TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY R. Bowen Loftin is officially out, and Mark Hussey is officially in at Texas A&M.
Loftin's tenure as the College Station campus's president came to a close as Monday ended. He begins in the equivalent role of chancellor at the University of Missouri on February 1.
Tuesday marks Hussey's first day as the interim president. Since late 2008, he has served as Vice Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the university where he holds a master of science degree and a doctorate in plant breeding. He's been teaching, studying and working at A&M since the mid-1980s.
"We aspire to excellence and to be the very best land grants and public (institutions) in the country," Hussey said. "As far as I know, there's a great management team that (Loftin is) leaving in place, and I'm going to lean very heavily on those individuals. Provost Watson and the rest of the team, I think, have done an admirable job positioning the university, focusing on affordability of education, that excellence aspect, really trying to elevate the faculty, providing new and varying experiences for our students. I'm going to lean very heavily on the staff that's here to help me as we move forward over the next several months."
Hussey says he will not seek the presidency permanently, and has withdrawn his name from consideration. He also says he hasn't been given an estimated time that he'll hold the job.
In December, Hussey was the unanimous choice of the A&M System Board of Regents after being recommended by Chancellor John Sharp. Hussey says he was contacted by Sharp about a week before the meeting that would ultimately result in him becoming the interim president.
Hussey said he had little in the way of reservations when he was asked.
"I had to think about it a little bit," he said. "It was really just a matter of balancing some of the plans that my family and I had for the spring, but once I had a chance to visit with my family -- and they're always kidding me that my first love is really Texas A&M University -- they were very supportive of me doing it."
In the lead-up to the selection, Governor Rick Perry made it known that he wanted another System employee to be considered for the interim presidency, which caused faculty at A&M to be suspicious of government meddling in higher education. Hussey said Monday that he had not been contacted by Perry, nor did he have plans to contact the governor.
"I'm just thankful that the chancellor made the recommendation, the board concurred, and all I can do is look forward and do what I can to continue to move Texas A&M University forward," Hussey said.
His message to students as he takes over the presidency?
"That I'm also a graduate of Texas A&M University, as I said, having received both a masters and doctoral degrees here. I've spent a great deal of time as a faculty member in the classroom, and I want to be accessible to the students, and I want them to know that as we make decisions moving forward, that having student input on big ideas that ultimately impact students, I think, is critical for a university."
And to Former Students?
"Again, our goal is that of excellence. Our goal is that of affordable education, and of being among the very best elite public and land grant institutions in the country. My goal is to continue to move Texas A&M in that direction. Some of us believe we're there now, but you can never rest on your laurels. You always need to keep moving forward."