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Warnock Named Interim Replacement

Billy C. Covington, right, shown here with SHSU faculty member and co-researcher David Donnelly, will take a leave of absence to work for an Austin consortium involved in computer chip design and manufacturing.
Billy C. Covington, associate vice president for research and graduate studies, is leaving Sam Houston State University to work for an Austin consortium involved in computer chip design and manufacturing.

Covington resigned his position as associate vice president and has been granted a two year leave of absence from his position as professor in the department of physics.

Michael J. Warnock, executive director of the Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES), has been named interim associate vice president for research and sponsored programs. Warnock will also continue in his present position, but will not have responsibility for the area of graduate studies, which will report to Don Coers, associate vice president for academic affairs on an interim basis. The changes are effective July 1.

David Payne, vice president for academic affairs, said in announcing Covington's departure and Warnock's appointment, that a national search for a permanent replacement for Covington will be conducted.

"Dr. Covington has provided outstanding leadership in promoting and encouraging research and scholarly activity on campus," said Payne. "He will be sorely missed on campus but we wish him well in this development activity. We are glad to have a person of Dr. Warnock's experience and ability available to step in and continue the forward momentum of Sam Houston State University in the areas of research and sponsored programs."

Covington said that he will be project leader for a Sematech, Inc. semiconductor project and will serve as a liaison for some of the consortium's university contracts.

He has been involved in semiconductor research and has a patent pending for a process developed with SHSU faculty member David Donnelly, former faculty member Charles Manka, and another scientist. Their process, which uses laser blasts instead of the conventional heating process to produce ultrahigh-density semiconductor chips, was licensed for use in the chip production industry in April.

Sematech is a non-profit consortium formed in 1988 to provide a vehicle for developing advanced manufacturing technology that enables the U.S. to be competitive worldwide and to provide domestic, competitive sources of chips used by industry and for national defense.

"While it will be difficult to leave Sam Houston State, where I began my education and where I have so many friends, I felt like I could not pass up the opportunity to make a contribution in this area which is so important to our international business competitiveness and military readiness," said Covington.

Sematech partners include Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Company, Intel Corporation, IBM Corporation, Lucent Technologies, Motorola Inc., National Semiconductor, Rockwell International and Texas Instruments.

Covington earned his bachelor's degree at Sam Houston State in 1972, then master's (1975) and doctorate (1978) at Texas Tech University. He returned to Sam Houston State in 1979 to teach physics, becoming chairman of that department in 1989.

Other assignments have included director of faculty research and coordinator of graduate studies (1990-'92), director of faculty research (1992-'93), associate vice president for research and sponsored programs (1993-'97), and associate vice president for research and graduate studies since 1997.

Covington's work at SHSU has included creation of the Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES), which has received more than $19 million in external funding, and creation of the Institute for Innovative Collaborative Programs.

Under his direction, SHSU research expenditures have increased approximately 700 percent in the past seven years. Other efforts have included creation of the Rural Education System Network for implementation of a $1 million project to connect East Texas public schools and the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation to the World Wide Web through SHSU, and creation of the Environmental Technology Development and Commercialization Center in Texas City, with $1 million pending from the Environmental Protection Agency for that project.

Covington was awarded the SHSU Excellence in Research Award and recognition by the College of Arts and Sciences for outstanding scholarship and teaching in 1987, was named a distinguished alumnus of the Department of Physics at Texas Tech University in 1994, and presented a certificate of recognition for "outstanding and invaluable service to the community" by Congressman Charles Wilson in 1996.

Warnock came to SHSU as an assistant professor in 1982, also serving as Warner Herbarium director/curator until 1995. He was campus and interim director of the Texas Regional Institute for Environmental Studies from 1991-'95, becoming executive director in 1995.

He earned bachelor's (1977) and master's (1979) degrees from the University of Illinois, and doctorate from the University of Texas in 1982. He has been involved in a number of on- and off-campus service activities and has conducted research on varieties of the delphinium plant as well as other plants throughout the world.

"I just hope I can come close to being as successful as has Dr. Covington in providing numerous opportunities for students, faculty, and staff of SHSU to participate in a diversity of scholarly activities," said Warnock. "I am looking forward to working with Dr. Payne and the entire University administration to facilitate scholarly pursuits throughout the University community."


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
June 26, 1998
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