Dr. Jefferson Davis Sandefer Sr.
HSU President 1909-1940
Jefferson Davis Sandefer, Sr., was born March 13, 1868, in a log cabin on a farm in Arkansas. At the age of eight, he accompanied his family to Parker County, Texas. As a boy in Parker County, he worked on the family farm and attended a country school. Sandefer worked a variety of jobs in order to pay his way through college and to help support his family. He graduated from Parker Institute at Whitt, Texas, in 1892 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Following graduation, Sandefer served as a teacher and principal in public schools. In 1893 he was chosen as president of Strawn College, a position he held for six years. During his presidency at Strawn College, he married Lucile Gilbert in 1893. In 1899 he moved his young family to Granbury, Texas, where he accepted a position as School Superintendent.
In 1901 the family moved to Stephenville, Texas, where Sandefer served as professor of Latin and history at John Tarleton College. Sandefer spent his summers working toward a degree from the University of Chicago. He received the Bachelor of Philosophy degree from that university in 1907. In 1908, he was selected to become president of John Tarleton College.
Sandefer was named President of Simmons College in 1909 and served in that capacity for thirty-one years. As the president, Sandefer made it a point to know the students by name and to spend time visiting with them. In 1939, while illness confined him to his bed, he wrote to the class of 1938-39, “It is a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to know each of you in a real and personal way, but to every young man and woman who has been a part of the institution during this, my thirtieth year as president, I extend my heartfelt greetings and felicitations.”
In 1917, Baylor University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. Dr. Sandefer served from 1920 to 1923 as president of the Texas Baptist Convention and Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1923 to 1924. He also served as Dean of all Texas Senior College and University Presidents.
Dr. Sandefer died on Good Friday, March 22, 1940. A Cowboy bandsman sounded taps in the historic campus triangle, marking the end of a 31-year era. Dr. and Mrs. Sandefer are buried on the HSU campus in front of the Student Center. The inscription on Dr. Sandefer’s headstone reads “If you would see his monument, look around.” Sandefer was described as “a man of faith who built the monument, inspiring students with a vision of the possibilities and a man who brought enduring results not only in brick but in noble sons and daughters.”