Message From John Junkins On Being Named Interim President Of Texas A&M
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
Last Thursday I learned that President Young was stepping down at the end of December 2020 and, in the same conversation, Chancellor Sharp asked me to serve as Interim President starting in January. I was doubly surprised.
I remarked to Chancellor Sharp that my current dual role as Director of the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study and being Professor Junkins is more than a full-time job. I also remarked that there were others more qualified to lead in this important time. He was insistent that he and the Regents surveyed the possibilities and were unanimous that, given the short fuse, I was the best choice. He then said: “Junkins, I am just calling to make it happen!” Humbled and surprised, I asked for time to process the news and his request.
After some deliberation with Elouise and thinking about the overall situation, I returned Chancellor Sharp’s call and accepted the challenge to be your interim President. I will begin to arrange my current duties immediately and coordinate with President Young and his leadership team to transition by January. Given the short notice and the few months duration of this appointment, I will not bring a bold new agenda. My job will be to help navigate Texas A&M safely along our presently planned course and work with existing senior leadership and the faculty to solve problems as they arise until our new president takes the helm, hopefully by June.
My 35 years at Texas A&M, preceded by appointments at the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, have positioned me to appreciate this great American university and see the way that traditions and excellence have been blended while building the largest and strongest university in the southwest. Remarkably, we have found a recipe for delivering effective teaching, mentoring and service, while conducting an increasing volume of world-class research.
More remarkably, Texas A&M remains permeated by an admirable set of core values that fundamentally define us. Texas A&M’s culture appeals strongly to me because I am a blend of scholar-researcher-teacher-mentor-leader who began serious academics at Auburn University as a first-generation college student. So, I understand the notion that land-grant universities should be dedicated, first and foremost, to developing people, and in the process, lifting many out of poverty. Texas A&M’s mission is broader and deeper than that, however.
Based on my personal experience, our former students are characterized by excellent leadership skills, a strong work ethic, and core values that reliably locate true north when ethical issues arise. As a consequence, our former students, I firmly believe, are a national treasure that contribute greatly to a more competent, just and discrimination-free society. That we have preserved these attributes while becoming a research powerhouse makes this is a very special institution. Moving forward, we are the “keepers of the flame” with the solemn responsibility to continue making progress while cultivating the fundamental values that truly define Texas A&M.
It is my great honor and privilege to help Texas A&M University move through this challenging era and maintain our hard-earned momentum. I will bring a collaborative and goal-focused approach to leadership while refining our plans for the coming months. With regard to meeting challenges presented by this time-varying pandemic, I am very hopeful our continued diligence will see us as safe as possible through the spring. A successful vaccine and its distribution are important to achieve my fondest hope: That we will see much better COVID-19 conditions by summer.
In the meantime, I will appreciate your help as we pull together this spring, and learn the lessons that allow us to perform our functions even better. We can all certainly be very proud of the past eight months of incredible accomplishment while dealing with the pandemic. Kudos to Chancellor Sharp, President Young, Provost Fierke and the entire leadership team, as well as our faculty, staff and students on the front lines. COVID-19 is still with us, however, so we can’t take success to date for granted and must adapt as necessary. After we navigate through this difficult time, we will surely have learned many lessons that will make us even better moving forward.
On that note, let me remark that upon welcoming our next President of Texas A&M University, I look forward to resuming my roles as Professor Junkins and Director of the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study.
John Junkins, November 24, 2020
Media contact: Kelly Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org