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President Discusses Campus Progress and Plans
Gaertner, who just completed his first year as the university's president, told the packed auditorium that academics had to be first.
"Anything else we try to do would fail without putting academics first," he said.
He announced that the university's fifth doctorate had been approved by The Texas State University System board of regents. The degree program will lead to a doctor of philosophy degree with a major in mathematics.
"When we begin graduating students from that program, Sam Houston State will move into the second highest ranking designation of the prestigious Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching," Gaertner said.
He also announced plans for campus improvements that are currently in various stages of approval. Among those improvements are a renovation of the Farrington Building which houses chemistry and physics, the construction of a 550-bed residence facility near Bowers Stadium, an addition to the Health and Kinesiology Building which would include a swimming pool, an addition to the Smith-Hutson Building, the construction of a dining facility on the south side of campus, enlargement of the Teacher Education Center, construction of new baseball and softball facilities to include dressing areas, the addition of a three-level parking structure with 450 spaces, upgrading exterior and interior signage, and the construction of a campus visitor's center which would feature state-of-the-art technology.
Gaertner also addressed the proposal to rebuild Old Main, the long-standing university landmark which was destroyed by fire in 1982.
"At this time, I will say that the idea is under serious consideration," Gaertner said.
"It would be a wonderful lead item in a capital campaign, and I'm currently listening to comments and concerns that are being made about the idea," he said.
"Those who have questioned the feasibility of rebuilding Old Main are concerned that the building would not be identical to the original structure," Gaertner explained.
"There are also concerns that the new building would overshadow Austin Hall, which many consider as the authentic historic building on campus," he said.
Gaertner said that he had spoken with architects and the general idea is to rebuild with an exterior that is identical to the original building, and have a modern interior for use as an educational facility.
He also told the audience that he had approved a one-time expenditure of $2.45 million which had been used over the past year to replace campus vehicles, purchase computer software and a new library system, upgrade classrooms, improve transcript evaluation, and develop a new advisement center.
He said that a capital campaign is under discussion and steps are being taken to have everything in place in order to announce the beginning of the campaign by fall 2004.
He announced that cash giving to the university was up 48 percent over the past year, and that the number of donors and gifts was up over 60 percent.
"Our Alumni Association has seen an increase of membership from 1,700 to 3,000, which represents an almost 80 percent increase," Gaertner said. He added that he would like to see membership increase to 10,000.
The university's visibility has also increased due to a number of public relations efforts, Gaertner said.
Among those are advertising in magazines, sending reprints of the ads to supporters of the university, billboard advertising, the addition of the 1-866-BEARKAT phone number, and the hiring of a public relations firm to increase media exposure for the university.
Gaertner also announced that the President's Speaker Series, which featured Gene Stallings last year, had started successfully and would be continued. Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields' Cookies will be the next speaker on Oct. 1. She is a successful entrepreneur who is also known as a motivational speaker.
The president also told the audience that details were being worked out for a new program called "Bearkat Bucks." The idea is similar to that of a debit card for purchases on campus in the community.
Also during the meeting, Gaertner recognized faculty and staff service and excellence. Faculty members who received plaques for 25 years of service included: James Carter of political science, Alfred Goodwin of education; Larry Hoover of criminal justice, Melanie Kercher of psychology; and Charles Luning of mathematics.
Staff members who received 25-year service plaques included: Terri Harvey of undergraduate admissions, Marcus Kenter of criminal justice, Mary Ellen Sims of student services, Ted Michael of human resources, Steve Wagner of grounds maintenance, and David White of human resources.
Staff members who received Sam Houston State University throws for 35 years of service were: Mildred Maxwell of the College of Business Administration, Eugene Jefferson of building maintenance, Lois Nelson of the Lowman Student Center, and Jack Parker of finance and operations.
The three Staff Excellence Award recipients were also introduced and presented plaques. They are Allison Eby Dean of mathematics, Deana Marek of forensic psychology, and Dorothy Wooten of the president's office.
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