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Stuart gives final fall address

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer
By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer

Texas Woman’s University Chancellor Ann Stuart received a standing ovation from a large audience and carried a bouquet of flowers almost as tall as she after giving her final fall address to the faculty and staff Monday.

For roughly an hour, Stuart recalled her transition to TWU from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Hartford, Conn., her largest accomplishments and outlined what she sees as the biggest challenges the next chancellor will inherit. Stuart is set to retire after the spring semester.

“She’s been an amazing leader for TWU in every area,” said Phyllis Bridges, an English professor who has spent 42 years at TWU. “She has increased our financial resources; she’s improved our facilities; she’s raised our academic standards. She is truly an amazing individual. You could tell by the reaction from this crowd today, the way they stood for her, how much they appreciate all she’s done for us.”

Introduced by professor Jeffrey Robb, the speaker of the faculty senate, and followed by Sue Bancroft, chairwoman of the Board of Regents, and Provost Robert Neely, Stuart’s address was the focus of this year’s fall assembly.

“This address is my time to thank you for what you do, to remember what we have done together over the last 13 years, and to anticipate some trends and challenges like the ones that Jeff [Robb] has just alluded to, and TWU will face going forward,” she said.

Stuart recalled more personal stories, such as moving to Texas with her husband and two dogs from Connecticut, excited to leave the snow, and a few humorous ones while on the job, like her first commencement in the winter of 1999 when there were not enough chairs for graduating students to sit.

She also recalled her more tangible accomplishments, like increasing enrollment by more than 80 percent in her time here, and the students attending TWU have gradually increased in academic quality, averaging higher grade-point averages and test scores. Unifying the vision and branding of the school, then marketing it has helped with recruitment, Stuart said, but faculty members also play a vital role in enrollment.

“You, the faculty, faithfully appear at open houses to speak to students and often parents,” she said. “You’re the key. It is that interest that you show to students, the passion that you have for your discipline, you close the deal. Thank you for the partnership you have forged with recruitment.”

Professors have kept with the pace of growth and increasing prestige of the school, Stuart said, while showing headlines from professors winning high-profile awards, fellowships and grants.

In addition to academics, she highlighted changes on the Denton campus and the new centers in Dallas and Houston. All the campuses have improved aesthetically, she said, including the buildings, landscaping and even the light poles. Technology has also evolved during Stuart’s tenure, with her recalling looking out of her office window in 1999 to see an employee wheeling an overhead projector to a classroom.

“All of this progress, this moving forward, you have helped build, and it is acknowledged by others — trust me,” she said.

Moving forward, the university must adapt to changes in higher education, Stuart said. This includes abandoning the current academic calendar, finding more private funding sources to keep up with unfunded mandates and other industry demands and encouraging institutional loyalty.

“My focus this year is to do all that I can do to put these procedures, practices and organizations in place to continue this momentum,” Stuart said.

While Stuart focuses on preparing for her departure, the Board of Regents has started searching for her replacement, Bancroft said.

The board has hired Korn Ferry, an international executive recruitment firm, to aid the university in the search, and the firm has started to interview university stakeholders about the job. This fall, they will complete a full profile and job description before posting the position, Bancroft said.

There will also be an advisory committee composed of students, faculty, staff and alumni in late September or early October. The committee will work with the regents to interview the semifinalist candidates, and after campus visits and more interviews, the finalist is expected to be announced in the spring.

“The regents will need all of your support and help during this process, and I thank you ahead of time for your cooperation,” she said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.