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Supple puts SWT on path to greatness

www.statesman.com

Austin American-Statesman (08/06/2002)

Editorial Board

If anyone associated with Southwest Texas State University doesn’t already know it, the impact of Jerome Supple’s 13 years as president is huge. It’s a reach that is as long as wherever a graduate of the institution finds a job, calling or profession.

Supple forcefully but patiently steered the San Marcos university to national respect and acclaim. That was no small matter, considering its reputation as a party school.

Overshadowed by its hulking neighbor 30 miles north -- the University of Texas -- SWT suffered an identity crisis for much of its history.

No more, thanks to Supple. He built its identity by raising admission standards, expanding research, adding doctoral programs and boosting graduation rates. Today, SWT attracts among the best and brightest students in Texas. And while several Texas’ public colleges are struggling to keep their enrollments steady, SWT is growing.

Supple’s accomplishments are numerous. And nothing, not even prostate cancer, slowed his progress. In 1994, the university purchased the former Aquarena Springs theme park with plans to convert it to a $16 million research and education center. Grant money for research totaled nearly $42 million last year, up from about $4 million when he took over in 1989. One major hurdle Supple couldn’t clear was persuading university regents and alumni to change the institution’s name. Supple believed his school had outgrown its local designation and needed a name that connoted greater status. “Texas State University” was his choice.

If there is to be a name change, that task will fall to Denise Trauth, who takes over Wednesday. We welcome Trauth, who comes to Central Texas from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she was second in command.

University regents have presented Trauth with a daunting challenge: Transforming SWT into an elite public institution in Texas.

Thanks to Supple, SWT is well on its way.