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July 12, 2013This is where we're supposed to be, isn't it? -- Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, on the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oct. 6, 2012.
Most university presidents, for better or worse, are remembered for the success their respective institutions have in the academic arena. Ironically, the most academic of men, Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin, will be remembered most for one thing that occurred on the athletic front.
He's the man who took the Aggies to the SEC.
Since taking the job on a full-time basis in February 2010, Loftin has helped oversee one of the biggest transformations in not only college sports, but higher education as a whole. Under Loftin's leadership, Texas A&M has grown to record numbers, with student enrollment exceeding 50,000 students. Loftin has navigated the university through numerous milestones and is presently overseeing the merger with the Health Science Center and acquisition of Texas Wesleyan Law School.
He also had the vision to pick up the phone and call his friend, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, in 2011 to discuss the prospects of moving Texas A&M from an unsatisfactory position in the Big 12 to the best athletic conference in America.
"I'm sitting here on my porch, having a drink and a cigar thinking about you," Slive responded.
The rest is history -- a history he helped build by replacing athletic director Bill Byrne with Eric Hyman and pushing for the hiring of a new football coach, who became Kevin Sumlin.
The time for Loftin, 64, to make additional history in his current job, however, will be limited as he shocked current and former students with the July 12 announcement that he will be stepping down effective Jan. 13, 2014.
"Since returning to Texas A&M in 2005 as a Vice President, my greatest joy has always been found in our students. My love for them and for this extraordinary institution has never been stronger," he said. "That being said, I do miss the opportunity to teach and do research-activities that have characterized my long career in higher education. I look forward to teaching and mentoring 'my' students and to leading multidisciplinary research teams in creating new knowledge and transforming that knowledge into useful applications.
"I will spend the next five months on programs and plans currently in development, such as management of the largest student body in the history of the school. In the following period, I will work with Provost Karan Watson as well as many of our deans and system agency directors toward the launch of a new institute at Texas A&M - to serve the state, the nation and the world. I will certainly miss being 'aggieprez' (my twitter handle), but I will still be part of this great university and will be serving on the 'front lines' of the academy, side-by-side with those I love the most-our students."
Loftin will remain at A&M as a tenured professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Dwight Look College of Engineering. The university also plans to assist Loftin in establishing an institute that will focus on advanced, state-of-the-art modeling and simulation in human behavioral modeling in terrorist organizations and the spread of diseases among human and animal populations.
"Loftin embodies the Aggie Core Values. We owe him an extreme debt of gratitude for his steadfast leadership and guidance, which has elevated Texas A&M into one of the best universities in this country," said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. "He is absolutely at the top of his game and we look forward to his continued service."
While he won't be serving as president, the man with the bowtie and the iron backbone will remain a fixture in Aggieland for years to come.
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