After 11 years, Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio will step down as president of Tarleton State University at the end of August. He and his wife, Dr. Lisette Dottavio, made the announcement to the university family on March 18 via email and video.
“It has been a great honor to serve this dynamic and innovative university as its 15th president,” he said, “and a privilege to work alongside dedicated and talented faculty and staff who share a commitment to our core values and a passion for student success. Together, with the support of The Texas A&M University System, we have positioned Tarleton for the next great chapter in its history.”
A national search for his replacement will begin soon.
After August, Dottavio will be a faculty member in Tarleton’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, where he has had an appointment as a tenured professor since coming to the university. He also will assist the Division of Institutional Advancement.
In the 11 years Dottavio has been president the Stephenville-based university has experienced growth in almost every facet of enrollment, academic programs, financial resources and physical facilities and has begun construction on a new Fort Worth campus in the southwest part of town. .
“Dominic Dottavio is one of the best presidents of any university in the state,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “He has given us more than a decade of exceptional service and leadership, inspiring, encouraging and engaging others to do more and become more. Dominic is an influential and enthusiastic leader.
“Tarleton’s transformation over the past decade is evidence of Dominic’s passion for higher education and his commitment to helping students realize their academic dreams. We’re honored that he will continue his service to Tarleton and wish him and Lisette every happiness.”
During Dottavio’s tenure, Tarleton’s enrollment has grown 69 percent from 7,756 students to 13,122, and high-demand academic programs are now offered in Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian and Bryan thanks to partnerships with other colleges and universities. A recent report lists Tarleton seventh among the top schools in America in application growth with an increase of 131.4 percent since 2012. The A&M System recognizes the university as a model for increasing retention and graduation rates — up 60 percent over the last five years.
Tarleton has added more than 30 academic programs since 2008, along with a College of Health Sciences and Human Services, a School of Nursing, a School of Engineering, a School of Kinesiology, and a School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies.
Its first Ph.D. — a doctor of philosophy in criminal justice — is scheduled to begin this fall pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The degree will increase the university’s offerings to 100.
“The pursuit of strong, new degree programs like the doctorate in criminal justice, graduate degrees in nursing and undergraduate degrees in engineering are evidence of the continued commitment of faculty and staff to address the changing needs of our students and the communities we serve,” Dottavio said. “They provide the kind of opportunities that John Tarleton envisioned 120 years ago.”
Donations to Tarleton have increased 78 percent under Dottavio’s leadership, and the university’s endowment is up 81 percent. Tarleton opens the first building of its planned Fort Worth campus in August, thanks to a gift of 80 acres along the Chisholm Trail Parkway and the support of city leaders, state legislators and the A&M regents. The second phase of the campus — buildings to shape a formal quad — is expected to accommodate an enrollment approaching 6,000 students. Construction plans are under way.
“Tarleton has offered degree programs in Fort Worth for more than 40 years, but now, thanks to the vision and hard work of so many, we are putting down roots with a permanent home,” Dottavio said. “Our Fort Worth campus is a testament to our vision of becoming the premier student-focused university in Texas and beyond. It will expand access and opportunities for students and prepare a stronger workforce for area business and industry.
“More than buildings, we are enhancing an already vibrant learning experience that prepares graduates for leadership in their careers and communities.”
In addition to Tarleton’s home in Fort Worth, Dottavio has worked with elected and A&M officials on more than $400 million in construction and expansion projects, including a $54 million engineering building set to open this summer, a $26.4 million renovation of Memorial Stadium, seven new residence halls, and infrastructure improvements that create more green space and provide pedestrian-friendly paths across the Stephenville campus.
Keeping true to Tarleton’s rich history and traditions, Dottavio reinstated the Texan Corps of Cadets in 2016 with a focus on the core values that define the Tarleton family — tradition, integrity, civility, leadership, excellence and service. Part student military organization and part leadership training, the corps is the only group of cadets in the nation not associated with a senior military college.
“If the past is prologue, then the university’s future is extremely bright,” Dottavio said. “Lisette and I truly believe that Tarleton’s best is yet to come. We thank our Tarleton family and friends for trusting us with the university they love, teaching us its glorious traditions, showing us its great strengths and allowing us to work beside them to create a student experience second to none. The pleasure has been ours, and we look forward to continuing our service to the Tarleton family in new ways.”
Dottavio came to Tarleton from the presidency of Heidelberg University, a 169-year-old private college in Tiffin, Ohio. Prior to that, he led the Marion campus of The Ohio State University.
Tarleton, founding member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven education marked by academic innovation and a dedication to transform today’s scholars into tomorrow’s leaders. It offers degree programs to more than 13,000 students at Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, RELLIS Academic Alliance in Bryan, and online, emphasizing real-world learning experiences that address societal needs while maintaining its core values of tradition, integrity, civility, excellence, leadership and service.