January 15, 2014: Campus Spring Preview

This week begins our Spring 2014 semester so I thought I would share a little of what all is going on this term.

In my faculty and staff campus-wide address earlier this week I mentioned that the process for selecting the 12th President of Sul Ross State University is underway. Dr. Perry Moore, Vice-Chancellor of the Texas State University System met last week with our Sul Ross colleagues in Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and Uvalde to hear about their preferences regarding the next president. This week he has been meeting on this campus and in the Alpine community to garner input from a wide array of folks concerning the presidential characteristics they deem most important. Once he returns to Austin I suspect that he then will put together a position description that encompasses what he has learned. Following that, he next will determine the composition of the presidential search committee and identify a professional “headhunting” firm to administer the search. As I mentioned before, this process will be very deliberate and transparent and will play out over several months, likely resulting in the selection of a finalist by June or so. During that time it will be my distinct honor to serve as interim President. I am also very pleased that Dr. Jimmy Case has agreed to serve as interim Provost and Dr. Jay Downing has accepted the position as interim Dean of Arts and Sciences.

At my campus address I also asked two new, permanent hires starting in January to stand and be recognized. DeWayne Roberts has been hired as our new volleyball coach and John Pearce has been selected as our new Lobo head football coach. I also asked that our temporary coach in an important spring varsity sport be recognized as well. Antuan Washington, our Director of Recreational Sports will be coaching track. Previous news releases have provided quite a bit of detail about these hires so I won’t take up space here writing about the same information. But I will say I have tremendous confidence in all three of these men and am very excited to see what Lobo athletics will do under their leadership and that of Coach Mesker, Lobo interim Athletic Director.

At the faculty and staff meeting I also announced that noted artist Paul Tadlock visited campus earlier this month to review locations for our new bronze statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. While it was an unusually bitterly cold morning, Paul, his wife and I took off in a “heated” golf cart (meaning it had a windshield) to tour campus and review our options. An ideal location was found and after thawing out a bit, detailed plans were made with Jim Clouse to erect the statue. Ironically, Paul and I, and Yvonne Realivasquez, the Executive Assistant to the President, noticed a very strong resemblance between Jim and Lawrence Sullivan Ross but as best we could tell, no common family heritage could be established. Jim, along with Don Sugarek, President of the SRSU Alumni Association, led an advisory committee to review photos of Sullivan Ross and ultimately develop an inscription that will accompany the statue. The inscription that they came up with is nothing short of inspirational!

While it may pose a challenge for the foundry, we are cautiously optimistic that the statue will be finished by early May, with a tentative unveiling date targeted for the week of our Spring ‘14 commencement. Funded by alumnus Charlie Nichols, the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross will be a life-size replica of our namesake and accessible to all who would like to be photographed with him whenever they visit campus. While we still hope to find a donor to cover the cost of the granite base for the statue which is a significantly lesser amount than the $95,000 check that Charlie wrote for the bronze, I am confident that someone will step forward.

Some challenges ahead still include making sure that we recruit the right students, but more importantly, that we retain them as well. I’m not sure what the exact costs are at Sul Ross but I’ve seen figures from elsewhere where it is estimated that every student lost from a university costs the institution $8000 on average. We got a good, campus-wide response to the invitation to help mentor students when we asked for volunteers last Fall so I am optimistic that together we can develop a strong mentoring program to reach those students who are struggling to adjust to college as new freshman.

Campus will be closed on Monday to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King but some other important dates for anyone who runs or enjoys Western art are coming up in February. A “Love Your Community 5K Fun Run” is scheduled for Feb. 15 that at least partly benefits scholarships for Sul Ross students; our Annual Trappings event kicks off the following week at the Museum of the Big Bend. So make plans accordingly!