From Hardin-Simmons University this afternoon:
In an announcement made public today, Dr. W. Craig Turner, Hardin-Simmons University’s 14th president, will relinquish the position effective May 31, 2008. Dr. Turner will become president of Catawba College, a private liberal arts institution located in Salisbury, North Carolina. “The two most important words in this transition are the names Payton and Madeline-the names of my grand-daughters. This position is an opportunity to be near family, and that’s been the critical factor in this decision,” says Dr. Turner.
Inaugurated on September 11, 2001, during the attack on the World Trade Towers, the Browning scholar presented a bold vision for the University during his inauguration address. “With all due respect to our friends and colleagues from other institutions in the state, my dream in 2001 is for Hardin-Simmons to become the best small Christian university in the Southwest.” In meeting and exceeding his goals to raise the endowment, establish an honors program, dedicate significant resources to community outreach, and improve spirit, pride, and ownership of the University by all its constituents, Dr. Turner not only moved Hardin-Simmons University into the Top Tier of peer universities, but to the top of all Baptist General Convention of Texas affiliated universities of similar size.
Although his legacy might be the financial strength and elite academic standing he brought to HSU, Dr. Turner insists that working with the University family has been his most satisfying accomplishment. “Just having the opportunity to work with people like the vice presidents, deans, directors, faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors-it’s been phenomenal. That, by far, tops the chart in terms of accomplishments. We’re very proud of the endowment, and I was privileged to be a part of the beginning of the physical therapy program, the honors program, the leadership program-all great additions to the institution. But the things I’ll take away from Hardin-Simmons will be the relationships with the people.”
During almost seven years at the helm of Hardin-Simmons University, Dr. Turner’s achievements are formidable:
- The endowment and similar funds grew from $72 million to $125 million-insuring the University’s financial stability regardless of national economic trends. Only Baylor University, among Texas Baptist Universities, has a larger endowment.
- Total enrollment reached record levels-2,435 this year-necessitating a move to managed growth as the University nears its enrollment cap and becomes more exclusive. Only 26% of students who apply to HSU were admitted this year versus 54% in 2004.
- Establishing the Honors Program and the Leland Honors Scholarships, fostering intense competition among the region’s top academic performers for admission to HSU.
- The Securing the Future campaign reached it’s goal a year early-more than doubling previous efforts with a total of $49.7 million in funds raised.
- The Skiles Building, Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing Building, the Alumni Wall, and the Holland Health Sciences Building (a historic collaboration between a university and public school district to build a magnet school on a university campus), Linebery Boulevard, and the Linebery Clock Tower were completed, and the Grape Street Athletic Complex is in the advanced phase of construction. As executive vice president, he was instrumental in the design and construction of the Connally Missions Center.
- Major renovations were completed to Caldwell Hall, Hunter Hall (converting the former lobby into the Dyess Welcome Center), Cowden-Paxton, Richardson Library, Sandefer Building, and the University heating and air conditioning plant. Other refinements include relighting the campus, and the effluent water project.
- Established endowments for the Kelley College of Business, the Cynthia Ann Parker College of Liberal Arts, the Shelton-Lacewell Endowed Chair in Physical Therapy, the Dodge Jones Chair in Reading Disabilities, and innumerable endowed scholarships.
- Established Logsdon Seminary, including an extension campus at Wayland Baptist University, partnered with the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas (an MBA program affiliated with HSU), secured reaccreditation for the University through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and accreditation for Logsdon Seminary through the Association of Theological Schools. Initiated quality enhancement initiative in ethics education for pre-professional degree programs, and laid the groundwork for a Doctor of Divinity and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program.
Dr. Turner expects the University trustees to move quickly to form a search committee to select his successor, and he be believes the University is well positioned for the next step, whomever steps into the position. “Dr. Hall built on what Dr. Fletcher did, I’ve had an opportunity to build on what Dr. Hall did, and that’s been a great stair-step progression to watch as the institution continues to grow and advance. There are some opportunities to grow some doctoral programs, for example in the School of Theology and perhaps a Doctor of Psychology, plus there are opportunities to work with health care-the sciences are looking for an undergraduate degree in health sciences that would help prepare people for a number of health sciences careers. I think the addition of the track and field program will bring some new students in and I think the oil boom will make our endowment grow, so the opportunities are very real and significant for the next step.”
Dr. Turner sees significant challenges at Catawba, “Their endowment is in need of strengthening, and that’s something I know something about. I also think they need to look at some new programs. They are in the heart of the financial center of that part of the country, and they don’t have a finance major at the college. That’s something I can look at from the outside and say ‘gee whiz’ with all the opportunities, this is something you need to look at.”
Dr. Turner, who joined Hardin-Simmons University’s administration and faculty in 1992, served as vice president for academic affairs from 1992 to 1996. He then became executive vice president and chief academic officer until becoming chief operating officer in June 2000. Dr. Turner served as executive vice president and chief operating officer at HSU for a year before becoming the 14th president.
Uncertainty can accompany any change in leadership, but Dr. Turner offers assurances that the succession will be virtually transparent to the Hardin-Simmons family, “HSU has a great Board of Trustees. They will be concerned that the institution continues moving in the direction it has been moving, and I’m sure they will look for a president who wants to continue the same kinds of growth, programs, and successes that we’ve had-probably a different vision, but the same general directions. The administrative council (the vice presidents) are all veterans committed to what they are doing. They love Hardin-Simmons and they work extremely well together, so the day-to-day operations of the University are not going to change a bit-not even a small speed bump of change.”
“One thing the HSU family has to look forward to, is that rejuvenation process that happens when new blood comes in. Someone else may bring in a little more energy and some fresh ideas, and we should welcome that. I know the HSU family will be supportive of the next person because they’ve been tremendously supportive of me-and I can’t thank them enough.”
Near the end of his inauguration address Dr. Turner said, “Browning has written: ‘Would you have your songs endure, Build on the Human heart.’ Hardin-Simmons is all about people and their dreams.” He will take those relationships and dreams with him as he leaves for Catawba, “I can offer nothing but thanks and best wishes, and I can promise that my prayers and support will continue here. Annette and I are leaving behind three endowed scholarships that we will continue to contribute to, because we very much believe in Hardin-Simmons and what it stands for. My time here has been so pleasant because of the support and encouragement the HSU family has given me, and I can only hope that I get a percentage of that at Catawba.”