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Past President of SHSU Dies Saturday

By Tori Brock
Huntsville Item Features Editor

Arleigh B. Templeton
Arleigh B. Templeton

Texas education lost an advocate Saturday.

Arleigh Templeton, eighth president of Sam Houston State University, died Saturday in San Antonio at the age of 90. Many Huntsville residents spent Sunday remembering a friend and leader.

Since 1939, Ferol Robinson has lived in Huntsville and has served as journalism department chair and vice president of university relations for SHSU. He said while working with Templeton on press coverage of SHSU, he got to know a lot about the man behind the mission.

“Arleigh was a dedicated person — relative to all levels of the educational process,” he said. “He had little patience with a doubter person when planning for solutions to the educational process.

“He seemed to have a problem with someone who didn’t accept the theory it should be from the cradle to the grave in that process with no one to be left behind,” he added. “He was an excellent example of theory that an education was available to a person who was willing to work for it. There’s always a way, was his thinking.”

Templeton was born April 18, 1916, in New Waverly, Texas, to Claude E. and Jennie B. Templeton. After graduating from of Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1936, he earned his masters and doctorate from the University of Houston. Throughout his career, Templeton remained devoted to education in Texas.

His work spanned three decades and several school districts, including his time as superintendent for the League City Public School, Clear Creek Independent School District, El Campo Public School and Alvin Public School. He also served as president of Alvin Junior College and president of three universities, including Sam Houston State, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas at El Paso.

While at Sam Houston State, he changed the university from a teachers college to a state college, then to a university in six years.

During his tenure at Alvin, Templeton met a man named Frank Leathers, now a longtime resident of Huntsville. Leathers fondly remembers working with Templeton — first at Alvin, then at SHSU.

“I served as high school principal under Templeton when we both worked for the Alvin school district,” Leathers said. “When he became president of Sam Houston State, he invited me to join him as vice-president. I’m really indebted to him.”

Templeton took pride in promoting and encouraging young people, Leathers said, citing himself as an example.

“He was really emphatic in the directions he gave,” Leathers added. “You never wondered where he stood on an issue. He was clear and direct.”

Bobby K. Marks, another well-known former president of SHSU, took time Sunday to pay respects to Templeton.

“Arleigh B. Templeton served higher education in Texas through presidencies of four institutions, including a junior college and three senior universities. He was of the old school autocratic administration, and was often troubled by the slow pace of faculty involvement in university governance, especially with slow-moving committees. But he was a leader with vision,” Marks said. “During his relatively brief tenure at Sam Houston State, he led the institution from a teacher’s college, by both stated mission and organizational structure, to a multipurpose regional university,” he added. “Along with Dr. George Beto, who at the time was director of the Texas Department of Corrections, Templeton conceptualized working jointly on a project. Criminal Justice was established, by direction from the Texas legislature, as a program to accomplish a level of excellence and national prominence. It was Sam Houston State’s first doctoral degree and was its only doctoral degree for more than 25 years.”

Marks said Templeton took pride in the fact that SHSU became widely acknowledged as a national leader in Criminal Justice.

“The academic program, along with the state required correctional management training, made the Sam Houston State program the largest in the nation,” Marks said. “Templeton was the person the University of Texas system turned to for their first president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. He moved to San Antonio to guide the site selection and building program for that campus, and he oversaw all of the start up work for UTSA. When he retired from the position of president of The University of Texas-El Paso, he and his wife moved back to San Antonio where they resided together until his death.”

Morris Waller, former mayor of Huntsville, said Templeton had a positive impact on Sam Houston State, as well as the city of Huntsville.

“He was a dynamic leader, one who was in charge,” Waller said. “He was very effective in persuading the Texas Legislature to support SHSU. He teamed up with Dr. B.K. (Marks) and persuaded the legislature to fund the criminal justice complex and hotel.”

While at the University of Texas at El Paso, Templeton reworked the university, building 50 million dollars worth of new buildings, brought in graduate programs including its first Doctor’s Degree. He also served many posts of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was elected to the presidency in 1967. He was the second Texan to become president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting agency for all schools in the 11 southern states.

Templeton is survived by his wife of 68 years, Maxie; son, Earl Wayne; daughter-in-law, Judy Templeton; two grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

Perhaps his vision of beauty is the most lingering reminder of Templeton’s work in Huntsville. In Mary Estill’s 1970 book, “Vision Realized — History of Sam Houston State University,” Estill writes, Beautification of environment, President Templeton believes, influences the values of young persons through surrounding them with planned order and excellence in nature, and causing them to become aware of the importance of standards in other areas of life.”

Visitation will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Sunset Funeral Home Chapel in San Antonio. Funeral services will be Tuesday at 7 p.m., at the same location. There will also be a graveside service Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Forest Park East Cemetery in Webster.


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Oct. 30, 2006
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