Monday, December 31, 2012

City prepares for invasion of Aggies and Boomer Sooners for soldout Cotton Bowl

Are you ready for some great college football?
Fans of the Texas A&M Aggies are planning to take over Downtown Arlington on Friday, Jan. 4, as the Aggie Network hosts its official Cotton Bowl Classic Game Day Headquarters at J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill.
Be sure to welcome the Aggie and Sooner fans as they visit Arlington and Cowboys Stadium.
The 77th Cotton Bowl Classic will feature two high-powered offenses. Seventh-ranked Texas A&M, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, against the 11th ranked Oklahoma Sooners and quarterback Landry Jones.
Most certainly in this area the game is drawing more attention than the pending national title matchup involving Alabama and Notre Dame and may ultimately end up with higher TV ratings.
Be sure to cheer on Arlington’s very own Luke Joeckel, the 2012 Outland Trophy winner charged with protecting Johnny Manziel throughout the game.
Go Aggies! Oh, and Go Sooners?

Friday, December 28, 2012

CULTIVATING GENIUS: Wunderkinds at UTA have their own unique challenges

Ewin Tang’s classmates tend to overlook the slight, bespectacled youth sitting in the front row until he answers the professor’s queries—all correctly. Then they ask their own questions. “Who is this guy?” “Why is he here?” And always, “How old is he?”
At 12, Ewin, the son of bioengineering Professor Liping Tang, is the youngest student on campus and among the youngest in UT Arlington history. Since taking his first college courses at age 10, he has completed 20 hours, including classes in calculus and differential equations, all with a 4.0 GPA.
“Other students just seem kind of amazed,” he says. “They ask about my age, what I’m majoring in. Some of them actually take pictures of me. They’re pretty cool with it, though; they really don’t bother me a lot.” Although the age gap usually prevents Ewin from forming close friendships with his classmates, many are eager to work with him once they recognize his abilities.
Ewin’s college career began after he completed every math course available in his K-12 private school. His intellect had already prompted school officials to move him from third to seventh grade, but it was soon apparent that he needed more. After he scored 1920 on the SAT at age 10, his parents and school officials explored college enrollment.
Dr. Tang acknowledges that having an immensely bright child can be challenging. “There are no books, no guidance on exactly what to do. This (college for someone so young) is a totally gray area.”
The Tangs met with then-Provost Donald Bobbitt and later with Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Michael Moore. Ewin’s first classes, an online course in history and an on-campus calculus class, were tests he passed easily.
“I think it makes a difference that I’m here,” Dr. Tang says. “Ewin has a place to go and a built-in support system.”
In addition to his University coursework, Ewin works part time in his dad’s nanotechnology laboratory. He is developing a probe to detect bacterial infection, something that would greatly assist in diagnosing diseases. His career plans involve science or engineering, but he hasn’t yet settled on a specialty.
“Our main concern when we began this was his social life,” says Dr. Tang, who notes that Ewin attends a private high school with students his own age for some courses and activities. “Academically he is fine, but we want him to stay in school and stay with kids his own age, to have friends his own age. So far it’s working out pretty well. Thanks to Dr. Moore, he’s having a very good experience.”
“Other students just seem kind of amazed. They ask about my age, what I’m majoring in. Some of them actually take pictures of me.”
Ewin spends part of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the private school, where he takes classes and participates in soccer, basketball, cross country, and the Science Olympiad. He also attends UT Arlington on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and does research in his father’s lab Tuesday and Thursday. As if that’s not enough, he works with a private tutor, studies Chinese, and plays the piano and erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument akin to a violin.
While it might seem that Ewin’s case is unique, Moore and his predecessors in the Provost’s Office have seen others. Because such students don’t meet traditional enrollment requirements, they are evaluated case by case.
“Typically, there is a detailed conversation with the parents about the challenges and rigors of college work as well as a thorough review of the student’s academic history,” Moore explains. “Obviously, we are looking for exceptional young men and women who show the ability to excel in the classroom as well as handle the collegiate environment.”
Over the past two decades, several of these exceptionally young and brilliant students have used UT Arlington as a springboard to success.
