TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY Texas A&M's president has announced he is stepping down from the position he has held since 2009.
R. Bowen Loftin made the announcement Friday morning. His move will be effective January 13, 2014.
“Since returning to Texas A&M in 2005 as a Vice President, my greatest joy has always been found in our students," he said in a statement. "My love for them and for this extraordinary institution has never been stronger. That being said, I do miss the opportunity to teach and do research—activities that have characterized my long career in higher education. I look forward to teaching and mentoring “my” students and to leading multidisciplinary research teams in creating new knowledge and transforming that knowledge into useful applications."
Loftin had been serving as the head of A&M's Galveston campus when Elsa Murano stepped down as the university's president in 2009. He was named interim president, then moved permanently to the role in February 2010.
“Dr. Loftin has led Texas A&M University through a tremendous period of growth and advancement, ranging from the move to the SEC to over $700 million in research to the largest freshman class in the school’s history this fall,” said A&M System Board of Regents Chairman Phil Adams in the same statement. “His service and commitment to Aggieland is appreciated and will long be remembered.”
A nationwide search for the new president will now begin, according to A&M System Chancellor John Sharp.
Once out of the office, Loftin plans to serve in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Dwight Look College of Engineering, and will also work to create an institute for "modeling and simulation in human behavioral modeling in terrorist organizations and the spread of diseases among human and animal populations," according to the university.
Loftin notably led the Galveston campus when Hurricane Ike struck in 2008. During his tenure as president, in addition to the Southeastern Conference move from the Big 12, the campus grew to more than 50,000 in enrollment. The university also noted the planned acquisition of Texas Wesleyan Law School and the in-progress merger of the A&M Health Science Center as notable moments in his time in office.
“I will spend the next five months on programs and plans currently in development, such as management of the largest student body in the history of the school," Loftin said in his statement. "In the following period, I will work with Provost Karan Watson as well as many of our deans and system agency directors toward the launch of a new institute at Texas A&M – to serve the state, the nation and the world. I will certainly miss being ‘aggieprez’ (my twitter handle), but I will still be part of this great university and will be serving on the ‘front lines’ of the academy, side-by-side with those I love the most—our students.”
Among those reacting to the decision was Congressman Bill Flores, himself an Aggie and the university's representative in the House.
"“I am sorry to see President Loftin leave," Flores said in a statement to News 3. "I am appreciative of his service to Texas A&M University and wish him the best in his future endeavors.“
The president was born in Hearne, raised in Navasota, and graduated from A&M as part of the Class of 1971. Seemingly never without his trademark bow tie, he proved popular among students, whether it was making routine speeches or doing the Dougie dance with Aggie athletes.
In January 2010 when he was announced as the new A&M president, Loftin vowed to make his alma mater a prominent part of the higher education landscape in the nation.
"We're gonna be, I assure you, considered one of the very best public universities in the country," he said. "We're already there in our minds. We're gonna make sure everybody else knows it, too."
“Loftin embodies the Aggie Core Values," Sharp said in the statement Friday. "We owe him an extreme debt of gratitude for his steadfast leadership and guidance, which has elevated Texas A&M into one of the best universities in this country. He is absolutely at the top of his game and we look forward to his continued service.”
Since Ray Bowen ended his eight-year tenure as president in 2002, the university has had four leaders. Robert Gates led A&M for four-and-a-half years until he was named the secretary of defense by President George W. Bush.
Eddie J. Davis, then the head of the A&M Foundation, served as the interim president for a little more than a year before handing the office over to Murano.
The first female and minority president of the university only held the office for a year-and-a-half before resigning under the scrutiny of the System leadership. Hers was the shortest presidency in modern A&M history.
Loftin was named the interim on the day Murano's resignation was accepted, June 15, 2009. He was named the permanent president in January 2010.
Almost immediately, Loftin had to deal with cuts to the budget. First, it was $20 million as mandated by the System. Then, it was five percent cuts for coming years' budgets mandated by the State of Texas dealing with economic turmoil.
"My sincere hope is we have no, or very, very few individuals who will not be employed, but I can't promise there won't be," Loftin said in February of 2010.
Hundreds of filled and unfilled positions were eliminated in 2010, but the school did enough to stave off more job loss later in that year.
Biotechnology growth in and around the campus started under Loftin will create numerous jobs in the coming years and likely end up defining the region for a long time to come.
Loftin will also be defined by the "100-year" move that A&M made from the Big 12.
Asked in July 2011 about University of Texas Director of Athletics DeLoss Dodds saying the Big 12 was in good shape, Loftin would say, "I would come again to my term 'uncertainty.' We have uncertainty right now, which is concerning."
Shortly after that statement, Loftin would call SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and set into motion the move to the Aggies new athletics home.
"We did a lot of work back in 2010 thinking about the fit between A&M and the SEC," Loftin said at the September 2011 announcement party for the conference move. "This year, we continued to think through that, and in July, made the decision to approach the SEC and asked them to consider us for membership."
As his tenure comes to an end in 2013, Loftin will see another major athletics move start to go in motion, as major renovations at Kyle Field will begin in November at an estimate total cost of $450 million.