President James F. Gaertner

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When 18-year-old James Gaertner, from the small town of Yoakum, Texas, was scouting for a college to attend in the early 1960s, he settled on SHSU for the beauty of the campus and a good location. Some 40 years later, although he never imagined it at the time, he would become president of the university.”This is a celebration of the university,” said Gaertner, who is to be inaugurated as SHSU’s 12th president at 2 p.m. today in Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum. “This is a celebration of the continuity and renewal that goes on at a university.”Gaertner said there are some differences and similarities in the university from his days as an undergraduate and now. “There are a lot of similarities,” he said. “Of course, the physical beauty of the campus, the friendliness. The care for students is very much the same. Some of the differencesit’s a much more well established academic institution now. The faculty that we have, the credentials, are so much better. The programming is so much better. We couldn’t even dream of having a PHD at Sam Houston back when I was a student, and now we just got our fourth one approved. So, we’re much more sophisticated, much more advanced academically. But I think we’ve maintained a lot of the personal attention and the care for students that we had back then. And it was a beautiful campus then but I think it’s even more beautiful now.”Gaertner said his parents helped him pay for school during his early years as an undergraduate. But just like many other students at that time and now, Gaertner found a variety of jobs to help fund his way through college. “I was a clerk in the bookstore in the Lowman Student Center. And I was a prison guard at the Wynne Unit for a little while. I sat on the picket, the guard tower. I worked from 10 at night until 6 in the morning. I went to school in the day. I also worked for a CPA here, Elwood Parkhill,” he said. In addition, Gaertner was married to his wife, Nancy, during his undergraduate days. “We had met in Garner State Park,” he said. But after that, the two didn’t see each other for a whileuntil they re-met at SHSU. After they were married, Gaertner and his wife were also employed as head residents of married student housing, having to collect rent and handle maintenance.Gaertner was 22 when he earned his bachelor’s of business administration degree in 1965. He continued to study at SHSU, working on his master’s for about a year.”Then I went to work as an auditor for a public accounting firm in Houston until ’68. I came back and finished my master’s degree and then went to work for Tandy Corporation,” he said.Tandy Corp. was officially renamed Radio Shack Corp. in May 2000. “Back then it was a conglomerate, and they made belts and wallets, leather goods. Their main business was Radio Shack, but they also had a leather operation. I was the controller of the leather part of the Tandy Corporation,” he said.”This association with the Tandy Corporation ultimately led me to become chairman of the board of Tandy Brands Accessories,” a position Gaertner was elected to by the company’s stockholders in 1997 and still holds today, he said.He worked for Tandy Corp. for about three years and then went to A&M for his doctorate degree, which he earned in 1977. Gaertner said he decided to earn a master’s and doctorate degrees in order to pursue his love for teaching. “I had an experience teaching here when I was an undergraduate, and I really enjoyed it. It was rewarding, so I decided to go into teaching,” he said.After he received his doctorate, Gaertner was employed by the University of Notre Dame.”I was a faculty member at Notre Dame for seven years. I was a professor, and I was also the director of Notre Dame’s London MBA program in London, England,” he said. “So my family picked up and moved to London for one year. It’s a great city, We very much enjoyed it, our kids actually went to English schools.” That was in 1979.After Notre Dame, Gaertner came back to Texas in 1983 to work for University of Texas at San Antonio, where he would be for the next 18 years. “Most of my time there was as dean of the business school. And then I also served as the acting vice president for academic affairs,” Gaertner said.After the retirement of former SHSU President Bobby K. Marks in 2001, Gaertner officially became the university’s president. The investiture ceremony set for today has been in the planning stages since that time. The event is expected to bring in a number of state and local leaders including Rep. Jim Turner (D-Crockett) and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), as well as members of the Texas State University System’s Board of Regents and presidents from other universities.”I’m very fortunate to have this job,” said Gaertner, “I mean that.” He stressed “continuity and renewal” as a part of his plan as president. “And focus, on what we are and what we can be, in the next few years,” he said.Gaertner and Nancy have a son, two daughters and two grandchildren.