As Neal Smatresk shut his car door Monday morning at the University of North Texas, two students immediately recognized the new university president on his first day.
The two students asked him how it was going, and he launched into a conversation with the two, asking about their majors and the faculty as well as Smatresk’s plans for the university, Smatresk recalled.
“Just that conversation with the students that I saw today was so wonderful, and it made me really excited about joining the UNT family,” he said.
Smatresk said the office staff made his transition into the Hurley Administration Building seamless, and said he and his wife will complete their move from Las Vegas to Denton later this week.
“I will go back and drive here for good, and I’m looking forward to having this move be over,” he said. “For better or for worse, I’m here to stay.”
Smatresk woke up at 4 a.m. Monday morning to head down to Dallas for an early-morning interview with WFAA-TV (Channel 8) before continuing to an annual meeting hosted by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce for regional university presidents.
He then made his way back to the university, chatted with students and held his first cabinet meeting to understand the different aspects of the university.
“All in all, I’ve started the process of really digging in and rolling up my shirt sleeves, and learning what’s going on at UNT, the Denton region and the state,” he said.
His afternoon was full of media interviews and one-on-one meetings with members of the university leadership, and he planned to spend his evening at a reception for actress Olympia Dukakis at UNT on the Square.
“That’s one of the treats of being part of the university community,” he said. “There’s so many great people coming in and out, and you get to enrich yourself.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.