Andi Baritchi (photo below lower left) began his UT Arlington career at age 15. A math and science genius like Ewin, he completed everything his high school had to offer by ninth grade. College was the obvious next step, and soon Andi and his parents were meeting with then-Provost (and current president of Prairie View A&M University) George Wright.
“He’s in large part responsible for where I am today,” Baritchi says of Dr. Wright. “He was willing to take a chance on me.”

After graduating three years later with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and engineering, Baritchi initially struggled to find his place.
“I fell into security because I’m naturally very curious,” he says. “I have to push all the buttons and understand how things work.”
His curiosity and desire to break things didn’t mesh with the corporate world. He worked as a software engineer and a security engineer, but quickly became bored.
In 2007 he joined IBM as a senior security consultant, helping major corporations around the world keep hackers at bay. He thrived in consulting and soon was promoted to manage IBM’s payment security consultancy. Today, Baritchi is a principal at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, where he manages and delivers security consulting engagements globally.
As the digital world continues its almost instantaneous 24–7 evolution, those who protect information must be at the cutting edge. Baritchi prides himself on staying abreast of the latest threats and vulnerabilities to protect his clients. He says the only way to maintain your security is to periodically engage in penetration testing, the practice of simulating an attack. It may be fun, but it’s not the end-game.
“Clients hire us not just for our hacking skills but for our broad security expertise. They want a partner who will show them where they’ve gone wrong and help them bolster their defenses.”
Baritchi says information systems are vulnerable primarily for two reasons. First, they are overly complex. Second, programmers often have a “so long as it works” attitude. Features and deadlines are the top priority while security is treated as an afterthought rather than being properly ingrained at the design stage.
Then there’s the human element. People are just too trusting.
“Don’t give out your passwords or sensitive information to someone who reaches out to you,” he warns. “You never know who’s on the other end.” This doesn’t mean you should be afraid to shop online or use a credit card. “Just be careful. Only do business with reputable vendors.”
When he’s not protecting clients from security breaches, Baritchi spends his time traveling, road racing, and helping homeless dogs.
Courtney Pace Lyons (photo right above), who also came to the University at age 15, deals with a different kind of security. She’s an ordained minister, pursuing a doctoral degree at Baylor University.
Early college entrance is a tradition in the Pace family. Courtney’s mother, Janyce Johnson Pace, started classes here at age 16, and her dad was in college at age 17. Courtney graduated from UT Arlington in 2004 at age 19 with a computer science and engineering degree.
“I liked the math side of computer science and engineering, but not the programming. Through my involvement with the Baptist Student Ministry at UTA, I came to understand the calling to ministry I first felt as a teenager. Now I realize I am called to teach, to help students learn to think critically and ask questions. I want to equip ministers to understand and interact with the world in new ways.”
Since her UT Arlington days, Lyons has served as a youth pastor and hospice chaplain, married and had a son, and worked with her husband to start a church in Bellmead, a small community near Waco. Her doctoral studies focus on 20th-century African-American religious history, especially the civil rights movement, and the history of women in the church.
“I feel called to preach,” she says. “I enjoy preaching, and that’s what drew me in to studying the social justice movements of the 20th century.”
This fall Lyons taught Introduction to Christian Heritage at Baylor, speaking to classrooms filled with young students who sometimes remind her of those long-ago days at UT Arlington. She remembers her undergraduate career fondly but laughs a bit at how much she still had to learn.
Learning comes easily for Jocelyn Zee, a third UT Arlington prodigy turned successful professional. After enrolling at age 13, she graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and today is a hospitalist (a physician whose practice is entirely within the hospital) at John Peter Smith in Fort Worth. Only 17 when she entered medical school, Zee’s training began with a warning about her age.
“I was told by one of the deans about another student who started young and didn’t make it through. He had some concerns about me starting out as well, but it hasn’t been a problem. I have been called Doogie Howser a few times, but other than that, no major age-related setbacks.”
Of course, medical school has its challenges. Dr. Zee remembers well the osteopathic manipulative medicine course she took her first year, where students learn to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal complaints with physical manipulation.
“We had to practice on each other,” she says. “Let’s just say that even in a class of 135, we all got to know each other very well—and the various soft tissue treatments (massages or adjustments) each week were an added bonus.”
