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Former Vice President Reflects on Time at UT Tyler

Dale Lunsford with family and co-workers at farewell get-together Farewell reception to honor Lunsford.

Looking back at his seven years of service to The University of Texas at Tyler, Dr. Dale Lunsford says he’s really proud of what UT Tyler has become – a full four-year, comprehensive university. 

Next month, Lunsford, UT Tyler’s former vice president for student affairs and external relations, will begin a new chapter in his academic career as the sixth president of LeTourneau University.

“We are very proud of Dr. Lunsford and of course very happy for him,” said UT Tyler President Rodney Mabry. “Dale has touched the lives of so many people here at the university. We’re excited about where he is headed – to help another institution go to its next level.”

Lunsford, who was appointed to the new position in March 2007, has several fond memories of his life at UT Tyler, including the significant enrollment growth and the creation of several outstanding programs and facilities.

“When I came here, it was really inventing itself,” said Lunsford of UT Tyler. “It was as close as a university starting from scratch as you can get. What a great opportunity it was to be at the start of things. It’s been a tremendous experience.”

Lunsford came to UT Tyler in January 2000 as the dean of student affairs. Extremely student-oriented, he was instrumental in the development of what has become a well-rounded collegiate experience.

“He leaves an indelible mark on the UT Tyler campus. We will miss his leadership, but we are grateful for his many accomplishments here,” Mabry said.

During his tenure at UT Tyler, Lunsford served on the president’s cabinet and was responsible for the areas of student affairs, enrollment management, student success, intercollegiate athletics, public information, marketing and governmental relations.

Lunsford helped UT Tyler secure more than $170 million in capital funding from various sources both public and private. In addition, state appropriations for operations increased during his tenure. He oversaw construction of a student center, student health clinic, student recreation and convocation center and two student housing developments.

He was the driving force in the creation of an academic advising center and support programs for freshmen. While at UT Tyler, Lunsford helped first-time student enrollment to increase 81 percent, and the residential population grew by more than 800 students.

Enrollment Growth:

“It’s nearly twice as large when I first arrived, and that’s been tremendous,” Lunsford said. “The growth of the freshman class and our residential student body has changed the place. This year, we had about 850 living on campus. To go from zero to 850 students, has fundamentally made UT Tyler a different place and better place for students and faculty as well. I’m really proud of that, because students who come and live on campus invest so much of themselves in the campus that they really change campus life and dynamics.”

Athletics Program:

“Thirteen operating sports, over 200 student-athletes, great facilities … it’s an important part of student life, and we’ve done it in a way that keeps the emphasis on academic performance and citizenship,” Lunsford said. “It’s not a win-at-all cost athletic program.”

Making a Difference:

“The part we played during the Hurricane Katrina disaster is memorable,” Lunsford said. “We were called in on Labor Day weekend to open up a shelter, and we had staff here as well as faculty and students. I was really proud of what we did. It was a moment that I felt the university came together and made a difference.”

Coming Together:

“I have a special memory of Sept. 11, 2001,” Lunsford said. “The university came together as a family. I was in the president’s council meeting. When we began the meeting, the first plane had already hit, and during the meeting, the second plane hit. When the meeting ended, everyone left the room, and about 25 of us went in the president’s office watching the television in disbelief. The morning just went on like that. We were all there together in a time of crisis. You went in the university center, and you saw students huddling around televisions watching what was unfolding in New York. They were coming together during a time when you need to be with other people, and it was a quiet atmosphere, but to me, that was what a university is supposed to do. People are supposed to come together. Last year, we marked the fifth anniversary by a memorial service on campus. The students were very involved and helped plant 3,000 flags on campus. There were 3,000 bell tolls for each victim. That again, is a special memory of the university community and coming together.”

Although many accomplishments and developments occurred under his leadership, Lunsford credits the campus community for its involvement in the success.

“All we’ve been able to do, the enrollment growth, the creation of student development, all these things, I had a small part to play in all of them,” Lunsford added. “UT Tyler is blessed to have great people, and it’s been my opportunity to work with them side by side to get these things done. It’s truly all about the people and the relationships you build. That’s what I’m going to miss.

“I’ll always be a big fan of UT Tyler. I’ll always respect and admire what’s happening here.”

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.


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