Mary Lou Retton headlined SFA's Archie McDonald Speaker Series
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Mary Lou Retton was the featured guest at the 2015 installment of the Archie McDonald Speaker Series at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Mary Lou Retton catapulted to international fame by winning the All-Around Gold Medal in women's gymnastics at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, becoming the first American woman ever to win a gold medal in gymnastics. She won silver medals for team and vault, and bronze medals for uneven bars and floor exercise. Her five medals were the most won by any athlete at the 1984 Olympics.

Retton is the only woman to win three American Cups (1983-85), the only American to win Japan's prestigious Chunichi Cup (1983), two U.S. Gymnastics Federation American Classics (1983-84) and the All-Around title at both the 1984 National Championships and Olympic Trials.

Retton was named the 1984 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year and the 1984 Associated Press Amateur Athlete of the Year. She was the first woman to appear on the Wheaties cereal box and the Gallup Poll included Retton as one of America's Top 10 Most Admired public figures. She retired from competitive gymnastics in 1986.

In addition to serving as a commentator for NBC at the 1988 Olympic Games, Retton wrote a daily column for USA Today during the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Retton served as an on-air reporter for Gannett Broadcasting's NBC affiliates, the largest NBC affiliate group in the United States. She also co-hosted the weekly television series "Road to Olympic Gold."

Retton was selected a member of the official White House delegation representing the president at both the 1992 and 1998 Olympic Games. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Retton with The Flo Hyman Award in 1995, commending Retton's spirit, dignity and commitment to excellence. The U.S. Olympic Committee established the annual Mary Lou Retton Award for athletic excellence, and Retton was first gymnast and the youngest inductee into the committee's Olympic Hall of Fame.

Today, Retton is in great demand as a motivational speaker and travels the world as a "Fitness Ambassador" promoting the benefits of proper nutrition and regular exercise. She serves as national chairperson and sits on the Board of Governors of the Children's Miracle Network.

The author of "Mary Lou Retton's Gateways to Happiness: 7 Ways to a More Peaceful, More Accomplished, More Satisfying Life," Retton has appeared in the motion pictures "Scrooged" and "Naked Gun 33 1/3." She has made appearances on numerous television shows, including "Guiding Light," "Knots Landing," and "Dream On," and guest starred in one of the highest-rated episodes of the series "Baywatch."

Retton is married to Shannon Kelley, and they have four daughters: Shayla Rae, McKenna Lane, Skyla Brae and Emma Jean.

SFA's speaker series was created in spring 2010 by the College of Liberal and Applied Arts to honor and preserve the legacy of Dr. Archie McDonald as a distinguished scholar, educator and community commentator. In the tradition of McDonald's writings and oral presentations, a prominent national figure is hosted annually at SFA to discuss contemporary cultural issues.

McDonald taught history at SFA for 48 years and served as director of the East Texas Historical Association and editor of the association's journal for 37 years. He was a past president of the Texas State Historical Association, past vice chair of the Texas Historical Commission and author/editor of more than 20 books on historical topics. Along with teaching, McDonald served as the university/community liaison for SFA, was a weekly commentator on Red River Radio in Shreveport, and wrote a weekly column for The Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches and other newspapers. He passed away on Aug. 16, 2012.

McDonald participated in the first three events in the speaker series, interviewing former heavyweight champion boxer and iconic businessman George Foreman, Apollo 12 astronaut and professional artist Alan Bean, and 61st U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III. McDonald's widow, former Nacogdoches Mayor and Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation President Judy McDonald, interviewed the series' 2013 guest, former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The speaker series is sponsored by SFA's Student Government Association, and the event is free and open to the public. Passes may be obtained at the Involvement Center on the first floor of the Baker Pattillo Student Center or at the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau downtown. For more information, call (936) 468-5406.

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