She’s no stranger to the intensive care unit or the emergency room.
“In the ICU, I work with residents and medical students responding to calls for critically ill patients. We also work with patients who present to the ER or are already on another floor but are deteriorating or coding—what most folks will recognize from TV shows as seeing patients on the monitor who flatline while medical staff shout ‘code blue’ or ‘clear.’ ”
Zee gives much credit for her success to her older sister, Jacqueline Howard, who also entered UT Arlington early and graduated at age 18. Howard’s major, criminal justice, took her into law enforcement after a master’s degree in law and ethics from the University of Baltimore and a Ph.D. in public affairs from UT Dallas.
After working for the Arlington Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Dr. Howard is now a senior crime analyst with the Arlington County Virginia Police Department, where she focuses on crime forecasting and research and investigation of crime data.
And what about the future of UT Arlington’s latest wunderkind, Ewin Tang? “I haven’t come up with anything that is really ingenious yet,” he says.
Be patient; he’s only 12.
(Reprinted from UTA Magazine: Article written by Sherry Neaves)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ALLAN SAXE: UTA presidential legacy a powerful one that should continue

James Spaniolo, the outgoing President of the University of Texas at Arlington is rightly acclaimed as one who changed the physical and academic face of this university. He is so accomplished that he could easily assume a prominent role within the University of Texas System if he desired; or a prominent position within a large corporation. However, at this moment his desires seem to be to travel and be with his family.
To place his tenure as university president in some perspective it is interesting to examine the academic atmosphere that preceded him. When I first arrived at UTA it had just emerged from the Texas A&M System into the University of Texas System. There are many persons who deserve and have been given credit for this transition, most notably then-Mayor Tom Vandergriff.
The newly named University of Texas at Arlington would take its place as an Arlington icon along with Six Flags, General Motors Plant and the soon-to-be Texas Rangers. Little could anyone imagine the elaborate new UTA campus of today or the Dallas Cowboys stadium. 

 In addition to the political leaders there were faculty members who were struggling to boost the university’s standing by attracting new academic programs. Among the faculty members were professors Luther Hagard, Sam Hamlett, George Wolfskill and John Hudson. Hagard, Hamlett and Wolfskill were in liberal arts while Hudson was head of library.
Allan Saxe
 They pushed to remove Arlington State College from A&M, believing that there was little hope for an independent and proud university unless it was removed from the A&M system. This was long before A&M becoming what it is today -- an academic powerhouse with a national reputation competing well alongside the UT System.
 But even today UTA has some of the proud remnants of the A&M System, notably ROTC and a prominent military tradition and its significant engineering reputation. Incidentally, UTA houses in the ROTC Department a Medal of Honor given to a former student, Colonel Neel Kearby.
For a number of years UNTIL the administration of former Engineering Dean Wendell Nedderman, who had formerly been at A&M, many new academic programs were initiated not from the top down, but from the bottom up-from faculty and staff.
 This could have been very precarious for faculty members, but they had the confidence and the “ear” of prominent state politicians like Governor John Connally and state senators Oscar Mauzy and Don Kennard and state Representative Don Gladden. None of these political leaders lived in Arlington but in Fort Worth and Dallas, but they all wished for a prominent public university in North Texas as UTA was the only such place in Tarrant or Dallas counties at the time. 
Another prominent faculty member who was instrumental in developing UTA early on was history department Chair E.C. Barksdale. Barksdale was a true “character” in the best use of this term. He was a friend of noted historian Walter Prescott Webb at UT-Austin and was on first name basis with a host of powerful Texas politicians.
On many Friday afternoons, Barksdale routinely hosted in his home political discussions with a bevy of local, regional and state public officials.  His political ties insulated him and other faculty members from any retribution for what they were attempting to accomplish in bringing UTA to a prominent place within the academic world. E.C. Barksdale’s wife was one of the early supporters of a young mayor of Weatherford – one of the two famed “boy” mayors, the bother being Vandergriff -- who would eventually become speaker of the United States House of Representatives. His name was Jim Wright.
