Trustees.
Endowment Fund Established
At this time Mrs. P. T. Talbot of San Marcos launched the Academy endowment fund with a gift of $200 to which two faculty members added $50 for a grand total of $300. From this beginning the endowment has slowly but steadily grown.
President Cavness resigned his position and left the Academy to report for Naval duty in Jacksonville, Florida on March 10, 1943. At that time, the Board of Trustees appointed Mrs. Alice Lane to serve as acting president of the Academy, marking the only time in the school’s history that a woman has served as president of the school. Until that time, Mrs. Lane had worked for 12 years as secretary to the President, while also teaching at least one class in the commercial department. The Senior Class of 1944 dedicated the Crest yearbook to Mrs. Lane, “because of her consistent loyalty to the school and her genuine interest in us, and because her grace, dignity, charming personality, and uplifting ideals have been an inspiration to entire student body.” The Crest dedication page also noted that “Mrs. Lane performed the duties and responsibilities of [the office of president] in a most capable manner.”
The Board soon elected as the next president Mr. Roy R. Kay, who assumed his administrative duties June 1, 1943. During his administration many improvements were made in faculty housing on the campus.
The operation of the school continued to be financially sound during President Kay’s administration. The endowment fund grew from $4,650 to $25,671 during these years. A liberal contributor to this fund was Mrs. L. W. Alexander of Waco, a member of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Kay concluded his tenure on July 1, 1946.
Mr. R. Wilbur Herring assumed his duties as Academy president on August 14, 1946. President Herring appointed Mr. Hugh E. Proctor to serve as Dean of the Academy, beginning September 1, 1946. President Herring’s administration ended with the close of the regular school session 1947.
Former Student Dr. Robert Bruce Reed Becomes President
Dr. Robert Bruce Reed, formerly superintendent of the Alamo Heights School District in San Antonio, Texas, assumed the office of president on July 17, 1947. At the age of five, Dr. Reed had accompanied his father to the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone of Carroll Hall. He later attended the Academy in 1918-1919 and is the only former student to serve as president our prestigious international boarding school in Texas.
In 1948, the Chamber of Commerce of San Marcos purchased approximately three acres of land and donated it to the Academy for the purpose of erecting a dormitory for boys. It was opened in September, 1949, and named in honor of Mrs. L. W. Alexander, then president of the Board of Trustees. Abney Hall, another dormitory for boys, was dedicated in October, 1952. This building was named in honor of the late Dean Emeritus, J. E. Abney. September 15, 1955, was the date of the formal opening of Elizabeth Kokernot Hall, a dormitory for girls. This building was named in honor of Mrs. Herbert Kokernot, Sr., whose husband and son served the Academy faithfully as trustees and were generous in their support.
Dr. William H. Crook Leads in Campus Expansion
Dr. William H. Crook became president in June, 1960, and immediately set into motion plans which resulted in more improvements in less time than at any other period in Academy history. His first emphasis was to improve the quality of personnel by increasing remuneration and recruiting outstanding people. The years of Crook’s administration also witnessed growth in enrollment, especially in the summer school.
The campus was expanded to approximately eighty acres, and a building program, which included numerous additions, as well as the rehabilitation of existing facilities, was inaugurated. A new academic building to be named Cavness-Reed Hall was constructed. The Sabre Bookstore and a new cadet dormitory were built. Upon completion of the dormitory, the trustees enthusiastically named it William H. Crook Hall. The dream of a new chapel was also resurrected, and the Tower of Prayer, as the first element in the chapel complex, was completed, thanks to a donation from Mrs. Velma Robinson.
With excellence as the goal of all Academy programs, academics, student life, and Christian emphasis were strengthened during Dr. Crook’s administration. His ideas, vision, and direction still influence the Academy today. He left the Academy in the summer of 1965 to serve his country in a number of posts, including United States Ambassador to Australia.
Jack E. Byrom Serves During Transitional Years at SMBA
In the fall of 1965, Jack Edwards Byrom became the Academy’s tenth president, leaving the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in San Marcos. He began his work with the determination to build on the foundation which had been established so well by his nine predecessors, and to maintain the momentum which had been building in the immediate past. Dr. Byrom served as Academy president from 1965-1996.
