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Rawlins to help UNT in new role

More than 200 people turned out Thursday for a farewell ceremony for University of North Texas President Lane Rawlins following his final Board of Regents meeting, but luckily, no one had to say goodbye.

Rawlins, whose last day as UNT president will be Jan. 31, was named president emeritus of the university by regents at the meeting.

We commend the board for its decision, and we congratulate Rawlins on the well-deserved honor. He will be missed as UNT president, but as president emeritus, he will be close by to help ease the transition of the incoming president and serve as an ambassador for the university.

He is imminently qualified for both tasks. Among many other accomplishments, he is credited with guiding the university into a new era of growth and progress, building new facilities, increasing the standards of students at the university, creating a new university strategic plan and a division of community engagement and helping facilitate UNT’s move from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA.

Rawlins announced last March he planned to retire, after serving in an interim position in 2010 and becoming the 15th UNT president in January 2011. In December, Neal Smatresk, president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and a former dean at the University of Texas at Arlington, was named Rawlins’ successor.

During his time as UNT president, Rawlins has been a wise mentor, offering a thoughtful, analytical leadership style that was calming, productive and helped bring university priorities into sharper focus.

“It’s been a long time since this institution named a president emeritus, which you can view as symbolic, but I’ll tell you, on an operational level, one that recognizes his continuity, stability, confidence in your direction ... it says something about the future of the institution,” Chancellor Lee Jackson said at the reception. “It was a significant action by the board.”

Board of Regents Chairman Brint Ryan said the board’s decision to make Rawlins president emeritus was an easy one because he and others feel Rawlins has brought powerful leadership and stability to the campus.

In addition to naming Rawlins to the unpaid position of president emeritus, regents also voted to name the proposed new honors residence hall as V. Lane Rawlins Hall and honored him with a resolution of his accomplishments.

Student Government Association President Zachary Brown announced that UNT’s Fine Arts Series, a tradition at the university since 1903, will be renamed “The Mary Jo and V. Lane Rawlins Fine Arts Series” to honor Rawlins and his wife, Mary Jo.

Board members will miss Rawlins’ guidance and presence, Regent Gwyn Shea said.

“Dr. Rawlins came to us with such a great background of running universities, and he’s the kind of straight-talking person who tells you exactly how it is,” she said. “He has been absolutely marvelous to work with, and he’s done so many meaningful things since he’s been here.”

We agree, and we’re grateful that his wisdom and expertise will continue to be available as the university makes the transition and moves forward.

Thanks for your service to UNT and Denton, President Rawlins. Enjoy your retirement, but don’t go too far away.

We look forward to calling on you for guidance for a long time to come.