UNT regents pick permanent president for health science center

Posted Sunday, Jul. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Dr. Michael Williams, a Fort Worth native whose maternal grandparents once owned a cabinet shop on the north side, has officially been named president of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

Williams, 59, became interim president in December after Dr. Scott Ransom was fired. Williams was named sole finalist in June.

“It feels great to be here,” Williams said Friday after regents voted unanimously for his appointment. “It feels great to be an official part of the team.”

The UNT System board of regents met by teleconference to discuss the appointment. Regents had a closed session for about 30 minutes (still via teleconference), then resumed the open meeting in a conference call that was open to the public.

Williams followed the meeting from the health science center in Fort Worth.

“Dr. Williams, we are so happy you are there and are going to take the helm,” regents Chairman Jack Wall said.

The terms of Williams’ three-year contract are still being worked out and will be made public after it is signed, likely in about 60 days, system Chancellor Lee Jackson said. The contract will include bonuses for meeting key goals, Jackson said.

Williams’ Fort Worth roots undoubtedly helped as he was asked to soothe hurt feelings in Tarrant County created by Ransom’s firing. Members of the Health Science Center Foundation Board said they worried that a key voice for Fort Worth was lost and that the upheaval could damage Fort Worth’s chances of landing an M.D. program.

Jackson said Williams’ leadership style has been praised by Fort Worth community members on and off the health science center campus.

“He is collaborative and respectful, but he is also very focused on results,” Jackson said.

Allan Howeth, chairman of the foundation board, said he is pleased with the appointment. Williams has impressive credentials, a medical background and a strong track record, he said.

“I think he’s just the right balance,” Howeth said. “I think the foundation board is firmly behind Dr. Williams as president.”

Howeth has also been on an advisory committee that offers community perspective to UNT System leaders.

Williams was a UNT System regent for 15 months until Dec. 20, the day before he was named interim president.

The health science center has an annual budget of $220 million, more than 1,900 students and over 400 faculty members. In August, classes will begin at the new College of Pharmacy on campus.

The center was founded in 1970 as the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and now occupies 33 acres on Camp Bowie Boulevard. In 1999, it joined the UNT System.

Williams has said he wants to raise the center’s profile and renew its focus on primary and preventive care, aging/memory loss, DNA research, and applied genetics and rural healthcare.

He said he will continue working to gain support for the M.D. program and to obtain funds for a planned $90 million Interdisciplinary Research Building.

In 2000, the health science center had $10 million in research expenditures. By 2012, research expenditures had reached $43 million.

“Space has remained flat during that time,” said Tim Doke, senior vice president for community engagement at the center.

Williams said work is underway to encourage Gov. Rick Perry to appoint a UNT regent from Fort Worth. Jackson agreed that the system is committed to gaining a regent with a Fort Worth address.

Three seats on the nine-member board are up for appointment. Regents serve until a new one is named, he said.

Williams was born in Fort Worth and graduated from Richland High School in 1972. His mother graduated from North Side High School, and his father graduated from what is now Haltom High School.

Williams started at what is now Tarrant County College before transferring to Texas Wesleyan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1981.

He also has an M.D. from Ross University.

He was previously chief executive of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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