From the desk of President Leslie K. Guice

Investiture Address: A Foundation for a Greater University

Apr 8, 2014 | Reflection

Investiture of Leslie K. GuiceI was truly honored to be named as Tech’s President and was blessed beyond words with the participation of so many in the Investiture program. Thanks to all who attended or sent well wishes, and a huge thank you to our Investiture Committee and all of the Tech staff, students, and performers who planned, coordinated, and led the event.  It was a spectacular celebration of Louisiana Tech University.  Following is my Investiture Address: President Woodley, Chairman Hebert and members of the Board of Supervisors; Chairman Rasberry and members of the Board of Regents; President Emeritus Reneau, members of the faculty, staff and student body, distinguished colleagues and visitors, family and friends: I am most honored to have the opportunity to lead Louisiana Tech University as its 14th president.  Forty-two years ago as a freshman, I sat in this auditorium admiring its grandeur and eagerly anticipating what might lie ahead for me as an architecture student. Never could I have imagined that I would have the opportunity to serve as a faculty member, administrator and ultimately president of this great institution. I also sat in this auditorium as a young faculty member on February 20, 1987, when the Board of Trustees recommended and appointed Dr. Daniel D. Reneau as the 13th president of Louisiana Tech University. During the next 26 years, President Reneau transformed this campus — from its facilities, to its academic programs, to its athletics programs, to its research programs — and truly brought Louisiana Tech distinguished state and national recognition, ultimately leading to its designation as a national research university by the Carnegie Foundation and in the top tier of national universities by U.S. News and World Report. President Reneau’s bold move to implement selective admissions in 1991 and his focus on student success enabled Tech’s retention rates, graduation rates, freshmen ACT scores and degree completion times to be consistently at the top in the state. I am most grateful to President Emeritus Reneau for the many opportunities he provided me to serve the University and to develop my leadership skills as an educator and administrator. And I am grateful that he had the vision, purpose, pride and passion to develop a great foundation of excellence upon which an even greater institution could be built to serve the state and nation for the future. I was not in attendance in Howard Auditorium on May 4, 1963, when Dr. Foster Jay Taylor was inaugurated as the twelfth president of Louisiana Tech. I was completing the third grade at Pine Grove Elementary School in Bastrop, Louisiana, at the time. But, during the first few years of Dr. Taylor’s presidency, I know he made concerted efforts to build excellent academic programs, such as Tech’s architecture program, that ultimately attracted me and many other students to this campus. Serving as a foundation for significant growth, this vision and these programs more than doubled the size of Tech’s student body during President Taylor’s 25 years of service. On June 23rd, 1970, President Taylor succeeded in his efforts to rename the institution as Louisiana Tech University.  Through this and other efforts, President Taylor cultivated a strong culture of pride and loyalty among our students and alumni, and in building the image and respect of Louisiana Tech across the nation. It is a remarkable testament to Louisiana Tech’s strength of leadership that over my lifetime, there have only been three other presidents of this institution, the third being President Ralph Loyd Ropp, who assumed office as president of Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in 1949. The stability of and confidence in presidential leadership, as well as the tremendous commitment, integrity and enthusiasm demonstrated by these presidents, has enabled this institution to distinguish itself as a national university effectively serving the citizens of Louisiana. I am most pleased to welcome and recognize members of the families of President Ropp and President Taylor, as well as President Dan Reneau and his wife Linda, who are here today. There are many others to whom I am deeply indebted for inspiration, mentoring and support:
  • First and foremost is my family, particularly my wonderful wife Kathy, and our sons and their wives, who have given so much to me over the years;
  • Also, my parents who cared so much for me that they did without so I could get an education;
  • Kathy’s parents and family who provided great support and encouragement to us;
  • And my brother and his family who have been steadfast in keeping our extended families together and in supporting my mother;
  • My faculty mentors, particularly Professors Jack Painter and Bobby Price, who inspired me to become an engineer and a professor, and who gave me a deep appreciation for what it means to be a caring and committed teacher;
  • My administrative mentors, particularly Drs. Jack Thigpen, Joe Wilson, Barry Benedict, Gene Callens, Ken Rea and Dan Reneau, who taught me to search beyond boundaries for excellence;
  • My leadership team of vice presidents, deans, directors and staff who have shared the development of a vision for a greater university and who have worked tirelessly to achieve that;
  • The Tech faculty and staff, who have demonstrated a remarkable resilience for providing a superb education to our students, regardless of the conditions imposed upon them.