After Nedderman assumed the presidency he worked with these faculty members and others to initiate and bring scores of new programs to UTA and his legacy is so noted. After Nedderman voluntarily stepped aside after many years in heading the university the atmosphere was decidedly unsettled.
Eventually, the UT Regents conducted a national search for a new president.
The man who emerged was from Clemson and named Ryan Amacher.  Amacher came to UTA with high credentials and much enthusiasm. He made friends with community leaders and they embraced him as a leader for the City of Arlington as well as the university.
However, his tenure at UTA was very short and marred by a multitude of rumors and allegations and bitterness that ultimately brought about his resignation. But his vision for UTA was not unlike what others have desired for many years. He envisioned a larger campus, expanded student housing, upgraded athletic facilities and more impressive university banquets and meetings honoring alumni, friends and faculty.
The campus was so unsettled after Amacher’s departure that the UT System appointed a UT-Austin dean of business, professor Bob Witt, to assume the presidency. Witt was a sterm and competent leader and brought the campus back from a tumultuous period.
Witt upgraded the campus and expanded student housing. But his essential directive from the UT System was to end the strife that permeated for so long. No time for big visions, just settle things down. He tried to gain the confidence of faculty members and administrators and hosted many dinners at his home to educate himself on the culture and history of the campus by inviting various faculty members to dine with him and his wife. Witt accomplished his mission so well that the university was gaining recognition and the community admired him.
He then began to turn attention to implementing a broader vision and plan for the campus.  Rumors began to swirl that his big vision was not being received so well with then UT System administrators and that other UT System campuses would be more favored. (Note: this was simply a rumor that was never substantiated).
And when the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the flagship school of the Alabama System, came calling and Witt assumed the presidency there. The University of Alabama had taken note of Witt’s success in settling a decidedly unsettled campus and moving to implement his UTA campus vision.
Immediately after Bob Witt announced his resignation from UTA and his assuming the presidency at the University of Alabama, a group of State Senators and Representatives announced they were introducing bills to potentially remove UTA from the UT System. A press conference was held and the buzz was that UTA would either become its own independent campus or align itself once again with the A&M System.
The possible removal of UTA from the UT System was a serious proposal initiated by North Texas political leaders who evidently believed that UTA would be better served elsewhere. Eventually, whatever outstanding issues there may have been were resolved. And UTA remains happily with the UT System.
Witt was so successful at the flagship Alabama campus that he is now the head of the entire University of Alabama System. (Initially, he was not a football aficionado and one of the last times I spoke with him he told me he was already becoming a football fan of the University of Alabama and so he is today – Alabama seems to be in the hunt every year for the national championship).
A new nationwide search after Witt’s departure produced the perfect president for UTA. He was personable and worked well with those already In various administrative positions. He is a rather reserved man, but was determined to bring UTA to what it is now.  He would enlarge academic programs, appoint talented people and embark on a building program never seen before on the UTA campus. The new Engineering complex, College Park Center and Activities Center, and the MAC) are all are tributes to his talents and will be a lasting legacy.
And so what comes now? Who will be the new president of UTA? The new president will have to be someone who can continue the university expansion, attract students and faculty and be up to the challenge of increasing competition from all those universities that want to achieve Tier I status.
Higher education is very different today with online learning and community colleges offering much more affordable tuition along with extensive vocational programs, plus the Internet can create virtual classrooms pretty much anywhere. The new president will have to cultivate confidence with area legislators and business leaders and community colleges while continuing to grow support from alumni and prominent donors. Most certainly a close relationship with UT System regents and administrators will be a necessity in an era in which the Legislature continues to diminish the state share of higher education funding.
The old adage “If one does not go forward you go backwards” applies as well to UTA. The legacy of Spaniolo must be built upon or UTA will regress. And this cannot be allowed to occur. I hope and I believe that the next president will indeed take the university into new areas of greatness.
Allan Saxe is a political science professor, urban issues pundit and author.

Friday, December 21, 2012

UTA picks a Maverick and comes out with a winner in retiring President James Spaniolo

From day 1, James D. Spaniolo didn’t like his odds. Among the five finalists for UT Arlington’s presidency in 2003, he was the only one who lacked a Ph.D., who had ascended no higher than dean, whose university appointments could be counted on one finger.
