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Hail to the Chief
The Huntsville Item
State, local and school leaders welcomed Sam Houston State University president James Gaertner "home" to his alma mater during his investiture in Johnson Coliseum on Thursday.
Gaertner, who assumed the responsibilities of his position in August, received his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1965 from SHSU and later his master's degree in business administration in 1970.
In his speech at the ceremony, Gaertner told the story of how his first job as a teaching assistant at the university was in the very room that now serves as his office.
"I am very fortunate to have been able to begin my career and to close it, not only at the university that I love, but at exactly the same location," Gaertner said.
Dionicio "Don" Flores, president of the Board of Regents for the Texas State University System, officially installed Gaertner as president during the ceremony, charging him with carrying out his duties as the university's leader.
"Be more than a president who does his job with efficiency," Flores said. "Be a president with a vision for the future."
Gaertner said SHSU must be "engaged" with both the local and worldwide communities, or it cannot significantly improve itself.
"Globalization is a reality, made possible largely by the explosion of many different technologies," Gaertner said. "We have to be full citizens of the global community, both to have an impact and to gain access to the knowledge that is out there."
Gaertner noted three main areas he wants to focus on during his tenure as president: improving academics, increasing university visibility and image and improving the campus' community atmosphere and culture.
Some of the goals he set in September in his first university address have already resulted in changes, he said, including the addition of 750 parking spaces on campus, plans for more on-campus housing and the creation of a President's Circle of influential alumni and university friends to help gain support for the university.
U.S. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, said the relationship between state-supported universities, like SHSU, and the government is very strong. He said no university and community has ties stronger than those between SHSU and Huntsville.
"It is on occasions like this when we are honoring not just a individual, but an education," Turner said.
He then presented Gaertner with a flag that flew over the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
Representatives from the student, staff, faculty and alumni communities also formally greeted Gaertner and welcomed him to the post.
The Huntsville Men's Choir, various Huntsville church choirs, Hilltop Lakes Chapel Choir, SHSU choirs, and the SHSU Orchestra, wind ensemble and symphonic band provided music for the ceremony.
Melissa Piper, a senior majoring in photography who attended the ceremony, said she thought Gaertner's background and experiences would aid him as president.
"I think he's going to do a great job, I really do," Piper said.
Participants and audience members included State Rep. Dan Ellis, D-Livingston, State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, D-Brenham, Huntsville Mayor Bill Green, regents of the Texas State University System, and representatives of in- and out-of-state universities.
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