UNT system chancellor Lesa Roe announces retirement plan

University of North Texas System Chancellor Lesa Roe congratulates gradautes as they exit their commencement ceremony at the UNT Coliseum. Photographed on Friday, May 11, 2018 in Denton. (Gary Payne/UNT Photo)

University of North Texas System Chancellor Lesa B. Roe announced June 28 that she plans  to retire, effective March 31, 2022, following a career that will have spanned more than four years at the UNT System and 33 years as an electrical engineer and executive at NASA.

She was the first woman to lead the system.

The chancellor is the UNT System’s chief executive officer, responsible for all operational aspects of the multi-location system, including general oversight of a $1.3 billion budget, more than 14,000 employees and the system’s campuses.

Growth has been the story of the UNT System under Roe’s leadership since arriving in October 2017, the university system said in a news release.

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The system achieved record combined enrollment of more than 47,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year between its three member institutions – the University of North Texas in Denton, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth and UNT Dallas.

In addition, the UNT System set new records for degrees awarded, philanthropic fundraising, endowments for scholarships and research expenditures under Roe.

“Lesa Roe is a world-class leader who transitioned seamlessly into higher education following her NASA career – we are grateful for her service to the University of North Texas System,” Laura Wright, chair for the UNT System Board of Regents, said.

“Under Lesa’s guidance we have emerged as the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s leader for higher education, reaching new milestones in enrollment, research and fundraising, while deepening ties to the local business community as we educate and develop the workforce of tomorrow. We will begin a search for our next chancellor immediately and look forward to finding the right leader to help carry our momentum forward in service to our region and state,” Wright said in the announcement.

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The news release listed several key accomplishments and milestones since Roe arrived in October 2017:

– The UNT System and its member institutions remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with its member institutions converting thousands of in-person courses to a virtual environment for safety.

– UNT Health Science Center established multiple drive-through COVID-19 testing centers and supported the Tarrant County Public Health Department on contact tracing and epidemiological issues during the pandemic. Later, UNT HSC led Tarrant County’s vaccination efforts, overseeing a program that set up multiple vaccination sites, including several in underserved neighborhoods.

– Increased system-wide degrees awarded by 15% to a record total of 11,901 degrees by the 2020-2021 academic year.

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– Grew endowments 91% to a record $401-million-dollar level by 2021.

– Increased research expenditures 69% to a record $128 million across the UNT System by the 2020-2021 academic year.

– UNT, the system’s flagship institution, achieved record enrollment of more than 40,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year.

– UNT Dallas became the fastest-growing public university in Texas, eclipsing 4,000 students for the first time in 2019-2020.

– Opened four new, or significantly renovated, facilities totaling more than $300 million in construction, including UNT’s College of Visual Arts & Design, HSC’s Interdisciplinary Research Building, UNT Dallas’ Student Center and the UNT Dallas Law Center (formerly Old City Hall in downtown Dallas).

– Launched a new UNT branch campus in Frisco, with plans to expand the university’s presence to more than 100 acres in Collin County.

– UNT joined UNT Dallas as a federally designated Minority Serving/Hispanic Serving Institution.

– Created and deployed new system-wide strategies focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, including the appointment of the UNT System’s first Chief Diversity Officer.

Roe was named to the Dallas 500, a list of the most influential business leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth compiled by D CEO Magazine, in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

As a board member for the Dallas Regional Chamber, Roe has chaired the chamber’s University CEO Council. She also serves as Chair for the Texas Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC), and as a board member for the Dallas Citizens Council, Downtown Dallas Inc., and Space Dynamics Laboratory, as well as a trustee for the Southwest Research Institute.

“It has been a great privilege to lead the UNT System in service to our students, the Dallas-Fort Worth Region and the great state of Texas,” Roe said in the announcement.

Prior to her arrival in North Texas, Roe served as NASA’s second-in-command and as Chief Operating Officer – capping her 33-year career in aerospace. In this role as Acting Deputy Administrator, she was responsible for general oversight of 17,000 NASA employees, a $19.6 billion budget, $31 billion in assets, and the operation of 10 field centers across the nation. She also directed program and project teams on product/mission delivery, acquisition strategy, partnership and international strategy, and risk management.

During her tenure at NASA, Roe became the first woman to serve as director of NASA Langley Research Center. She also served as manager of the International Space Station (ISS) Research Program at the Johnson Space Center and worked on 38 Space Shuttle and ISS missions in various leadership roles.

The University of North Texas System includes the University of North Texas in Denton, the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth and the University of North Texas at Dallas.

Over the past decade, combined UNT System enrollment has grown by more than 25 percent to more than 47,000 students. UNT System institutions award nearly 12,000 degrees each year – including the largest number of master’s and doctoral degrees in the DFW region.