TCU Daily Skiff Wednesday, February 18, 2004
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Provost 101
Koehler’s legacy sets high bar
Faculty and staff discuss what it will take to fill the shoes of the provost, who retires in May.

By Lacey Krause
Staff Reporter


When Provost William Koehler leaves office in May, the TCU landscape will look different than when he began as the university’s chief academic officer 24 years ago.

“As vice chancellor for academic affairs and then also provost, Dr. Koehler has played an important part in raising the academic aspirations and reality of TCU,” religion professor Nadia Lahutsky said.

Koehler joined the faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1969. He became the vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1980 and added the title of provost in 1994.

“The university has really become a national university in terms of its ability,” he said.

TCU’s academic reputation has grown a great deal during Koehler’s tenure, said Becky Roach, who has been Koehler’s assistant since 1980.

“In my opinion, his legacy can be summed up in two words: academic excellence,” she said.

Throughout his tenure, Koehler has held various positions to strengthen, develop and manage athletic programs. The next provost will probably not be heavily involved in athletics as Koehler, Lahutsky said.

“My impression is that Dr. Koehler does not have an equal across the country in his ability to hold together responsibility for the academic and athletic programs,” she said.

The university has grown in terms of faculty, staff and students. The Physical Plant has increased in size and new buildings have sprung up. Information technology has increased, and all residence halls have been wired for high-speed Internet access. Student services have improved, including the Center for Academic Services, Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Writing. The university has also developed engineering and computer science departments.

“I in no way would take credit for these events,” Koehler said. “The important thing is that the university has done a number of things while I was fortunate enough to be there.”

However, Koehler did not accomplish all of his goals during his tenure. He said he wishes TCU could have started a law school, hired more faculty and increased the presence of graduate programs. These are issues the next provost may address if he deems it necessary, Koehler said.

“I’m going to try not to set the agenda for my successor,” he said.

Many faculty and staff members will remember Koehler as a fair and concerned administrator.

“When it comes to Dr. Koehler’s management style, three words come to mind: open, fair and decisive,” said Donna Johnson, Koehler’s executive assistant. “Once he has evaluated a situation, he makes a decision that he thinks is fair to all the parties involved.”

Koehler deals with students and faculty in the same straight-forward manner, Boschini said.

“He is upfront and above board in all his interactions with others,” he said.

Koehler is genuinely concerned for TCU students, Johnson said.

“He strives to help motivate the students he comes in contact with to achieve their highest potential, and he has continued to help many students long after they graduate from TCU,” she said.

Boschini said he will remember Koehler’s willingness to support him after he was appointed chancellor.

“I will always remember all the help and assistance he gave to me from the moment I was announced as the new chancellor,” Boschini said, “from calling me in Illinois to helping me the moment I arrived ‘for good’ in June.”

Roach said she will remember Koehler’s varying interests outside TCU.

“Over the years I have known him to fly an airplane, rappel off a building, teach a gourmet cooking class, appreciate opera and country & western music at the same time, and ride a motorcycle,” she said. “Besides, he’s the only person I know who has a pet pig!”

Koehler said he will miss many things about being provost, including “the excitement of being a change agent.” However, he hopes to remain involved with TCU in a professional capacity.

“We’re talking about my staying involved on a consulting basis, part time,” he said.

As a consultant, Koehler would have no specific responsibilities or set schedule. He would meet with university officials such as the chancellor and athletic director on an as-needed basis.

“I would just provide what perspective I can,” Koehler said. “Sort of be the local historian.”

Koehler declined to speculate on the legacy he will leave at TCU.

“I’ll leave that to the historians,” he said.

However, several faculty and staff members offered their predictions.

“I believe he will leave a a huge legacy at TCU — a legacy of academic quality and a legacy of always trying to do what is best for TCU,” Boschini said. “His heart is always in the right place.”

Koehler will also be remembered for his vision and his positive impact on TCU, Johnson said.

“He has set the bar very high,” she said.

So exactly what kind of shoes will the next provost have to fill?

“In a word — big,” Boschini said.
Ty Halasz/Staff Photographer
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs William Koehler will leave big shoes to fill when he retires in May.
 
Provost for Dummies

Timeline of Dr. Koehler’s career
• 1960: Graduated from Southern Methodist University
• 1962: Received M.S. degree in physical chemistry from SMU
• 1968: Earned Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from UT-Austin
• 1969: Joined TCU faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry
• 1976: Became director of TCU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects
• 1977: Promoted to Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research
• 1980: President of the TCU Research Foundation
• 1980: Became the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
• 1994: Added title of Provost

Changes to the campus under Koehler’s tenure
• Center for Teaching Excellence: Opened in 1998
• Engineering program began: First freshmen were admitted in 1992
• Center for Academic Services: Opened in 1988
• Writing Center: Opened in 1988
• Computer science department began: Opened in 1981

Before and after
Profile of TCU in 1980, when Koehler became Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
• 6,283 students
• 46 percent male
• 54 percent female
• 298 full-time faculty
• 73 percent of faculty held doctorates
• Square footage of facilities: 2,117,354
• Tuition: $100 per credit hour
• $310 total university fees

Profile of TCU in 2003
• 8,275 students
• 42 percent male
• 58 percent female
• 420 full-time faculty
• 81 percent of faculty held doctorates
• Square footage of facilities: 3,010,928
• $19,700 flat-rate tuition and fees

 
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