Dr. Byrom’s first appointment was to promote Assistant Dean Jimmie Scott to Dean of the Academy. Scott served faithfully and effectively through the years until his retirement as the Executive Vice President in 1996.
The Academy, which was a charter member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1913, and had long been accredited by the Texas Education Agency, was accredited by and received as a member of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest on March 22, 1973. In that same year, the Academy was accepted into the membership of the National Association of Independent Schools.
A number of additions were made to the Academy’s physical facilities during the early years of Byrom’s tenure. Air conditioning was installed in the dormitories, the football stadium was enlarged and lights were added and a new president’s house was remodeled. A dormitory for middle school boys was added and named for Mrs. Lorraine Derrick and Mrs. Ella Mae Wolfe, who for many years directed the dormitory program. The Thomas Library was built and dedicated to the memory of Jack and Florence Taylor Thomas, whose children were among the first Academy students and gave the funds for this building. In 1973, the Robinson Christian Center was completed and dedicated in memory of John Harvey Robinson. It was made possible by contributions by his beloved wife, Velma.
New Campus Dedicated
After long and detailed negotiations with Southwest Texas State University, an agreement was reached to sell the campus to the University. The sale was closed on June 20, 1979, with the understanding that the Academy would occupy the old facilities while the new campus was planned and constructed. Ground was broken on the two hundred acre site, given by Mrs. Velma Robinson, on November 3, 1979. The move to the new campus started during the Christmas holidays in 1981, with spring semester classes beginning on the new campus January 18, 1982. The formal dedication ceremony of the new facilities was conducted on May 1 of that year with all the memorials from the old campus being rededicated.
“Onward Bound – Stage II” was the name given to a campaign for capital funds launched in the spring of 1980. The initial gift was made by Mrs. Robinson as a challenge to other friends to provide funds for a natatorium and military science facility. The response of many friends, including substantial grants from the Davidson Family Charitable Foundation, more than met the challenge. In the spring of 1982, the Davidson Natatorium was dedicated and ground was broken for the military science building on May 21, 1983.
This giving program would be the prelude for a longer term program to enlarge the Academy’s endowment. The endowment fund grew from $92,650 in 1965 to $1,075,000 in 1983. Onward Bound Stage III began in 1984 with the purpose of securing funds to increase the permanent endowment fund and to provide additions to the present facilities.
In the Fall of 1986 a Development Council was formed to “promote the overall development of San Marcos Baptist Academy.” In 1987, the “Securing the Future Campaign,” to further enlarge the Academy’s Endowment Fund, was launched. With the completion of the campaign, the fund had more than tripled. Income from the endowment fund has allowed more students the opportunity to attend the Academy and has helped to carry on the tradition of excellence.
In the Fall of 1989, Academy girls were introduced to a new leadership program designed especially for them. The program was named COEDS. Created by Jo Quinn Long, the Dean of Girls, “COEDS” is an acronym standing for Community, Orientation, Enthusiasm, Discipline and Service.
The girls were divided into family groups much like the military companies. Leaders were chosen for the entire organization and for each family group. Through the years, this program evolved into an organization that taught the girls how to be leaders in school and in their community. It was phased out during the 2004-05 school year when the military program was no longer required for boys.
Academic, Technology Initiatives Set in Motion
The Academy moved forward in academics during the Fall of 1993 with the beginning of the Carroll Scholars Honor Program. This accelerated honors program is designed to prepare students for the top colleges and universities in the country. These select students attend classes with a demanding curriculum combined with individualized instruction and technology assisted learning.
Following the initiation of the Carroll Program, Advanced Placement classes were added in the Fall of 1995 for students wanting an academic challenge with the opportunity to earn college credit upon completion of the course. In 2002, the dual-credit college program was initiated with one psychology class. Today, students can earn from 30-50 hours of college credit while completing high school at the Academy.
