While each one of these topics could be the subject of a complete First Friday report, it occurred to me that perhaps a chronological journey through my calendar for last month might be of some interest, especially since it was an atypical month with much more travel than usual for me. One of the delightful aspects of my job as chancellor has been the fact that I have been able to focus on our campus and remain at home much more than I was able to do at my two previous jobs, where I had major responsibilities for relationships and work in the state capital, as well as being the chief advocate for university or system interests in Washington, D.C. During that period in my life, I also was deeply involved in accrediting issues on regional and national levels, as well as serving on boards of two national organizations. ASUJ is represented in Little Rock principally by our System President Les Wyatt, with the fine assistance of Robert Evans and Tracie Blake, and principally in Washington by Dr. Wyatt and Randi and former Senator Tim Hutchinson. Dr. Glen Jones also has Washington duties, especially with regard to ASUJ's earmark requests. While I no longer have leadership roles in national organizations, it is necessary for me to represent our Jonesboro campus interests in Little Rock and Washington from time to time and to attend one or two national meetings annually to keep abreast of issues important to our campus and higher education. However, with the major issues surrounding the stimulus bill in Washington, the American Council on Education annual meeting and the ongoing legislative session in Little Rock, this month was unusual in its travel demands.
Campus and Travel Schedules Stay Full
On Valentine’s Day weekend I attended the
Initiative University on the campus of the
of Texas at Austin, at the invitation of
former President Bill Clinton. The CGIU involved each
participating student and university president/chancellor making a
commitment to do something good in the world, and learning how to turn
good ideas into action. I worked closely with Dr. Jerry Farris to
develop an Environ-Partners program for our campus that will match
university scientists and graduate students as mentors with high school
students who will complete a summer project and compete for the
privilege of attending a meeting in Washington to exhibit their
More than 1,000 students and some 75
presidents and chancellors from around the world attended this meeting
by president Bill Powers of UT. Typical of the students attending the
conference was Bertha Ayi, M.D. (above). Originally from Ghana, she is a
full-time student pursuing an MBA degree while also serving as the
full-time medical director of Mercy Infectious Disease and Epidemiology
Center in Sioux City, Iowa. She and her husband, Richard, are parents of
three young sons. She is preparing herself to go back to her home
country to improve the health care system there. While at the
initiative, at a luncheon President Clinton hosted for presidents and
chancellors, I gave him a copy of the photo (right) that Tom Moore had
uncovered while doing some work for the Centennial Celebration, showing
then-Gov. Clinton on the ASU campus in 1979. He was delighted to have
this, and showed it to several people while remarking on the effects of
Returning to Jonesboro on Saturday, Feb. 21, I spent a great deal of time planning for a lay sermon that I gave the next day at our church at the request of our worship committee since we are between pastors. I chose as my topic, "Positive Thinking in Difficult Times and Coping with Adversity," and, of course, by preparing for this I am sure I obtained a much greater blessing than I was able to impart to the congregation. Also on that Saturday evening, Irene and I attended the Faculty Women’s Club Centennial Gala in the Fowler Center. The assembled members of that group and others from the university were treated to a delightful reminiscence about the history of ASU by President Wyatt, former President Eugene W. Smith, and Dr. Ruth Hawkins, Centennial Commission chair. I attempted to sketch out possibilities the university has for the next 100 years.
Last week involved our first meeting of the University Planning Committee, which discussed budget planning principles, the economic outlook for our state, and the potential consequences for our campus. I also had excellent meetings with faculties of the College of Fine Arts, the College of Business, and the Library last week. Along with others I also met with Robert Julius, chairman and principal owner of Nice Pak, Inc., the New York-based company that is establishing a new plant here in Jonesboro at the former Haworth building. He and several of his managers were on campus for dinner and to meet with faculty members and others to discuss collaborative research on certain product developments he and his company are envisioning for the future.
On Friday, Feb. 27, the chancellors from the four ASU System campuses met in Newport with President Wyatt and the system staff to discuss policy issues and possible agenda items for the March 6 Board meeting. This meeting was very productive in that a healthy exchange of information occurred and the system officers showed exceptional sensitivity to the issues of concern expressed by the campus chancellors.
Washington, D.C. Fly-In
Finally, I am disappointed that our men’s and women’s basketball teams were eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference tournament during their first-round games on Wednesday evening. Because I had some work I needed to complete, I listened to both games by having two radios tuned simultaneously to the respective stations carrying the games and got doubly upset when we were unable to finish the job in the final minutes of each game. However, I believe that we have fundamentally strong athletic programs with good coaches leading them and that next year we will see several of our teams competing successfully for conference championships and national rankings. Dr. Dean Lee, the athletic staff and our 300-plus student-athletes appreciate the support they receive from the university community.
Thanks for taking time to read this long and not-very-focused report. Next month will be better! Best wishes to each of you as we begin to near the completion of another academic year.
Robert L. Potts