I thank each of you who have offered your encouragement and support to Kathy, me and our family during the past year. We have been overwhelmed with all of the positive encouragement that we have received from friends in the University, in the community, across the state and from the greater Tech Family. Your strong expressions of support have inspired us to work even more fervently to continue the advancement of Louisiana Tech.  We are truly blessed to have inherited an institution that has been developed through visionary leadership, by deeply committed faculty and staff, and with the support of most loyal alumni and friends. Louisiana Tech’s success has always been measured by the success of its students, and we have a long record of graduates who have emerged from this institution to be exceptional leaders in their professions and major contributors to society. We must always remember that Louisiana Tech’s central purpose is to educate our students for success in life, regardless of their majors, their career aspirations or their potential roles in society.  Our students will continue to be our first priority, and we will always strive to provide them with an education that is second to none. The challenges being faced by Louisiana Tech University and the entire higher education community are unprecedented.  Many of those challenges have been predicted by others for decades, such as Peter Drucker, who in 1996 stated, “Thirty years from now, the big university campuses will be relics. It is as large a change as when we first got the printed book.  Universities won’t survive.  Higher education is in deep crisis.” Over the past few years, we have seen some of those predictions begin to come true.
  • The funding models for higher education have changed dramatically as funding has shifted from the states to students and their families. This has placed significant pressures on universities, while increasing student debt has created major challenges for our graduates and the nation.
  • The competition for students has become stronger than ever, and now it is relatively easy for students to take courses and get a degree from public and private institutions across the globe, without ever leaving home.
  • At the same time, the expectations of students, parents and employers have increased, and all are expecting a greater value from higher education.
  • The competition for excellent faculty is creating special challenges as we work to recruit and retain those who can provide exceptional leadership for our institution and state.
Our world has become a global marketplace, where information, goods and services are only a mouse-click away.  Our competition is less often the vendor across town and more often the vendor in another state or nation.  As economic competition increases globally, I believe it is most important for us, as an institution, to provide even stronger educational opportunities for our citizens. Unless we can provide an education and produce graduates that are as good as those anywhere else in the world, our state and region will not be able to compete with others globally.  That means less prosperity and negative impacts on the quality of life for all Louisiana citizens.
  • We must continue in our pursuits to encourage the growth of the knowledge economy in our state, and we must be responsive to the needs of employers who have increasing demands for well-educated and highly skilled graduates.
  • Louisiana Tech must continue to provide strong leadership for Louisiana’s future economic competitiveness.
How do we plan to respond to these challenges?
  • First, we recognize that we must continue to focus on excellence and quality in all that we do.
  • We must measure our progress and make adjustments when we do not achieve our goals.
  • We must continuously strive to be more efficient and effective within our organization, relying more on information systems for data-driven decision making.