Technology at the Academy continues to grow allowing students better computer access with current technology. In 1994, the Dr. Gwen K. Smith Technology Enriched Learning Center and the Kenneth Kendal King Information Technology Center opened. Teachers use these facilities for instruction, and students use the computers throughout the day for their assignments. Students with personal computers enjoy campus-wide internet and wireless connectivity. Technology infrastructure throughout the campus was upgraded and replaced prior to the 2008-09 school year thanks to significant gifts by alumni and friends.
Upon his retirement in 1996, Dr. Byrom was named Chancellor of the Academy and also served as president of the SMBA Foundation. His successor was Dr. Paul W. Armes.
During Dr. Armes’s administration, LTC Victor Schmidt moved from his position as commandant/dean of boys to serve as principal. In June of 2000, Mr. Schmidt was named executive vice president, working closely with Dr. Armes in directing the various Academy programs. Dr. Armes resigned early in 2001 to accept the presidency of Wayland Baptist University. Before naming a new president, the Board of Trustees conducted an extensive study of the Academy in order to lay out a plan for the future of the school search for the right leader to direct that plan. In November 2001, the Board named Victor Schmidt as the twelfth president of the Academy.
Enrollment Grows Under President Vic Schmidt
During Schmidt’s tenure as president, the Academy experienced a 32 percent rate of growth in enrollment, including the highest re-enrollment percentage achieved in more than 20 years in 2007. Through Schmidt’s leadership, the school expanded its Learning Skills Program; increased the Academy’s property holdings by 20 percent; established an Animal Husbandry Program with a full range of 4-H activities; and created a comprehensive Strategic Plan to design a roadmap for the Academy’s future. Additionally, under Schmidt’s guidance, the Academy established a Student Advisory Program, providing staff mentors for all students.
Having completed 16 years of service to the Academy, Mr. Schmidt retired as president on July 1, 2008. He was presented with the highest award the Academy can bestow on a person, the Exemplary Service Medal. Mayor Susan Narvaiz also proclaimed August 6 as “Vic Schmidt Day” in San Marcos as she recognized Mr. Schmidt for his contributions to the Academy and to Christian education. Sadly, Mr. Schmidt experienced health problems after his retirement and passed away Dec. 19, 2008. His loyal, committed service will be long remembered and honored by the Academy family.
Trustees Name Dr. John Garrison as President
The Academy’s Board of Trustees on June 11, 2008, appointed Dr. John Garrison as the Academys 13th president. Dr. Garrison, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Texas State University, began his duties at the Academy full time on Aug. 8, 2008. Dr. Garrison, who holds a B.A. from McMurry University, an M.Ed. from the University of North Texas, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, moved into the Presidents Home at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year with his wife, Carol.
In the fall of 2008, a new tradition was established at the Academy with the senior boys retreat at the Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacios, Texas. Similar to the senior girls retreat to Leakey, the boys retreat has become an annual and much-anticipated event. Another highlight of the 2008-09 school year was the dedication of the $500,000 Nancy and Don Mafrige Fitness Center, a gift from Nancy and Don Mafrige, who are both 1955 graduates of the Academy. Another addition to the Academy campus in 2009 was the LTC James D. Rogers Challenge Course, offering 21 low and high ropes elements and named in honor of the late LTC Rogers, former Academy commandant and teacher.
The 2010-11 school year marked a twelve-year high point in enrollment. In the spring, SMA honored former trustee Robert Fanning by dedicating the main campus thoroughfare as “Robert Fanning Drive.” The year would end with San Marcos Academy receiving its largest cash gift ever, a $1 million donation from Houston attorney Joe Jamail to honor his late wife and Academy graduate Lee Hage Jamail. Plans are now underway to raise the remaining funds needed for the construction of the Lee Hage Jamail Special Event Center on the Academy campus.
In 2011-12, enrollment increased once again, and the day student population reached the highest point ever. A number of technological initiatives, including a 1:1 netbook program, bolstered the academic curriculum and a new agreement was struck with Hardin-Simmons University to provide our dual-credit college courses. A larger-than-usual senior class of 71 received their diplomas in May of 2012, garnering more than $2 million in merit scholarships to colleges and universities all over the country. Two seniors received Congressional appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Sixty students were among the Class of 2013 and sixty-two made up the Class of 2014, with both classes sending its members to schools across the country and even overseas.
