Now that A&M president Robert Gates has been named Secretary of Defense, who will be his successor? This is a question of considerable importance to the state, because A&M has become an academic powerhouse under its last two presidents, Gates and before him Ray Bowen. The concern that I have is that Governor Perry, himself an Aggie, will get involved in the presidential selection process on behalf of a croney. Now, where would I get an idea like that? How about the recent announcement by the A&M regents that Perry’s former chief of staff, Mike McKinney, who is currently an administrator with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, is the only candidate to fill the vacant position of chancellor.
The first name among Perry’s croneys who comes to mind is Phil Gramm, a former economics professor at the university, whom Perry backed for the job following the retirement of Bowen. But the Bush-appointed regents still dominated the board, and Gates, who is close to Bush 41, won the vote. No such firewall exists today. Gramm, a divisive person by nature, would be a disaster.
That there is considerable angst in the A&M community over the next president is obvious from an open letter a prominent Aggie sent to John White, the chairman of the A&M board of regents. The author is Jack Rains, a former Texas secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate. Since it is an open letter and not a private communication, I am going to reproduce it here. This is a very important appointment, and let’s hope that Perry, whose love for the institution is boundless, will keep A&M on the right track.
Hon. John White
Chairman Board of Regents
Texas A&M University
I wanted to promptly advise you and your fellow Regents that I will NOT be a candidate for the Presidency of TexasA&M University. In the highly unlikely event my name shouldcome up be advised, ‘If nominated I will not run and if elected I will not serve’. Unlike many of my fellow former political officeholders and staff folk who are running stealth campaigns for the office, I do not drink my bath water. That practice is a leading cause of hubris. Of course we ‘formers’ have many outstanding credentials and like most Former Students and Faculty Members, we of course share a love for The University and commitment to its goals. None of us however would command the necessary level of respect from our current faculty, former students, constituencies served, and the taxpayers of Texas. Most importantly, we ‘formers’ would be an alien to the national and international academic community from which A&M must compete to recruit future academicians for our outstanding university. That latter qualification is the primary credential our next president must possess or be highly likely to earn. Texas A&M is long passed that point where political credentials primarily qualify a candidate for appointment to the high office of President. While no one has asked, but in that great Aggie tradition, allow me to get in my two cents worth of advice on the subject of succession. You should be guided by credentials, not Aggie pedigree. Lawrence Sullivan Ross was the first but not the last, of a long line of distinguished Presidents, who were not blessed with an A&M degree. Sully, and other successful Presidents who followed through Robert Gates, did all share the requisite qualities of intellect, character, integrity, vision and commitment to the ideals and principles we euphemistically refer to as, “The Spirit.” Bob Gates understood and embraced The Spirit and there are other souls out there with his qualities and willingness to contribute and be a part of our exciting future. No one is perfect of course, but the animal husbandry department can brief you on the dangers of inbreeding. Choose wisely. To you and your fellow Regents, Good hunting and Godspeed.
Sincerely, jack (Jack Rains ‘60)