Biographical / Historical
Ralph Wright Steen, son of Preston Cunningham Steen and Maude Fleming Steen, was born on December 26, 1905 in Clyde, Texas. His father owned a hardware store and Steen at first planned to continue in the family business. But after graduating from Clyde High School in 1924, Steen attended McMurray College, where he became interested in history. He took a Master of Arts degree at University of Texas at Austin in 1929, and a Ph.D. there in 1934. Meanwhile, he had started his teaching career at McMurray College from 1929 to 1930. From 1930 to 1932 he was a part-time instructor at University of Texas at Austin; from 1932 to 1934 he taught at Reagan County High School at Big Lake; and from 1934 to 1935 he was a professor of history at Hillsboro Junior College. In 1935 he joined the faculty at Texas A and M University, where he remained for 23 years, serving as Head of the Department of History and Government during his final four years there.
On November 1, 1958 Dr. Ralph W. Steen was named President of Stephen F. Austin State College, becoming the College's third president. Steen stayed in the position until his retirement in 1976 and he was given the appointment of President Emeritus. During his tenure SFA grew from a college of less than 2,000 students to the status of university with more than 11,000 students enrolled. As a result SFA's campus was expanded greatly. Upon his retirement in 1976 the campus library was named in his honor. On January 24th, 1980 Dr. Steen suffered a severe heart attack near the Rusk Building and was rushed to the hospital, but only responded marginally to treatment and passed away on January 30th, 1980.