By the end of the 2013-14 school year, the Academy had a beautiful new campus entrance and road with an electronic gate and guard booth that will provide a more secure entrance to the central part of campus. Four additional streets were also named and dedicated in May of 2014, honoring Bobbie and Jack Byrom, Bobby Dupree, Jimmie Scott, and the Mafrige Family.
Jimmie Scott Named President of the Academy
The 2014-15 school year was a time of transition at SMA with the retirement of Dr. Garrison on Jan. 30, 2015 and the appointment of Jimmie Scott as Interim President. After serving through the spring semester in the interim capacity, Mr. Scott was named by the Board of Trustees as President on July 8, 2015. At that time, he announced some additional staff changes, including the appointment of Jeff Baergen as executive vice president, Rhonda McNeil as director of business affairs and Corey Boyer as dean of residential life.
A highlight of the 2014-15 year was the formal dedication of the Lee Hage Jamail Special Event Center at Homecoming. Joe Jamail was one of the honored guests at the dedication ceremony. The varsity gym was opened in time for basketball season, when the Lady Bears dribbled their way to a state championship in the Academy’s first year of competition in the Texas Association of Christian Schools (TCAL) league. .
As the 2015-16 school year began, a new option was open for students to enroll as five-day boarders. This program drew more than a dozen students who lived within a 70-mile radius of the Academy, allowing them to live on campus during the week and at home on the weekends. Also new was a sixth grade class for day students, which opened at full capacity on the first day of classes. The Academy Middle School took over all of Davidson Hall, while the Junior ROTC was relocated to the high school building. Brian Guenther joined the staff to serve as associate academic dean for the growing Middle School, while Cindy Brooks was named associate academic dean for the Upper School, both of them serving under Academic Dean Bob Bryant. In athletics, the Academy celebrated TCAL state championships in football, tennis and swimming
San Marcos was hit by two historic floods in 2015, one in the summer and one in late October. The damage from these events necessitated renovation to several buildings as well as the addition of drainage control measures across campus to continue to provide in-person learning in San Marcos Texas. Once these projects were completed, President Scott continued to seek funding for other improvements to our aging campus. One area that received diligent attention was the school safety program. Upgrades included the addition of multiple cameras, the hiring of safety officers, and the installation of a cross-campus public address system.
In the 2016-17 school year, SMA moved back to the TAPPS league for athletic, academic and fine arts competition. In the spring of that year, a $900,000 gift from the Emmett and Miriam McCoy Foundation, along with gifts from the Mafrige family and others, led to a groundbreaking ceremony for the McCoy-Remme Athletic Complex. Also in the spring, President Scott announced that grades four and five would be added to the Academy’s academic program for day students in the fall, re-establishing an SMA Lower School for the first time in more than 30 years.
Several other campus projects were funded by donors and completed during President Scott’s tenure Among them were the Nelwyn Moore Student Lounge renovation; expansion and upgrades to Ingram Stadium; installation of lights at the baseball field; and improvements to Cavness-Reed Hall, including the addition of tile, carpeting and new classroom furniture. Additionally, upgrades were made to the Student Health Center, which was dedicated in honor of Dr. Benge Elliott, and the Student Learning Center was relocated from the second floor to the library and named in memory of H.Y. Price, Jr.
Scott Retires and Dr. Brian Guenther Becomes President
When the 2017-18 school year began, the Academy welcomed students in grades 4-12 and for the first time, the number of day students exceeded the number of boarding students. The success of the new Lower School program encouraged the Academy Board of Trustees to approve the addition of grades K-3 in the following school year; planning and recruitment for the lower grades quickly became a top priority at our Texas private boarding school. As the school year came to an end, President Scott announced his intention to retire and the Board established a presidential search committee.
In July of 2018, the Board named Dr. Brian Guenther as the school’s fifteenth president and he began his duties on August 1. An inauguration was held on campus March 30, 2019, which was well attended by parents, alumni, friends, and supporters of the Academy.