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Text of President's Remarks
At August 22, 2000 Faculty/Staff Meeting
Each year about this time we gather to make certain recognitions and introductions, and then the President gives a sort of "state of the University" type address. Basically that is the format we follow, although it might vary slightly from year to year. As you have seen this morning, and as Dr. Payne has indicated, we are in a different format today. I had hoped that we would be able to work out the logistics for a combined faculty and staff convocation in the Coliseum, but that could not be made to work because of the published registration schedule. I think it is important for us to come together as a university community and share information and recognitions together. We were not able to do that as completely as we wanted, but I am pleased that some of the staff could join us for this meeting.
Our Board of Regents imposed a quarterly meeting on us at the same time that we had originally planned to have the annual staff meeting next week. But again, it is good to have those staff members with us who were able to work out their schedules.
I am going to take a somewhat different approach in my remarks this morning. I will not go into the usual detail about the state of the University. I am sure you are already quite familiar with the progress we are making to reach our primary strategic objectives related to Student Retention; Technology; Development; and International Activities. We, as a University, are making excellent progress in reaching our objectives, and I congratulate you and I thank you for your dedication and for your hard work in each of those areas.
By the way, in the area of International Activities, I heard recently about a fellow university president who was traveling internationally, and he was in a country where shepherds are commonly used to guard the herds of sheep. He was really taken by the entire process of shepherding, which was totally foreign to him. He was visiting with a shepherd one day, and after talking for some time about the profession, the university president told the shepherd how much he liked the sheep, and he said, "Look, if I can guess the exact number of sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one of your sheep?" The shepherd thought there was little risk, so he agreed. The university president guessed "278 sheep." To the utter amazement of the shepherd, that was the correct number.
The university president then walked into the herd, and reached down and picked up one of the animals and put it around his neck on his shoulders. The shepherd looked at the University President and said, "Look, if I can guess your exact profession, will you give that animal back to me?" The university president agreed. The shepherd said, "You are a university president." The president was shocked, and he said, "How could you possibly have known that?" The shepherd said, "Put the sheep dog down and we'll talk about it."
In preparation for this meeting each year, I gather information from the President's Cabinet members about accomplishments during the past year, especially as those accomplishments relate to our primary strategic initiatives. I must tell you how very impressed I am with what you accomplished last year. And it occurred to me that we really do not do a very good job of communicating our accomplishments. I think this is true of higher education in general. We do a great job of telling the world about our failures, and we should be open about that sort of thing. We operate in a very open society in higher education. When something goes wrong, we lay it out for the public to see. But we are largely silent about our accomplishments, and I think this hurts us. The public understands very little about us and knows even less about our accomplishments.
Frank Krystyniak and Julia May cannot get the word out about our accomplishments if we do not tell them what we are doing. So let's cover them up with information this next year. I encourage you to communicate with Frank and Julia about your accomplishments. I know you generally do not like to brag, but we really need to let the general public know what we in higher education are doing. Send the information to Frank and Julia and they, in turn, will get it out to the media.
I fully understand that I, as President, cannot take credit for our accomplishments. In fact, my philosophy has always been that administrators should practice actual renunciation of taking credit for what others have accomplished, and instead must receive satisfaction from the recognition that other members of the organization have achieved such results. Administrators have to work through others to accomplish objectives. And I want you to know that I do, indeed, take great pride in you, our faculty and staff. Through you, and because of you, Sam Houston State University is truly a fine university, and we are making outstanding progress in every one of our four strategic initiatives.
In addition to those strategic objectives, our construction projects are also coming together nicely. We have had more construction in progress during the last five years than we had for the prior decade, and two major projects are still ongoing (LSC Renovation plans and the new General Classroom and Office Building)... Of course, Estill Building was the first major construction project in this phase, and it was completed some three years ago. All together, we have been dealing with more than $52.5 million in construction in the past five years. That's a lot of construction, and much of it is now coming to closure. White Hall, the Administration Building, and the new Blackwood LEMIT Building are substantially completed.
The position of President of a university is very transitional in nature. The average length of service in AASCU Doctoral Universities, such as ours, is 5.8 years. I have served as your president for almost five years, since October 1995...
The first few months were as Interim President, but the agenda was established from the beginning, and we immediately began focusing our attention on the Strategic Initiatives I asked the University to address.
At the meeting of our Board of Regents last May, I asked for a five-minute executive session with the Board and informed them that I would like to retire on August 31, 2001. By that time I will have completed 41 years of service with Sam Houston State University, including almost 6 years as president. I will by then be 67 years old. Quite simply, it is time for me to retire, and I am anxious to do so.
More importantly, that will also be as good a time as any for that sort of change. We will, by then, have the upcoming legislative session behind us; the Lowman Student Center Renovation Project and the new General Classroom and Office Building Project will be well along and perhaps even in the final stages of completion. Furthermore, we will have completed an update for our Campus Master Plan that will take us to the year 2010. Ralph Spencer, who developed a Campus Master Plan for us in 1981, and updated it about 1988, has been enticed out of retirement to update the plan for another ten or so years.
I sent a memorandum to you late last spring or early summer, in which I invited you to share with Mr. Spencer your creative thinking about the future of Sam Houston State University. I want to introduce Ralph Spencer to you at this point. If you have not shared your thinking with him, and if you would like to do so, please contact him. He is presently located in Austin Hall, but he will move his office to Wilson within a short period of time. Please understand that Ralph Spencer will not be designing buildings; he did not design any of our present buildings. What he will do is recommend land utilization and campus layout for us. I encourage you to share your ideas and thinking with him. His telephone extension is 44253.
In closing let me clarify one additional point. Most of you are aware that I had a mild heart attack last December. I witnessed the arrival of the New Year, the new century, and the new millennium from a bed in Methodist Hospital in Houston. But I am feeling fine, and all my tests indicate that I am now doing well physically. My health has nothing to do with my decision to retire at the end of the next fiscal year. I am simply ready to do other things.
Thank you. Thank you for your commitment to Sam Houston State University. Thank you, also, for your camaraderie, for your support, and for your commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and service. As a university community, everything we do, every decision we make, must be justified in terms of its effect on the accomplishment of our mission. We have a very busy year ahead of us, with much to be accomplished, including a legislative session and still a lot of construction. As a university community, let's work hard, and let's also have fun while we are doing it.
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