Our strategic plan has as its first priority the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body and university community.  We know that it is crucial for the University to grow, to achieve the critical mass necessary to compete with other national research universities and to support the growing need for talent in the state. Last fall, we saw significant growth in both the quantity and quality of our full-time freshmen students.  We have seen the positive impacts of those students on our campus already and are confident that these students will be successful in their academic and career pursuits and will prove their talents to be highly beneficial for Louisiana businesses in the future. Growth in our graduate programs is also important, as these graduates will provide the higher level knowledge and skills necessary for advancement of both our public and private sectors. The second element of our strategic plan focuses on the educational experiences and opportunities we offer our students. It capitalizes upon Tech’s strong interdisciplinary collaborations to focus on enhancing the knowledge and skills that are hallmarks of Louisiana Tech graduates, regardless of degree program. This strategic priority also focuses on enhancing student learning through innovative curriculum design and delivery in the classroom and co-curricular opportunities outside the classroom. We are confident these actions will make Louisiana Tech the top choice for an increasingly greater number of high-performing students and make our graduates even better prepared to serve society in the future. The third element of our strategic plan focuses on the elevation of our research program to national prominence.  As a research university, Louisiana Tech fulfills an essential and unique role for the region, providing opportunities for advanced graduate studies and career opportunities relevant to the 21st-century economy. We must find ways to re-invest in our people and our facilities so that our faculty can be successful in advancing our research mission. The fourth element of our strategic plan focuses on maximizing the economic impact of our innovation enterprise.  With the recent establishment of our Enterprise Campus, Louisiana Tech has become home to several companies and partnered with numerous others, creating greater opportunities for our faculty, students and graduates. Having been recognized for innovation activities and named a national model for economic development in rural communities, Louisiana Tech must continue this important work, fulfilling our mission to economic development in our state and our community. To achieve our goals, I recognize that we must have appropriate levels of resources, and I have committed a major part of my time and effort to developing those.  Growth of our student body will provide important resources for us to expand our faculty and staff, something I believe to be absolutely essential for future competitiveness. Our students must have the finest faculty, the best facilities, opportunities to engage in great research and experiential learning programs, and support for their physical and mental well-being.  Enrollment growth can help us achieve those things. I fully recognize and embrace the importance of engaging alumni and friends of the University and the absolute necessity of raising private support for the University in these difficult economic times. As president, I have challenged the University Foundation to work with me to significantly increase our base of private support, and I will work with them to engage an even larger percentage of Louisiana Tech’s alumni to actively participate in the programs of the University and University Foundation. We will also work closely with the private sector and public-private partnerships to build stronger support for our academic and research programs, leveraging our combined resources to bring greater value to all organizations while enhancing the learning experiences of our students. My team and I have a clear understanding of the challenges we face:
  • we have a strategic plan to overcome those challenges;
  • we have teams that are actively engaged in implementing those plans to move this institution forward.
We already have some positive momentum:
  • as prospective student interest is very high and growing;
  • as faculty are creating stronger courses and curricula to enhance student learning and success;
  • as our faculty are having new successes in research and innovation;
  • as our partnerships with the private sector get significantly stronger;
  • as our academic and administrative units find ways to be more effective and efficient;
  • as our alumni make some of the most generous gifts the institution has ever seen;
  • as support for new facilities is received;
  • as Louisiana’s economy improves with a renewed focus on reinvestment in our universities;
  • as several national publications are ranking Louisiana Tech among the very best in the nation for value, affordability and return on investment.
The wheels are already in motion, and we have great hope and optimism for the future. The 120-year history of Louisiana Tech University is a source of inspiration to me; I have an abiding respect for Tech’s traditions, values and principles. Those principles, known as the Tenets of Tech, are embodied in the words that I have used throughout my remarks today – confidence, excellence, commitment, knowledge, integrity, respect, leadership, loyalty, enthusiasm, caring, hope, pride –
  • words that are inscribed throughout our campus, are reinforced with our students and are a part of our culture;
  • words that cause us to reflect on the great foundation upon which this institution has been built;
  • words that inspire us to create an even greater institution for the future.
I know where this University has been, where it is now and where it is heading; I am fully committed to dedicating the full extent of my energy, experience and abilities to leading this institution to the high levels that the Tech Family and the State of Louisiana expect and deserve. Thank you for the encouragement you have given us through your presence today. Special thanks to those who worked so hard to make this a special day of celebration for the institution, and thank you all for your support of Louisiana Tech University.   -30-