When Ann Stuart came to the Texas Woman’s University campus in December 1999, the school was vastly different from what it is today.
The enrollment that fall was 8,694, and the Administration and Conference Tower on the Denton campus still had its iconic clock. The TWU Institute of Health Sciences centers in Houston and Dallas were in facilities that dated back to the 1960s and ’70s.
It also wasn’t as cold here as in Connecticut, where Stuart had served as president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Stuart is set to retire as TWU’s chancellor and president this week, after announcing her retirement plans in 2012. Enrollment this spring was 14,221, the administration tower now has an illuminated TWU sign that’s visible around Denton, and the Dallas and Houston campuses are in new, state-of-the-art buildings.
“When I came, we had very decided objectives — we needed to increase our enrollment and that was our No. 1 priority, and we just became an army,” Stuart said. “Everyone picked up their piece of the challenge, and while it was fiercely hard work, it was also fun because we were winning. We’ve increased almost 85 percent, and that’s kind of amazing, and it’s everyone’s contribution.”
As enrollment has increased, so has the quality of student, with incoming students’ average GPAs and test scores on the rise during her tenure. Once enrollment began to pick up, the team focused on quality of education to attract high-performing students, Stuart said.
Part of that has been because of the updated facilities that simulate the workplace, Stuart said. For example, the occupational therapy program has an apartment set up so students can learn how to teach stroke victims and others with serious and permanent injuries how to function in their homes.
TWU’s branch campuses have been rejuvenated, too. The TWU Institute of Health Sciences Houston Center opened in 2006, and the TWU T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences Dallas Center opened in 2011.
“The opening of Dallas and Houston were big ceremonial events that said a great deal about us,” Stuart said. “I was so proud of the legislators and public officials and donors that were there. I will always remember that.”
A new science center also opened in Denton in 2011 and was named for Stuart. The building doubled the campus’ science lab and classroom space. Stuart dedicated an outdoor courtyard at the building in her late husband’s honor.
Other new buildings during her tenure included the University House and the Fitness and Recreation Center, which opened in 2011. The rest of campus also saw improvements during Stuart’s tenure, including the restoration of the historic Little Chapel-in-the-Woods and renovations of the Redbud Theater.
Day-to-day operations tended to be the most rewarding, Stuart said. While big events such as the building dedication ceremony and the Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon were fun, she also loved the softball games and student performances.
“I love this work, and it’s fun to come to work and find out what’s happening, who you can interact with or support, and what you can make happen,” she said. “It’s not always the big things.”
Stuart is in the process of moving out of the Gertrude Gibson House on campus and into a condominium in downtown Dallas. From there, she will work with the Dallas Arboretum on its strategic plan and work with the George W. Bush Institute to look at the impact and importance of middle school education.
“It’s these kinds of things that make me believe life will be interesting and thoughtful, and maybe even challenging, and that’s very, very pleasing to me,” she said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.