Even he voted himself least likely to succeed Robert Witt, now chancellor of the University of Alabama System. Listen to what candidate Spaniolo told the student newspaper that October: “I’m in awe of the other four candidates’ qualifications. I knew coming in that I was a long shot. That said, that’s not a concession speech. I want to be president of UT Arlington.”
In the end, the underdog landed on top. The University went with the maverick.
Now, nearly a decade later, Spaniolo is preparing to retire after what may be the seminal presidency in University history. Research expenditures more than tripled to $71.4 million last year, repositioning a commuter school into a research dynamo. In his time at the helm, more than a dozen buildings have been constructed or renovated, including the landmark Engineering Research Building and the striking College Park Center. Enrollment, on-campus residency, and graduation and retention rates are all at historic levels.
And the man who was least likely to be UT Arlington’s president retires as one of its best, putting the University into the national dialogue about top-tier institutions.
His decision met swift and stunned reaction when announced in June. The Fort Worth Star-Telegramlabeled it “a surprise retirement.” A nearly morose Dallas Morning Newseditorial said, “A coach typically doesn’t bow out during a winning streak.”
For many, the question was why? For posterity, here’s the answer:
“Part of it is where I am in my career—at a stage where the horizon is not unlimited anymore. I think you have an opportunity to make a contribution, and it’s a limited window. At some point, you just start to plateau. The longer you stay, the more set in your ways you get, and you run the risk of not being open to new ideas. I just have a voice in the back of my head that says this is about time.”
If those closest to him were shocked that Spaniolo is leaving, they weren’t surprised by the way he’s doing it. While he has contributed much—from rebuilt campus infrastructure to a re-imagined future—much remains to be done, such as a fundraising campaign that’s in the developmental stages.
“He felt strongly that we needed a new president with the energy required over the next several years,” says Ralph Hawkins ’73, chair of the Development Board. “I was sad to learn of his retirement, but his logic as always had the University in mind rather than his own career.”
There is no set date for Spaniolo’s departure; he will continue until his successor is in place.
For some, that won’t be long enough. After a recent meeting, a prominent faculty member approached the president and asked if he’d reconsider. Spaniolo told him no. “But I appreciate the sentiment. The fact that people want you to stay is a good thing. It’s better to leave when they still want you there and not when they’re pushing you out the door.”
No one’s pushing. The man who faced long odds will leave to long faces.
“I guess I assumed he would always be there,” says Elaine Marsilio Krift ’06, who covered Spaniolo when she worked at The Shorthorn. “President Spaniolo has made such a significant mark on the University that it is difficult to picture UT Arlington without him.”
“My pledge to you is that we will be strong and vibrant and relevant during my tenure, and we will work together to make it so.”
When Spaniolo became UT Arlington’s seventh president in February 2004, it was a different place than it is today. He challenged and pushed the University to achieve things it never had, to move from best-kept secret to best of the best.
“Jim created a tone that bolstered the self-confidence of the campus that we could compete with anyone, that we were as good as any campus anywhere.”
He saw a university whose faculty numbers didn’t match its aspirations, so he replaced those who had left plus hired 100 more. He saw a university that could transform students’ lives, so he enrolled almost 33,500 of them—34 percent more than when he arrived—and graduated twice as many. He saw a university short on traditions, so he created some—the Maverick Speakers Series, Graduation Celebration, MavsMeet Convocation, Parent and Family Weekend, Academic Excellence Week, the Official Maverick Class Ring. He saw a university short on revenue, so he redesigned the Development Office and engaged record numbers of alumni, and the endowment grew to a once-unimaginable $89.3 million.
He saw a university that needed an identity, so he created a new narrative and boosted Maverick pride. He saw a university that could excel athletically on a national stage if given better facilities and a better chance, so he built a $78 million basketball palace and joined the Sun Belt Conference. He saw a university that could grow stronger by leveraging partners, so he built bridges to peer universities, businesses, foundations, legislators, and city leaders.
“There’s been a transformation of UT Arlington since President Spaniolo arrived,” says Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, who in November announced that a street running through the 20-acre, $160 million College Park District would be renamed Spaniolo Drive. “The foundation was laid by previous presidents, but Jim picked up the ball and scored.”
