A press conference was held Friday, May 6, 2016 regarding the announcement of President Ray M. Keck being made the new Interim President for Texas A&M Commerce.
The announcement was made by John Sharp, Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System after Dan Jones, former A&M Commerce President recently passed away April 29th. Keck will begin work at A&M Commerce June 1, 2016. The current Provost, Dr. Pablo Arenas, will serve as Interim President of TAMIU.
Keck stated “That Chancellor Sharp should entrust me with a new challenge is humbling. I willingly embrace his mandate, to continue to build upon the legacy left by President Dan Jones at A&M-Commerce.” Keck served as President of TAMIU for 15 years, in which time, enrollment doubled, the Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium was upgraded, and the Judith Zaffirini Student Success Center was established.
When asked about the accomplishment he is most proud of, Keck remained humble by stating “these aren’t things that I’ve done, what did WE do? What have we as an institution done that I’m most proud of?” He went on to say that the liberal arts experience, which includes extraordinary mentoring and support from faculty together with rigorous curriculum is what he is most proud of leaving behind.
Keck also praised others when asked about what legacy he would like to leave behind at TAMIU by stating that “I’ve never been able to say ‘MY’, … its OURS.” The legacy he mentioned spoke of a university that is beautiful to look at and beautiful to live in, but he insisted that “I would never say that’s my legacy, that’s the work of everyone sitting here, it’s the work of our wonderful students.”
When asked about his vision for the future of TAMIU, Keck focused on growth, remarking that he hoped a truly international degree that would be part English and part Spanish would be possible.
“That’s the one marvelous card we haven’t been able to turn over yet” and he stated that “Nobody else has that opportunity, Laredo does” referring to bridging the gap between the U.S. Mexico border with our curriculum.
Keck was asked about his biggest regret and he re-visited the lack of a dual language program at TAMIU. He talked about how he imagined the program would have become a reality after 15 years and how in Laredo, students should be fluent in both English and Spanish by the 8th grade. Keck stated that the community should be involved in making this change come to fruition.
The room filled with laughter when Keck was asked if he would miss the Laredo food, and he responded by saying “Of course, of course I will miss the food. Fortunately Patricia Keck (his wife) will be going with me and she is the best cook in the world.” He mentioned his favorite restaurants like Danny’s and Palenque Grill, but remarked that his eating habits aren’t as exciting as they used to be.
The deciding factors for Keck to take the new position were timing, recognition, and location. He stated that the timing was right, and that TAMIU was ready for “a fresh start, fresh ideas, and a fresh face”. He also mentioned that he was “profoundly moved by the Chancellor’s confidence in me, and the challenge to go and pick up where Dr. Jones left off and make something good happen.” The location was a factor because Keck’s grandchildren live an hour and a half from Commerce.
When asked about any recommendations he has for Arenas, the new Interim University President for TAMIU, Keck was very confident in him by stating that they work closely together; “There’s nothing to say. He will walk in the day I’m gone and everything will just continue.”
Keck’s final statement was a message to the students, “They (students) are universally recognized by people who come here as enormously talented and ambitious and gifted, and I want them to keep being that. Read like crazy, write like crazy, ask questions, push us. Exploit this university because it exists only for them.”
Dr. Keck will still be attending commencement ceremonies on May 20th. His term at Commerce will begin on June 1st.