By Lucy Hood
An academic leader known for her accomplishments in North Carolina will take over as the first woman to be at the helm of Southwest Texas State University in its 103-year history.
The Texas State University System board of regents decided Tuesday to name Denise Trauth, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, to be the school’s next president.
“We’re at the level where we are ready to step up and out,” said Don Flores, chairman of the board of regents, “and Dr. Trauth is the best person that can do that for us.”
The 55-year-old Trauth will replace Jerome Supple, credited with turning the university around during his 13-year tenure.
Since taking office in 1989, Supple helped rid the school of its party-hearty image and turn it into a reputable institution.
He cracked down on alcohol use, raised admissions standards, improved retention rates, created four doctoral programs and dramatically increased fund raising for both capital improvements and research.
Facing strong resistance and many obstacles along the way, Supple succeeded in making Southwest Texas State the sixth-largest public university in Texas. It has 23,500 students and is expected to surpass No. 5 Texas Tech’s enrollment within a year.
Trauth said she was prepared to take the university to the next level and would begin by getting to know the university community and the people of San Marcos and by advocating for the university in the next session of the Legislature.
“This is an extremely healthy institution that has goals and aspirations that are a wonderful fit with the experience I’ve had at UNC-Charlotte,” she said.
While Supple is credited with making great strides at the university, one of the remaining challenges is to improve the relationship between SWT and the city of San Marcos.
Flores said Trauth’s success with the business community in Charlotte was one of the many reasons she was selected from the three finalists, who had been chosen from an original pool of 70 nominees.
The other finalists for the position were Terry Hickey, senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron in Ohio, and Barbara Haskew, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at Middle Tennessee State University.
Trauth, who will make $225,000 a year, said she plans to take office at the beginning of August, when Supple, who makes $219,000, steps down.
Trauth spends her spare time in aerobics classes, jogging, cooking and at family gatherings.
The mother of two grown daughters, she will move to San Marcos with her husband, John Huffman, a professor emeritus of communications at UNC-Charlotte.
Trauth played down the fact that she will be the university’s first female president since it was founded in 1899, saying “the task is the same whether it’s a man or a woman.”
Trauth’s announcement met with approval from members of the university community, including student body President Robert Doerr, who said he is pleased that she plans to continue Supple’s policy of including students in decision-making.
Oren Renick, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said “there are great days ahead for Southwest Texas State University. She’s got the experience, strength and character to help us get to the next level as a state university.”
In addition to expanding academic programs and enrollment, Trauth will be charged with deciding whether to proceed with Supple’s efforts to change the school’s name, which he said suggests a small, regional school and makes it difficult to attract top faculty and students.
He had hoped to change the name to Texas State University at San Marcos, but regents voted in February to table the issue until a successor was named.
Trauth said there are many pros and cons to changing the name, but “I want to freely explore that issue before I come to a definitive decision.”