He did it quickly and thoroughly.
Kelly Elsenbaumer attended in 1998 and recently returned to visit her father, Provost Ronald Elsenbaumer. “She walked around the campus and hardly recognized it,” Dr. Elsenbaumer says. “The Maverick Activities Center, the new Engineering Research Building, the Chemistry and Physics Building, new student housing all over campus, and, of course, the new College Park Districthave forever changed UT Arlington.”
Count the new buildings and programs, tally the alumni engaged and traditions initiated, and you still won’t have a comprehensive list of Spaniolo’s achievements. It’s more than a complex web of bricks and mortar. It is futures shaped and opportunities revealed through education.
“People may point to physical structures, and that’s important,” says former Provost Donald Bobbitt, now president of the University of Arkansas System. But more important is that “Jim created a tone that bolstered the self-confidence of the campus that we could compete with anyone, that we were as good as any campus anywhere. That’s what will last a long time, even after Jim leaves. It permeates the campus.”
Spaniolo couldn’t accomplish all of this by focusing on just one thing. He couldn’t change the momentum by erecting some buildings or beginning a few programs. It took work far beyond Arlington’s borders.
“Jim paid close attention to all the issues, both academic and infrastructure, that are important,” says Teresa Sullivan, formerly the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and now president of the University of Virginia. Dr. Sullivan chaired the presidential search committee that brought Spaniolo to the table in 2003. “UT Arlington was already on a good trajectory, and he improved it further. He was also a great public face for the University and gave it good visibility in Austin.”
And everywhere else.
“President Spaniolo is by far the best brand ambassador UT Arlington could ask for,” says Vice President for Communications Jerry Lewis. “He tells the University’s story with passion and conviction, and you know it’s coming from the heart. He has been the driving force in raising the University’s profile, improving its reputation, and overcoming long-held misperceptions and stereotypes.
“President Spaniolo embodies everything it means to be a Maverick. He’s bold. He’s clever. And he’s always the first person to roll up his sleeves and get to work.”
“It’s not the president’s personal vision. It’s our shared vision that emerges from conversations and consultation with all those who care about our university.”
Not everything has been smooth sailing for Spaniolo, nor for UT Arlington, these last eight-plus years.
There was the 2006 removal of the Hall of Flags in Nedderman Hall, a monument to the University’s diversity that came down amid protests about displaying the national flag of Vietnam. Vietnamese-Americans and Vietnam War veterans protested, and at least one lawmaker threatened to block funding for the Engineering Research Building. Spaniolo did the only thing he thought he could: Remove not only the Vietnamese flag, but all 123. The colorful display has been replaced by banners representing each nation. Spaniolo calls the situation the greatest regret of his presidency.
“I’m sorry that that was the only option, given the attitudes that existed,” he says. “Not that I would have done it differently, I just regret that there was no acceptable choice that involved leaving the flags. In some situations, there isn’t a good decision, just a least bad one.”
Most times, the issue hasn’t been flags but finances. Early in Spaniolo’s presidency, the University faced a $16 million cut in state appropriations. In both Arlington and Austin, he worked diligently to ensure that those cuts never happened.
He tackled the football question, assuaged the community about natural gas drilling on campus, navigated four legislative sessions and unprecedented economic challenges, and through it all made sure the University thrived like never before.
“No matter whether things were going tremendously well or we were in a difficult situation, his demeanor did not change,” Dr. Bobbitt says. “I’ve never met anyone more calm and self-confident than he was. He’s a remarkable, ethical leader that you don’t find very often.”
If there is blame to place for anything, Spaniolo says it’s on him. Where credit is due, he says, his colleagues deserve it.
“The leadership team we have, including the vice presidents I work with every day, are the finest group of people I’ve ever worked with,” he says.
It’s a leadership team that evolved dramatically during his presidency. In eight years there have been three provosts, and almost every cabinet position turned over at least once. Spaniolo created two vice president positions (communications and human resources) and elevated the expectations of the development, alumni, and athletics operations. In doing all this, he altered the University’s priorities. What mattered most would be performance.
