I had the privilege of participating in two wonderful events last Saturday that I wanted to mention prior to moving forward later this week into other topics of great importance to athletics. As significant as athletics are, but contrary to what some may think about sports being the primary reason that colleges and universities exist, student educational success is our top priority at Sul Ross State University. So before we begin talking about who might lead us to success next year on the gridiron, let’s stop and celebrate student graduation.
Last Saturday morning I was honored to shake the hands of 139 students who had completed academic programs at various levels, including a large portion who were being recognized for graduate degrees. Later — in the evening of that same day — I had the good fortune to be allowed to represent Sul Ross at the Rio Grande College graduation event in Uvalde to honor 85 more. While both graduations showcase Sul Ross State University student successes and each are important in similar ways, there also are some observable differences. Yes both featured very accomplished speakers, State Representative Poncho Nevarez spoke in Alpine and State Representative Tracy King at Uvalde High School. Both spoke eloquently and persuasively about the importance of service and setting the right priorities in life and how these will change over time. Families were present in great abundance at both events to applaud and take pictures with and without (cell phone cameras) flash.
Maybe observed differences across the events were attributable to the time of day. Perhaps early (is 10 a.m. early?) is not the optimal time for young adults to be wide awake and ready for celebrity photos; or perhaps the cavernous and brightly lit Gallego Center is a bit overwhelming and intimidating to students who find themselves center stage in front of a couple thousand watchful eyes. But possibly something else is going on that accounts for the perceived differences.
Observing now my fourth Sul Ross graduation series, at RGC I’ve noticed considerably more tears of joy and a greater sense of astonishment that they made it. First generation graduates with larger (and sometimes younger) families in attendance may account for this impression on my part. But whatever it is, it is a very moving event that can vary greatly in Alpine from graduates who appear much more subdued to those who sometimes appear much more exuberant about their big day. Simply put, you can expect a lot more tears (and cameras) at RGC, but in Alpine, there also will be more high fives and shout-outs.
Let me close this blog sharing part of what I said in my brief address Saturday to both graduating classes. They made an excellent choice to attend Sul Ross. While we now charge a lot more today than when Lobo alumnus Charlie Nichols graduated from Alpine in 1959 (books were $5 and tuition was $17), Sul Ross State University remains the most affordable institution of higher education in Texas, has one of the smallest average class sizes across the courses we offer, and boasts some of the best teachers anywhere in the country. All told, 224 students graduated into the Lobo family last Saturday and they will be Lobos forever, just like Charlie Nichols who credits his incredible success in life with having attended and graduated Sul Ross.
I wish them well as they begin on a journey to accomplish great things. Hopefully they will never forget from where they came and the many people who have contributed significantly to their successful journey, from family members to teachers.
I am excited to be writing to you for the first weekly blog that I have ever composed. Through the weeks that follow I hope to share with you stories about alumni, information about events on campus, and developments related to the search for the 12th President in nearly 100 years at Sul Ross State University.
As many of you may already have read in recent news releases from Steve Lang that we have begun to share more broadly with alumni and friends each time that they are sent out to the campus community, the 11th President of Sul Ross recently announced his resignation and I was asked to fill in as President for the interim period while a national search is conducted. I would note that I was pleased to work with and for Dr. Maestas as Provost since my arrival in July of 2012. Through his leadership, Sul Ross has accomplished many things for which he deserves full credit and I wish him well in future endeavors.
So let us celebrate recent accomplishments but also keep our focus and continue to move forward. Enrollment was up in the Fall and looks to be up for the Spring; a new scoreboard is in place at Jackson Field, along with a new $1M+ fieldhouse thanks to the generosity of the Texas State University System Foundation; and a statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross is in the works to be unveiled in the Spring, courtesy of Charlie Nichols, a dedicated alumnus from 1959. We also are adding a coffee bar in the Morgan Center as I write to you today.
The list of accomplishments, both large and small, goes on and on from there but the bottom line is that things are looking up in most every area of the University. Accordingly, I feel very fortunate to be assisting the University in the role of interim President and serving the incredible faculty, staff, and students who call Sul Ross home. I also look forward to serving and getting to know our alumni and university friends in this special role.
So rather than ramble on and end up losing your interest in reading future blogs, permit me to end here just like they used to end serial television shows back when there were only three channels from which to choose. Stay tuned for next weeks episode…