SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — Southwest Texas State University President Jerome Supple kicked off the university’s Centennial celebration Tuesday, urging the university community to look toward a bright future while paying tribute to its past.
Delivering his annual State of the University Address in Evans Auditorium, Supple said, “Our Centennial year is important to us not only in looking back and paying tribute to those whose vision and labor assured our success, but also in looking ahead to what our own vision and labor might ensure. What will Southwest Texans think of us -- how will they judge our vision, our labor -- at SWT’s Bicentennial?”
Supple said all events during the 1998-99 academic year will have a Centennial flavor. Special Centennial events will include Homecoming on Oct. 17, the dedication of the General Classroom Building as Centennial Hall on Oct. 30, a special SWT Day at the Legislature in early March, a major celebration event in the spring and a combined commencement in May.
SWT was founded on Chautauqua Hill, site of a Chautauqua, or gathering place where people heard lectures and concerts in the late 19th century. Supple said the university is planning its own Chautauqua -- a special series of lectures on a variety of topics -- to be held during the Centennial year.
The speech to the annual faculty-staff convocation was the 10th in Supple’s tenure as president of SWT. This year -- the year SWT celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding by the Texas Legislature -- is particularly special for Supple.
“I’m incredibly privileged and humbled to be president at this time in the life of Southwest Texas. I stand in a line, a fairly short line, of presidents that stretches back a hundred years, presidents who stood before their faculty and staff at the beginning of the fall semester and told them the dreams they had for this place,” said Supple.
Many of the dreams of Supple and others have had for SWT have been realized in the past 10 years.
“SWT is not the same university it was 10 years ago. You have changed it. We had some goals, some dreams, you and I. We wanted a doctoral program. We have one. And before long we’ll have two more. We wanted a Center for the Study of the Southwest. We wanted better salaries. There’s more work to be done, but we’re getting there. We wanted $20 million a year in external research funding,” he said.
Those dreams have been accomplished, said Supple, as have many others. He said the university is very close to completing its $60 million Centennial Campaign, a daunting goal when it was announced just two years ago.
“Sometime during the coming year we will announce the successful end of the Centennial Campaign. I know how crazy you thought I sounded when we announced that we would raise $60 million. Well, I can afford to sound brave now myself, but I had to swallow hard when the words came out. We were all a little scared to think we were committed to raising that kind of money,” Supple said.
Supple said the university will continue its pursuit of four goals he announced a year ago. Those are: enhancing the quality and prestige of SWT, improving student retention, increasing the university’s leadership and presence in the Austin metropolitan community, and promoting ethnic, gender and cultural diversity.
Supple announced two new initiatives during his speech: increasing the freshman retention rate from 65 percent to 77 percent, and establishing a comprehensive alcohol education program for students, faculty and staff.
He said ground would be broken soon on the new Art/Technology/Physics Complex, a state-of-the-art facility which will be the university’s second-largest building after the Alkek Library.
He also recited a list of SWT’s many other recent accomplishments, including the two largest gifts in the school’s history, the creation of six endowed chairs in six different academic departments, success in the Athletic Department including the recent hiring of Jim Wacker as director of athletics, the dedication of the new LBJ Student Center, and the creation of the William P. Hobby Center for Public Service to honor Hobby for a $1 million gift to SWT.
Supple, who is being treated for prostate cancer, said recent chemotherapy treatments have been successful and that the cancer has been arrested. He said he is feeling better and stronger every day.
“It’s a good thing, too, because in looking at the coming year, I’m going to need strength. So are you. Because we’re about to have a birthday, a big birthday,” Supple said.