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TWU leader to leave legacy

She has been called a visionary, a woman of her word and a straight-shooter, and Texas Woman’s University has made great strides under her leadership, but one of the things we have always liked most about Ann Stuart is her respect for the Denton community.

That quality was foremost in our thoughts Friday when Stuart announced that she plans to retire as Texas Woman’s University chancellor and president, a role she has filled since 1999.

She has been a true friend and ally to Denton through the years, and while she plans to remain at the helm until a successor can be named, we will eventually have to accept her decision that it’s time to think of the next step in her life and career.

Local and state leaders were quick to respond when asked to comment on Stuart’s contributions, and Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs credited Stuart with significantly improving the relationship between the city and the university, communicating well about the city’s growth plans and the university’s growth plans.

Under her leadership, Burroughs told us, TWU has not been an isolated campus but has remained an integral part of the fabric of Denton.

Other leaders credited Stuart with putting TWU on the map, helping it gain state and national prominence by making some important changes during a time when funding for higher education was shrinking.

State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, who has worked with Stuart since 2000, said TWU basically had no presence in Austin before Stuart, but that quickly changed.

Under Stuart’s leadership, TWU opened the $40 million Institute for Health Sciences at its downtown Houston campus that was paid for with private donations and public-private partnerships, rather than state money, Crownover recalled. Along with that was a $3 million donation from the Nelda C. Stark Foundation to name the College of Nursing after Stark.

And in Dallas, the Pickens Institute offers another example of Stuart raising the university’s profile. T. Boone Pickens donated $5 million for the building’s construction.

Since Stuart’s arrival, TWU enrollment has grown 85 percent with a record number of students this fall. TWU also has graduated more than 20,000 students, and fundraising for facilities, scholarships and development has topped $220 million, officials said.

Stuart and her husband contributed financially to TWU to establish the Ann Stuart and Ray R. Poliakoff Celebration of Science, a series to promote and celebrate science, as well as the Chancellor’s Alumni Excellence Award and the Ann Stuart and Ray R. Poliakoff Endowed Scholarships for undergraduate students.

Lee Jackson, chancellor of the University of North Texas System, said Stuart has built TWU into a strong, recognized statewide brand, and that this achievement plus enrollment growth and the financial strength achieved in Denton make for quite a legacy.

Mike McCullough, chairman of the TWU Board of Regents, praised Stuart’s leadership as exceptional and said she has helped TWU become a stronger and smarter university, well prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

We agree, and we wish her well as she prepares to move on to the next stage of her life and career.