Happy New Year! Building for a brighter future
Happy New Year! It has been an honor to serve as your president over the past year and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead such a great institution. With an excellent faculty and staff, a superb student body, and highly supportive alumni and friends, Louisiana Tech continues to enhance its reputation as a premier institution of higher learning and one that is positively impacting the educational opportunities and economic prosperity for citizens of our great state. Nationally, Tech has been recognized as the top public university in the nation for graduating students with the least average debt, and several other accolades that tout the institution’s return on investment reinforce the value that Tech is providing to its stakeholders.
2015 was a positive year for Tech, and some of the major achievements were highlighted in the following article released by our University Communications Department on Wednesday: National accolades, institutional growth defined Tech in 2015.
There were many other great achievements of our faculty, staff and students that did not make that list but that resulted in significant impacts on our campus. Thanks to all who made these things happen.
We were particularly grateful to have the support of the state legislature and administration who found a way to avoid significant cuts to higher education during the 2015 legislative session. We know that Louisiana is facing significant budget challenges going forward but remain hopeful that the legislature and administration will find a way to protect and reinvest in higher education. I encourage you to be engaged with these discussions and voice your support for higher education.
Our strategic plan, Tech 2020, has continued to guide us as we focus on building for a brighter future. Establishing a larger and stronger student body with more faculty, staff and alumni is a central goal of our plans to provide Louisiana, particularly North Louisiana, with a robust national research university. We are thrilled that our Fall enrollments increased by 10% in 2015, reaching an all-time high of 12,414 students and putting us one step closer to our goal of 15,000 students. The quality of our student body also continues to increase as we have the largest numbers of Presidential and National Merit Scholars in the history of the institution. And the retention rates, graduation rates and time-to-degree completion rates continue to improve and set new records.
We have continued to use our campus master plan as a guide for making a variety of campus improvements. In 2015, we opened the Davison Athletics Complex, completed a rebuild of our water distribution infrastructure, and initiated an expansion of our new College of Business building. In 2016, we will begin construction of the Integrated Engineering and Science Education building, initiate new student housing and parking projects, and begin the design of a magnificent new library. Several other projects are in various stages of planning and completion, and all of them will support Tech’s growth.
We have also been planning for a more robust fundraising program that will complement our plans for the growth of our student body as well as our academic and athletics programs. Brooks Hull, our new VP for University Advancement, joined us in November and has already been making connections with many of our alumni. Our success in building a brighter future for Louisiana Tech will depend upon the continued support of our Tech alumni, friends and partners.
Kathy and I have enjoyed taking some time during the holidays to rest and relax. We spent much of the first week of the Christmas break in New Orleans along with others in the Tech Family who were there to support the Bulldogs in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. We also had some special meetings with alumni who live in the New Orleans area. Kathy and I were joined in New Orleans by our two oldest sons and their wives. We all celebrated in the Bulldogs’ victory over Arkansas State. This bowl game also put an exclamation point on our efforts to establish New Orleans as Bulldog Country!
Reflecting on 2015 from a personal standpoint, there were some events that stand out for me. First is the birth of my twin granddaughters, Everly and Elizabeth, in April. They were welcomed by brother Christopher and parents Bret and Christy. Kathy and I enjoyed celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary in November and we used that occasion to reflect on our wedding day in 1975 when we celebrated by going to Joe Aillet Stadium to watch the Bulldogs play Arkansas State (coincidentally, the same university that played our Bulldogs in the 2015 New Orleans Bowl.) 2015 also saw the retirement of my friend VP Corre Stegall who has been such an integral part of the university, and my leadership team, for many years. I am grateful for all that she has done and pleased that she agreed to stay on to help me with some special projects. And finally, we lost a special friend, distinguished faculty member, and personal mentor and inspiration to me, Professor Jack Painter, aka the Great Timberlake.
I am confident that 2016 will be another great year for Louisiana Tech University as we continue to build for a brighter future, and I thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and commitment to this institution!