“Jim is charmingly self-deprecating and will defer credit for many things to those with whom he worked,” Sullivan says. “Don’t be fooled: You get great results from a great team only if there is also a great leader.”
Elsenbaumer, beginning his third decade at UT Arlington, says he has never seen a team so in sync and so singularly focused.
“As a leader, his most significant accomplishment was assembling an incredible leadership team. As you can see, much gets accomplished in that kind of environment. Indeed, the synergies created by the deliberate multiple accomplishments made by the team over time will have a lasting impact on the institution.”
There is still one big thing to accomplish. Progress has been made, but it won’t be complete by the time Spaniolo leaves office.
North Texas is the largest metropolitan area in the United States without a Tier One research university. The entire state has only three. Spaniolo has championed efforts to change that, to elevate as many universities as possible, including his own. He was instrumental in the Legislature passing House Bill 51 and in voters approving Proposition 4 in 2009, which made more funding available as universities accomplish Tier One-related metrics.
Finishing what Spaniolo started is up to the next president.
“Clearly, Tier One is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re talking a decade or more,” he says. “We’re just a few years into that. And we’re making significant progress. If the next president serves for up to a decade, it will be inescapably clear that we are on our way.”
“You get great results from a great team only if there is also a great leader.”
Actually, it’s maybe a relay. While others run the anchor leg, it was Spaniolo who came flying out of the blocks.
“Having been in the Tier One conversation right from the beginning, I can tell you that Jim was a unifying force who brought the institutions together,” Bobbitt says. “Jim knew it would only happen if everyone pulled on the same end of the rope. All those universities owe him a great deal that the Tier One bill even got passed. His smooth and calm voice made that happen. It’s easy to put walls up to say it’s us against that university or the city or the state, but Jim never did that. It’s remarkable how collaborative he was.”
“We will meet the challenges that face us, tell a new story about UT Arlington, and make a brighter future for generations to come. In the words of Robert Frost, we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep—and miles to go before we sleep.”
Spaniolo’s calendar has long been stacked, his Blackberry exhausted, his iPad gridlocked, his life dedicated to the University. Now? The miles are almost done.
“It’s the first time I’ve had time to reflect on what I want to do next,” he says. “I want to have some freedom to come and go.”
That freedom includes time for himself and his family, especially his twin 1-year-old granddaughters in Washington, D.C. But Spaniolo, 66, won’t disappear. Although he has no plans to be a university president elsewhere, nor a CEO, he does want to engage in philanthropy or work with a private foundation. He’s also open to board service, although he intends to be selective about how he spends his days.
“University administration is extremely interesting and gratifying—especially if you’re as good at it as Jim is—but it is also all-consuming,” says sociology Associate Professor Dana Dunn, who was provost from 2003 to 2007. “It’s hard to have a private life or personal time. My first thoughts were for Jim as a person and how nice it will be for him to take a real vacation. I always urged him to travel to Italy, the home of his ancestors. Now maybe he’ll do that or the many other things he’s had to neglect to give his all to the University.”
Spaniolo will have little involvement in the search for his successor. He’ll offer advice if asked but believes the new president should be free to blaze a unique trail, just as he was able to do eight years ago.
“If he or she is smart, they’ll study pretty carefully how Jim did everything he did and try to adopt the same philosophy and style,” Bobbitt says. “I know I did. The table is set for the next president. The groundwork is there for Tier One.”
Which means the next president will arrive at a pivotal time for UT Arlington.
“Jim has laid a strong foundation and set the course,” Dr. Dunn says. “He has established the momentum. I expect the new president will not alter our course in dramatic ways, but rather bring an expertise to support the continuing evolution of UT Arlington as a major research university. A new president will have to hit the ground running.”
For Spaniolo, the running soon will be over.

“In my heart, I hope that I will have contributed in whatever way to UT Arlington achieving its destiny—becoming a truly great university that serves the needs of students and families and the citizens of Texas in a way that makes a difference in all of those lives.”
And maybe there is one thing left for him to do.
“I hope,” Dunn says, “I get a postcard from Italy in the not-too-distant future.”
(Article by Danny Woodward, reprinted from UTA Magazine)