Gaertner presents awards, plans for campus expansion

The mumbled whispers from the audience of faculty and staff came to a halt as Sam Houston State Univeresity President Dr. Jim Gaertner took his place in front of the podium last Thursday, Aug. in the Killenger Auditorium.

Anticipating a fresh start at Sam Houston State University, this year’s welcome-back address not only included distinguished awards, proud statistics and budget plan discussion, but also brought the presentation of a new master plan proposal to the table.

Gaertner first introduced service awards to the faculty and staff for their 20-40 years of devotion to Sam Houston State University.

“We will be awarding a group of outstanding individuals who have devoted their life to this university,” Gaertner said.

Among those awarded included Dr. Richard “Dick” Eglsaer, Assoc. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, who received attention for his 25 years of service. He also shared his sense of humor on the stage with Gaertner in an exchange of whispers.

“He wanted me to call him ‘oh what’s his name?’,” said Gaertner with a chuckle and to the amusement of the crowd.

A 40-year service award also brought about audible “wows” as Dr. David Payne, Provost and President of Academic Affairs, crossed the stage to the president bearing congratulations.

The 2008 Staff Excellence Awards recognized those nominated for their kindness in helping the students, staff, and visitors of the university.

Among the 2008 staff recognized for their excellence included Ms. Reyna Ayala of custodial. She offered a comic relief to the acceptance speech when she was held back and forced to listen to the praise of her good deeds after trying to make her shy escape from the stage with her award in hand.

“We’re not going to let you go, Reyna,” said Gaertner jokingly, turning to the crowd, “She thought I was kidding!”

In addition to smiles for the service awards, a round of applause honored those who would be leaving Sam Houston State University after years of contributions. That applause included a standing ovation honoring the departing university vice president, Jack Parker.

” I admire you, respect you and you will be missed,” said Gaertner

Gaertner also shared his personal stories and experiences with each of these individuals, demonstrating his respect and admiration for each one.

After the address, Gaertner also shared his feelings about his colleague and golf buddy, Frank Krystanik, the director and spokesman for SHSU’s public relations department who retired on Friday after 37 years.

“I am sorry to see him go, he is a very good guy and a great friend,” Gaertner said.

After nearly an hour’s worth of awards, humorous displays of character and touching words, Gaertner moved to this year’s goals and plans.

“Enrollment is up by 2% , there are over 3,500 new students out of over 11,000 applications,” Gaertner said. “There are now over 16,700 students at Sam Houston State University. Enrollment across the state is down, but ours is up.”

As proud as the president is of the new statistics, he is still determined to keep focus.

“We want to grow, but we must be sure to provide for the culture of our students,” Gaertner said. “We are hoping for more, but the care for our students is most important.”

Gaertner then presented the new master plan proposal, scheduled for a vote in November. The plan could bring demolition along with more space and more parking to the university.

Kristin Kreir, a recipient of the 35-year award, had some positive feed back.

“I think it is very visionary and the students will benefit from the changes to the campus,” She said. “It will continue the growth and attraction to the area.”

Dr. Raymund Teske Jr., professor of criminal justice who also received an award for his service to the university, expressed his shared thoughts with the new master plan.

“This is my 35th year; I was around when we were just getting electricity and indoor plumbing!” Teske said. “I like it, and was actually just thinking last week of what could be done and how they could do it. I believe by them centering the academics, it will be a much more meaningful and structured environment.”

The master plan is not the only change Teske predicts.

“I also think bicycling is going to be a big part of the future,” He said. “I believe there will need to be more emphasis on how the bikes will be secured as well as routes, but I believe it will be more like universities such as Texas A&M.”

After the master plan proposal, Gaertner concluded the welcoming address with quotes from “The First 25 years are the Worst,” a chronicle article from the education department explaining how perspectives change over the years.

“After the fifth year you stop letting students borrow your books. By the tenth year you know the president’s welcome back address word for word,” Gaertner said. “By the fifteenth you notice the students getting younger, and you avoid traveling abroad with students even when you’re paid for.”

Sharing a smile with the audience, President Gaertner continued reading.

“By the 25th year you realize you are truly blessed by one of the best professions in the world,” Gaertner said. ” I hope your year is off to a great a start.”

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