Investiture of President James F. Gaertner

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President James F. Gaertner was inaugurated as the 12th president in SHSU history last Thursday to a crowd of about 1,600 in the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.”We are brought together today,” said Gaertner in his acceptance speech, “not as much to celebrate any one individual, but rather this event gives us all the opportunity to celebrate our wonderful universityAnd to look to the promise of the future, and the great potential of Sam Houston State.”Applause erupted from the audience on a couple of occasions of during Gaertner’s speech.The first applause came when Gaertner presented a solution to the university’s parking problem.”We very much appreciate the fact that, at its October meeting, the Regents approved the construction of 750 additional parking spaces on campus. These additional spaces will be ready before the end of the academic year,” he said.A short time later, Gaertner received another response from the crowd when he brought up race relations at SHSU.”And let me also mention this,” he said. “Over the past 10 years our African American student population has increased by 36 percent and our Hispanic student population 63 percent. Yet, the number of our minority faculty has remained relatively unchanged. As I emphasized to our academic leadership at a recent retreat, it is vital that Sam Houston not only provide a welcoming atmosphere for minority students, but also provide the students with academic role models. In keeping not only with closing the gaps, but with our moral obligation, we must continue to attract increasing numbers of minority students, but we must do a better job of attracting outstanding minority faculty and staff.” The Investiture started at 2 p.m. Thursday with a procession of about 300 SHSU faculty dressed in appropriate cap and gown. Behind the faculty, also in black gowns, were over 100 students, each representing a different student organization.Surrounding those in gowns were close to 1,000 people, including students, staff, alumni, special guests and the SHSU Symphony Orchestra and a conglomerate of choirs, who played and sung a variety of patriotic songs throughout the event. After the procession of faculty, there was a Posting of the Colors by the SHSU ROTC Color Guard, the singing of the national anthem, a prayer by President Emeritus Bobby K Marks, and then introductions by Master of Ceremonies Dr. James R. Miller.A variety of “greetings to the president” speeches followed from Student Government Association President Stephen Sargent, Associate Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Student Life Frank Parker, Faculty Senate Chair William P. Fleming, President of the Alumni Association Advisory Board Richard A. Hartley, Mayor of Huntsville Bill Green and Rep. Jim Turner (D-Crockett), who presented Gaertner with U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C.After the orchestra and choir performed “From Sea to Shining Sea,” Chairman Dionicio Flores of the Texas State University System’s Board of Regents was introduced to perform the installation of the new president.”I charge you with the 12th presidency of Sam Houston State University,” said Flores as he placed a golden seal with a white ribbon around Gaertner’s neck.Gaertner then went into his acceptance speech by first welcoming special guests and thanking his family and friends for what they have meant in his life. He also thanked the university staff. “They are so often the forgotten stakeholders who literally make the wheels of the university run,” Gaertner said of the staff.He also said what an honor it is to “serve as the president of the third oldest state-supported university in Texas.”We are now in our 122nd year, so history heritagetraditionthese are all important words for us at Sam Houston and we will always celebrate that history,” he said.Shortly after, Gaertner got to the heart of his speech by outlining the current status of his administration’s efforts and accomplishments since taking over last year.”The preliminary planning and hiring has begun to launch a major capital campaign for Sam Houston State, a big part of which will go to faculty enrichment. We must be certain that our annual fund is in good shape before we launch this very ambitious initiative; and I urge all of you to consider making a significant contribution to that annual fund drive,” he said.”We are moving to build badly needed new student housing. We hope to have the requests for proposals ready for Regents’ consideration in May. If all is in order, and subsequently approved, new student housing should be ready about 18 months from now, in the fall of 2003,” he said.Gaertner also discussed that the University/Community Council, which formed last September, has had several productive meetings to date; a President’s Circle is being created–pulling together a small group of influential alumni and friends of the university in order to gain support and get the word out about SHSU; the Presidential Speakers Series has recently received funding and two weeks ago had its first speaker, Gene Stallings.Gaertner wrapped us his speech with a metaphor, comparing SHSU to an oak tree.”Today, Sam Houston State University is much like a huge old east Texas oak tree. The roots of our history run deep and give us continuity and stability. And the branches of Sam Houston State grow taller and taller, and their reach is wider and wider renewing that growth every year, just as we are celebrating a renewal today. These branches are always reaching out to students, faculty, alumni, friends, to the region and to the world. It is our purposetogetherto ensure that this wonderful university continues to build on its strong foundationand never, never stops reaching.”