October 5, 2007
Arkansas State University – Jonesboro

The harvest is nearing conclusion, the morning air is crisp, and the first migratory wildfowl in the Mississippi Flyway are appearing on local ponds, harvested fields, and streams.  Indeed, life is good as the seasons change in the Arkansas Delta and on our campus. On Tuesday evening of this week after a long day with meetings both on campus and at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in Little Rock, I was privileged to meet for supper with a large number of our retired faculty (and some retired staff) at the Pavilion. With the assistance of Tom Moore and our Advancement team, they meet once or twice a year for fellowship and to reminisce. Again and again I heard stories of how young couples, fresh out of graduate school or even the private sector, had accepted appointments here intending to stay at most for a couple of years and then move on, but had fallen in love with our wonderful institution, its people, and Northeast Arkansas. They have spent their entire careers and raised their families here, and now have remained in retirement. Professor Bill Rowe and the ASU chapter of AAUP have suggested to me that perhaps our retired faculty members with the assistance of the university might like to establish a more formal organization similar to that existing at many other universities and affiliate with a national group of such service organizations (http://www.arohe.org). I think this is an excellent idea worth exploring with the great group of retired faculty (and some staff) who already have an informal organization, love our institution, and collectively possess a great wealth of experience and talent that is a significant untapped resource for all of us currently working on our campus. I shall discuss this proposal with the group’s leaders in the weeks ahead.

Appointment of New Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research
I am pleased to announce that the VCAAR Search Committee has unanimously recommended, after a national search and on-campus interviews with three fine candidates in September, that we offer the position to Dr. Dan Howard. He has accepted our offer and he will be joining us on January 1, 2008. In the meantime he will assist us in identifying individuals abroad who can help us immediately in recruiting more international students to our campus. I want to extend my thanks and deep appreciation to committee chair Dr. Glen Jones and the members of the Search Committee: Dr. Osa Amienyi, Dr. Charles Coleman, Dr. David Cox, Dr. Carole Cramer, Ms. Tammy Fowler, Dr. Len Frey, Dr. Gloria Gibson, Ms. Julie Isaacson, Mr. Noah Kasraie, Mr. David Mosesso, and Mr. Morgan Pippin for conducting an excellent search.

Dan comes to us with excellent qualifications, broad experience, and a superb work ethic. Raised in New York City to parents of modest means, as a first-generation college student Dan worked his way through Manhattan College and obtained a baccalaureate degree there, and later earned two master's degrees and two doctorates from Indiana University in Bloomington, an H.S.D. in Health and Safety, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education. His work experience includes stints at Indiana University, SUNY College at Cortland, Indiana State University, SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome, and the University of North Alabama. In addition to service in the U.S. Army during the early part of his career, Dan has been a full-time faculty member, a director of a hazard control program, a dean of enrollment management, a researcher and grant administrator, and a vice president and provost, including previously serving for more than a year as the Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs on a campus in the SUNY System. He also has significant experience in fund raising and building a robust international program. He has published and presented quite extensively. He understands and subscribes fully to the academic ethos, and has had much experience in shared governance, including service in a faculty senate. In spite of all his professional achievements, his most significant accomplishment was convincing Anne, an Alabamian from Mobile (who is an accomplished editor for Dan and for many who have asked her for help with work to be published), to marry him, to be patient with his long hours and frequent international travel to recruit students, and to serve as a loving caregiver for his aging parents. I believe that Dan will be a tremendous advocate for the academic affairs area, and a great colleague with whom to work.  Before he joins us in January, he can be contacted at gdhoward@una.edu.

Some Reflections on Alumni Connections
Last summer I visited the United Kingdom to attend a wedding in Oxford in which our twin four-year-old granddaughters, Ella and Olivia, served as flower girls. On my way from visiting some old friends in Horsham and Brighton to Oxford for the wedding festivities, I paid an unplanned visit to Newbold College near Windsor Castle in Bracknell, Berkshire where Irene and I first met when we were students there in 1963. A couple of staff members interrupted their day to show me around campus. They even took me to lunch in the same cafeteria where in my first week there I was assigned to Irene’s table.  She was a Swedish student studying English and had difficulty understanding my Southern accent, thinking at first I was from Iceland, as were several students at the table! On my visit I found the campus in pristine condition, and although I observed two or three new buildings, the main administration and classroom building, Salisbury Hall; the men’s residence hall, Keogh House; and the women’s residence, Moor Close, a beautiful 19th century mansion with surrounding exquisitely maintained gardens, appeared just as I had remembered them from many years ago. I also stopped by to see one of our former professors, Dr. John Woodfield and his wife, who were in great health and living in the village of Wokingham near the campus. Irene and I were in Dr. Woodfield’s English literature class when we heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. To say that this visit evoked a flood of poignant memories about our time there is an understatement, and I found myself asking my hosts about the college’s current needs and contemplating a gift and a future visit there with Irene.

Likewise, Irene and I observed some loyal ASU alumni reminiscing about their good times on our campus during a Sigma Pi Veterans Scholarship Fundraising Gala that Governor and Mrs. Beebe recently hosted at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. Alumnus after alumnus from the Sigma Pi fraternity chapter on our campus told stories of their wonderful times as students here. One of the best was from John Allison, a highly successful banker who lives in Conway, who was raised adjacent to the ASU-Jonesboro campus, and is the brother of our own Jo Ann Nalley. He said that once while students here he and “Mikee” Beebe, a fraternity brother, were sitting around talking about their future plans.  John asked Mike what he wanted to do after graduation. Mike replied: “I would like to be Governor some day.”  John responded: “I want to be rich.” This story brought the house down, since both had obviously achieved their goals.  Governor Beebe got up and said: “When Johnny first told this story in public, he was already rich, and I was just running for Governor!”

The point of my recounting these stories is to highlight the tremendous bonds that are built between individuals who attend a college or university and have intensely wonderful learning and social experiences there and their alma maters. As we look forward to celebrating homecoming in a few days on our campus, and honoring some wonderful and successful alumni, and as we work on our capital campaign that is centered around the needs of our colleges and students and will depend largely on our alumni for success, let’s remember what important roles we play as faculty and staff in creating those memories, and cultivating those bonds with our students and alumni that make life so meaningful for them and all of us engaged in this wonderful business of higher education. Thank you all for your splendid contributions to creating positive memories and lives for our students!

Best regards,

Robert L. Potts

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