A&M Officials React to Their President's Nomination

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On the campus of Texas A&M, there have been a lot of surprised faces. And the faculty and staff of Texas A&M certainly weren't immune to the suddenness of the announcement that Robert Gates is leaving for Washington.

"I think there's utter shock," said Gates' chief of staff, Rodney McClendon.

"I dropped the spoon I was eating my lunch with," added Douglas Slack, the speaker of the Faculty Senate, "so it was quite surprising."

And that's the initial response, but in the midst of reacting to President Gates' inevitable departure from the university to become Secretary of Defense, there's also no doubt why.

"I wasn't surprised in another way because I know the kind of leader Bob Gates is," said Vice Provost William Perry, "and I know how much he cares for the country."

"I believe this is the man for our times," said Slack, "and he said he was an agent for change when he came and he has been an agent of change, and it's all been positive."

Gates' major initiatives have included the faculty reinvestment program, the creation of the University Studies degree program, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new construction on a growing campus. But officials will remember his leadership ability.

"If you agree with him all the time, you're of no service to him," said McClendon. "That's going to be refreshing for the White House and the nation."

The next step is finding a replacement if, indeed, Gates is confirmed as the new DoD head. The next board of regents meeting comes on November 30 and December 1.

"The most we would do between now and then is to start putting together the search committee to start the process for replacing Bob," said A&M System Board of Regents Chairman John White.

But university officials are quick to point out that there may be a new leader, but not a new staff.

"All the people who are doing the good work that's going on right now will still be here contributing in one way or another to keep the momentum going," Perry said.

Chairman White says the search for a new president will be nationwide. There is no timeline as to when that search will begin due to the early nature of this whole process.