October 4, 2018
Weeks after Robert Duncan, a popular former lawmaker, unexpectedly announced that he would retire from his post as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, the Lubbock-based system is undergoing another abrupt change in its leadership.
Tedd Mitchell, who has led the system on an interim basis since September, was on Thursday named the sole finalist to become the next permanent chancellor. Minutes later, a 15-year member of Tech’s governing board, L. Frederick “Rick” Francis, announced he would resign his position as chair and said “it is time for a change in leadership.”
Francis is expected to continue to serve as a regent through the end of his term, which expires in Jan. 2019, at which point he could be reappointed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Chairman’s announcement,” Francis said at a board meeting Thursday, after regents returned from a closed-door executive session. “It has been an honor to serve as the chairman of the board of regents. It is time for a change in leadership, and a nominating committee will be formed to put forth a slate of candidates in consideration of chairman and vice-chairman for election at our next meeting.”
The meeting was then adjourned. Francis could not immediately be reached for additional comment. Named to the board of regents by former Gov. Rick Perry, Francis hails from El Paso, and had come under fire in recent weeks for his role in Duncan’s early retirement from the system, one year before the former chancellor’s employment agreement would have expired.
#TTUSRegents Chairman L. Frederick “Rick” Francis has resigned from the position as chair. A nominating committee will be formed among the Regents to elect a new chair and vice chair at the next meeting of the Board. #TTUSystem
— TTU System (@TTUSystem) October 4, 2018
Sources familiar with recent events at Tech told The Texas Tribune in September that some regents had clashed with Duncan about the system’s budget and a proposed veterinary medicine school in Amarillo, and that the disagreements culminated in Duncan privately offering to announce he would step down when his contract expired in June 2019.
“Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen,” a source said Duncan was told, in an August conversation with Francis and another regent.
Jerry Hodge, a former Amarillo mayor, had been one of the most vocal figures calling for Francis to leave the system, launching a campaign in late-Sept. to fire the chairman and calling for greater diversity on the board, which includes no women nor natives of Amarillo or Lubbock. Hodge had planned to donate $10 million to Tech, but withdrew it after details of the gift were obtained by the Tribune.
In a press conference after the announcements were made, regent Tim Lancaster, who has assumed the chair position, addressed the tumult of the past few months, and said the board is committed to coming “together for the betterment” of the system, regardless of internal disputes.
“Many of our people that are friends of Texas Tech have expressed their thoughts on the future, and they’ve talked about areas that they think that we should be able to grow in,” said Lancaster, who was previously the board’s vice chair. The regents have “taken all of that into consideration, we’ve listened to what people have told us.”
He thanked Francis for his service, saying he’d worked “tireless hours,” and then “reaffirmed” that the board would seek state funding to back the proposed veterinary school, as well as a planned mental health institute and dental school, in El Paso.
Lancaster also said Mitchell had a “tremendous” track record at Tech, where he has been president of the system’s Health Sciences Center, in Lubbock, since 2010. Mitchell has continued to lead the campus while filling the post of temporary chancellor and on Thursday said he was grateful the regents had entrusted him with the opportunity to lead the system on a permanent basis.
Because of a state-mandated waiting period, university systems’ governing boards must name final contenders for the position of chancellor at least 21 days before regents vote on whether to officially hire them.
“The last few months have been difficult for Texas Tech University,” Lancaster said. “However, over the last few months, I’ve also witnessed firsthand really the passion that so many people” have for the system.
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“Leader of Texas Tech System board resigns as chairman; permanent chancellor tapped” was first published at by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.