Gov. Perry strengthens UNT system board with Tarrant appointees

Posted Friday, Aug. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Almost since its founding more than 120 years ago in the tiny rural town of Denton, the University of North Texas had an inextricable tie to Tarrant County, home today to thousands of the school’s alumni.

In the beginning, the school was called Texas Normal College and Teachers Training Institute, and it has undergone six name changes since. From its humble beginnings, the small college transformed into the state’s fourth-largest university and a regional system of higher education, complete with a health science center and medical school in Fort Worth.

It was the abrupt firing last year of UNT Health Science Center President Scott Ransom, popular with many local leaders, that focused attention on the university’s seeming lack of focus on Fort Worth and Tarrant County along with its original campus in Denton.

Since the appointment of former Dallas County Judge Lee Jackson as chancellor in 2002, many thought the new leader and board of regents were determined to make UNT more Dallas-centric, partly by relocating the system headquarters to Big D, along with a new four-year university and law school there.

The fact that half of the regents were from Dallas County, with no representation from Tarrant, raised concerns that the UNT Health Science Center and the system as a whole lacked the necessary input and influence from Tarrant County, which has a vested interest in both institutions.

Gov. Rick Perry Wednesday addressed those concerns when he appointed two high-profile, dedicated Tarrant County leaders to the UNT System Board of Regents.

The governor’s choice of Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley of Hurst and businessman Rusty Reid of Fort Worth was greeted with enthusiasm by supporters of the school and those in the area who have been devoted to the continuing expansion of the Health Science Center, which has plans for an M.D. program along with its longstanding osteopathic medical school.

Reid, who is president, CEO and chairman of the board of the insurance brokerage firm of Higginbotham & Associates, is a UNT graduate. Whitley, a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, is the husband and father of UNT alumnae.

Both men no doubt will bring great leadership skills to the board and overall system while helping to provide needed stability and guidance for the Fort Worth-based programs.

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