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Provost David Payne To Retire This Summer

April 27, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

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Provost David Payne is known and respected for involving the university in community activities.  Here, he directs an impromptu performance of the SHSU Choir at a holiday open house on campus.

After 14 years of service to Sam Houston State University as its senior academic officer, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Payne is retiring on July 31, 2011.

“Provost Payne has established a strong, objective academic culture that continues to raise the bar on the quality of the academic programs and services at Sam Houston State University,” said SHSU President Dana Gibson.

“His rigorous expectation for quality benefits our current students, and since it permeates the academic units, these expectations will continue to enhance student and faculty experiences for years to come,” she said.

During his tenure at SHSU, Payne has led the Division of Academic Affairs with 600 faculty located in six colleges offering 78 undergraduate and 49 graduate degrees, including five doctoral degree programs.

Payne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from Brigham Young University. He continued his academic studies in sociology, earning both a Master of Arts degree and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina.

He began his career at the University of Iowa. After positions at the University of Iowa, University of North Dakota, University of New Orleans, Southeast Missouri State University, Sangamon State University, and Emporia State University, he came to SHSU.

“I was interviewing for two positions at the same time in the spring of 1997,” Payne said. “One was at the State University of New York – Buffalo and the other was at Sam Houston State. At one location, the snow banks were high, and at the other location, the azaleas were in full bloom. It was not a difficult decision for us.”

Payne, and his wife, Grettle, had never lived in Texas. However, it was not long before they felt at home.

“I suppose you could say we were captured by Texas and all things wonderful about the state,” he said. “We have truly enjoyed being Texans.”

He doesn’t mind expressing his affection for the Sam Houston State University community as well.

“The quality of people I have worked with is outstanding,” he said. “Every person is really a fine human being. The administrators are skilled and that has made my life as provost pleasant.

“I am thrilled that the university has been recognized as one of 97 colleges named as one of the ‘Best Colleges’ in the country to work for and one of the top 100 businesses in the Houston area to work for,” he said.

Payne said he was hesitant to isolate any one accomplishment that had occurred at the university under his direction.

“The credit for anything good that has taken place should be spread across the entire university,” he said. “It wasn’t because of the work of just one person.”

However, several faculty leaders feel that Payne’s involvement was the driving force in making things happen.

“Through his leadership and stewardship, and working with other administrators, the quality of academics and number of students here at Sam Houston have skyrocketed,” said Texas State University System Regents’ Professor and Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice Rolando del Carmen.

“He has been a highly approachable administrator and always had time for anyone who wanted to meet with him,” del Carmen said. “It is amazing to me how, throughout all these years, he was always available for meetings one-on-one with the faculty and how he listened to genuine concerns about academics and other matters in their own colleges. He was always there to listen and be sympathetic. His heart and mind were in the right place and he truly cared.”

"In my opinion, Dr. Payne has done more to elevate the academic standards of students and faculty than any other administrator in the past 40 years (my time at SHSU),” said TSUS Regents’ and Distinguished Professor of History James Olson.

“In terms of tenure standards and research expectations for faculty, he has brought SHSU into the modern world, and he has managed to do so with gentility and grace,” he said.

“Today, the quality of our faculty in many departments rivals the faculty at such premier institutions as the University of Texas and Texas A&M. Many administrators have pushed SHSU in that direction, but in my opinion David Payne is the individual most responsible for that transformation,” Olson said.

“Dr. Payne’s style of leadership has grown our democratic campus environment. He encourages rather than demands; he invites instead of tells,” said Joyce McCauley, professor and graduate reading/language arts program adviser for the College of Education and chair of the American Democracy Project at SHSU.

“He is a leader with vision and courage and helps to find ways to make things happen,” she said. “He is sincerely interested in connecting the strengths of the university community with the strengths of the local community for the mutual benefit of both. Now, more than ever, faculty and students are understanding the power one person can have to make a difference by being informed and engaged in community.”

“Dr. Payne has been a wonderful mentor to me and many of the administrators on campus,” said Richard Eglsaer, associate provost. “As a leader, he refuses to micromanage. Rather he quietly shares his experiences to help us put our decisions into perspective.

“I have benefitted tremendously from his wise counsel over the last 11 years. He consistently maintains focus on the big picture as he makes decisions,” Eglsaer said.

“I have been most impressed by his humility. As a leader he has deflected credit away from himself. Effective change has been the only reward he has sought or accepted,” he said.

Among Payne’s accomplishments, and under his direction, SHSU:

• Increased freshman-to-sophomore retention by 26 percent
• Increased six-year graduation rates by 42 percent
• Introduced a freshman reader program
• Increased enrollment by 27 percent
• Moved the university from a Carnegie classification of Masters University to the classification of Research Doctoral University
• Established internal connections with 18 universities in eight countries
• Established the Professional and Academic Center for Excellence to enhance teaching
• Opened a multi-institution teaching center in north Houston
• Led a faculty development initiative more than quadrupling the number of semester or year-long faculty development leaves
• Conducted a major revision of the university’s core curriculum
• Increased 40-fold the student scholarship funds
• Doubled the size of all graduate assistantships
• Established academic enrichment centers to assist students with special needs in language and mathematics
• Established an innovative advising center, which was recognized in 2005 as one of the six best in the nation
• Established and staffed an Office of International Programs
• Brought to approval two doctoral programs and many master’s and baccalaureate programs, including the new baccalaureate program in nursing
• Led the institution through successful discipline-specific accreditations and two institutional accreditations
• Restructured Academic Affairs, adding two colleges
• Implemented a new automated degree-monitoring program
• Established benchmark community college articulation and transfer programs
• Led institution involvement with the American Democracy Project and the Political Engagement Project
• Increased externally funded research by 450 percent
• Established a distance learning office which has more than 5,000 online enrollments per semester in 12 full degree programs
• Established the Office of Student Success Initiatives, which sponsors such programs as the First Year Experience, the Common Reader program, the Learning Communities, and an Introduction to University Life course

In reflecting on his work at SHSU, Payne said he also sees a bright future for the university.

“There is wonderful leadership in academic affairs at all levels, and I believe the university will continue to move forward after I have retired,” Payne said.

“Enrollment will continue to grow, the graduate program will be strong, and the distance learning component will enhance the attraction of the university,” he said.

“The new nursing program will open the door for the expansion of allied health programs, and it will give a whole new dimension to the university,” he said.

“And the Performing Arts Center will allow the university to better focus on those academic programs,” he said, noting that SHSU’s strength in the performing arts was one of the things that attracted him to take the job.

Even though his job as a university administrator will end in July, Payne has several projects that will occupy his time.

“I’ve always been interested in genealogy, and I plan to pursue it more aggressively,” he said. “I’ve served 23 years as a chief academic officer, and through the years I’ve been asked to do presentations and provide advice on how to be a successful provost. So I’m planning to write a book about that.

“And, of course, I will be playing with my 10 grandchildren,” he said.

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