Celebrating 50 Years of Service: Director George Killinger Leads First Decade of Development

Director George Killinger
Director George Killinger

Dr. George Killinger was the first director of the Institute of Contemporary Corrections and the Behavioral Sciences, building a strong foundation for the College that would influence programs for decades to come.

Following the legislation that created the Institute, Dr. Killinger, a former Chairman of the U.S. Board of Parole for the Army Clemency and Parole Board, Director of Treatment for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and Professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, was hand-picked to lead the new enterprise and create undergraduate and graduate programs, according to Fulfilling a Mandate: A History of the Criminal Justice Center at Sam Houston State University by Dr. Mitchel Roth.

The Interagency Workshop attracted professionals from the field.
The Interagency Workshop attracted professionals from the field.
Originally located in the Woods Building and part of the Department of Sociology, the new program took off quickly, attracting students from across the country. Within the first year, Dr. Killinger established an annual Interagency Workshop, which gathered professionals from all aspect of the criminal justice system to discuss crime in the state and establish one of the key cornerstones of the College: “putting theory into practice.”

Over the next three decades, the Interagency Workshop would thrive and grow, attracting some of the biggest names in the field to share research, ideas and trends during the two week sessions. During the early sessions, Dr. Killinger offered undergraduate or graduate credits for working professionals who attended and wrote papers about it. The reputation of the program helped spread the word about the outstanding opportunities available at Sam Houston State University, Dr. Roth said.

Practitioners came to SHSU from all over the country and world.
Practitioners came to SHSU from all over the country and world.
“He was a great promoter,” said Dr. Charles Friel, former Dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the College. “He loved to get people to come here. He was very good at getting great and near great people to come here from all of the country. He was also a good manager of faculty and staff and hired good people."

Dr. Killinger pursued grants to begin important research in the field and received continuing funding from the Texas Legislature to support the fledgling program. By 1970, the Institute led the nation’s colleges and universities in total grants for law enforcement studies, Dr. Roth said

Dr. Killinger established the first master's program in criminal justice at SHSU in 1966.
Dr. Killinger established the first master's program in criminal justice at SHSU in 1966.
By 1966, Dr. Killinger established the first master’s program in Criminal Justice. Because of the growing demand for the program, he established “branch campuses” for correctional officers in such cities as Dallas, Houston, Beaumont, Austin, Temple, Waco, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. As federal funds became available through the Law Enforcement Education Program, that concept was extended to police, where faculty offered back-to-back sessions in major cities throughout the state, according to Dr. Roth’s book.

Dr. Dowling meets with Director Killinger in the early days of the program.
"Dr. Dowling meets with Director Killinger in the early days of the program.
“It was a good example of how we were able to adapt the delivery of education to the needs of our clients,” who Dr. Jerry Dowling, who retired from the College last year after more than four decades of teaching. “We were building relationships and our reputation in the field.”

Dr. Killinger also launched the first internship program with correctional institutions across the state, with students serving as athletic coaches, warden understudies, and test administrators for three months over the summer. Those programs would later extend to the Jefferson County Probation Department to help train students as correctional officers, and many were hired after graduation, Dr. Roth said. Today there are more than 200 internship opportunities offered at the College.

With his connection to the military, Dr. Killinger created a master’s program for the Army, which later trained military police to manage military disciplinary barracks after the Vietnam War. It established a close connection between Sam Houston State University and the Army that continues to this day through the ROTC program. Many of the students in that program are criminal justice majors.

The College hosted the 2nd Administrative District Court meetings.
The College hosted the 2nd Administrative District Court meetings.
Dr. Killinger also reached out to the courts, hosting the 1970 State Criminal Justice Conference, which brought together judges, educators and correctional officials to focus on uniform plans for statistical reporting on criminal cases, docket management and sentencing problems as they related to rehabilitation offenders, Dr. Roth said.

After the Criminal Justice Center opened, Dr. Killinger also made the courtroom available for real-life criminal trials, offering a glimpse into future careers in law and criminal justice. Over the years, the courtroom has served not only as a centerpiece for College events, but also for change of venue and appellate cases in Texas.

A portrait honoring Dr. Killinger hangs outside the auditorium that bears his name.
A portrait honoring Dr. Killinger hangs outside the auditorium that bears his name.
Dr. Killinger also created the first doctoral program in the nation in 1970 right here at SHSU, which has graduated more than 300 Ph.D. students who serve as academics and practitioners across the globe.

Early on, Dr. Killinger knew the important of preserving history. He was responsible for the beginning of the Criminal Justice Collection in the Thomason Room in Newton Gresham Library, leaving lessons from the past for the future to discover.

The creation of the Criminal Justice Center is marked by the culmination of an era in which the idea of "theory into practice" was vigorously pursued. This idea was the defining credo of Dr. Killinger, and the foundation upon which the Center has built its curriculum and reputation as a leader in the field of criminal justice.

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