After serving 15 years leading The University of Texas of the Permian Basin and overseeing a period of unprecedented growth and evolution, Dr. W. David Watts announced in the annual fall convocation held on campus today, that he had submitted his resignation as president, effective August 31, 2017.
“Working together, I think we have accomplished things that no one, perhaps not even ourselves thought possible,” he said in his message. “Now is the time for someone else to help UTPB continue on its path to be the great institution that it is destined to be.”
“UTPB has grown tremendously during President Watts’ tenure, not just in enrollment, but also in quality. From the arts to athletics, and groundbreaking partnerships with high schools across the state which paved the way for a college degree for thousands — President Watts’ far-reaching vision for UTPB has been extraordinary. His impact on higher education reverberates far beyond West Texas,” said UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven. “I am personally grateful to President Watts for his commitment and dedication to UTPB and its students, and I know that gratitude is shared by the many whose lives he has enriched through his life’s work.”
The longest serving president at UTPB, Dr. Watts has made a mark in both the university and in the Permian Basin community since he assumed this position in June 2001. Under his leadership, the reputation of UTPB significantly advanced, as recognized by both The Economist and U.S. News and World Report. In 2015, Dr. Watts received the prestigious Odessa Citizen of the Year Award.
“President Watts has had a distinguished career of leadership and service to the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. For the past 15 years, President Watts has led UTPB skillfully through his commitments to expanding enrollment, improving infrastructure investments, and enhancing program offerings. His achievements have been integral to increasing access to higher education in the Permian Basin region, as well as increasing success of its students. President Watts’ legacy will be remembered for years to come,” said Steven Leslie, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
While he was president, The University enrollment increased from 2,200 to 6315 students. Student housing increased from six buildings and 96 beds in 2001 to 37 buildings and 1197 beds as of fall, 2016. The addition in student housing represents an 824 percent increase in students living on campus - significantly impacting the local economy and transforming UTPB from a commuter school into a vibrant, traditional university community.
Early in his tenure at UTPB, Watts made a commitment to expand the educational opportunities at the university. UTPB has invested in online programs making it possible to earn a degree from a distance and allow for an expansion of career opportunities to our regional workforce. Most recently, UTPB has made the BestColleges.com list of the top 50 schools in the nation with the most affordable online programs and the U.S. News and World Report’s #4 ranking in low cost public online bachelors programs.
His vision led to the creation of Texas’ first entirely virtual Early College High School network – which started as a partnership between The University of Texas of the Permian Basin and Presidio Independent School District and has now expanded to nine schools districts. This program is an innovative alliance of public and private educational groups that created the first 100 percent online early high school program in Texas and continues to expand to other underserved counties within West Texas.
His commitment to quality education has been evident through the pursuit of national accreditation in Art (NASAD), Business (AACSB-International), Education (CAEP), Mechanical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering (ABET), Social Work (CSWE), Music (NASM), Nursing (CCNE), and Athletic Training Education (CAATE).
Under his leadership, UTPB was the first school in Texas to offer a $10,000 bachelor’s degree in select majors and is recognized as the least expensive Texas public, four-year institution for all college expenses, including tuition and fees.
Among the many programs begun under Watts are the STEM Charter School, Social Work, Nursing, Music, Petroleum and Mechanical Engineering and Athletic Training. During his tenure the Science and Technology Building, the Student Activities Building and the nationally recognized Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center were built as well as the student housing complex and athletic facilities.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin will field its first ever football team starting in the fall of 2016. Currently, student athletes and student volunteers are involved in NCAA athletic-supported activities comprising 13 percent of the full-time undergraduate student population. The expansion of athletics has provided a new source of community and school spirit. UTPB now attracts students from not only West Texas but also the state, nation and world.
Watts said “I believe UTPB is in the finest position in its history, yet it will require hard work and commitment on everyone’s part to make UTPB the fine institution that it is and the better institution that it will be.”
A search committee to advise The University of Texas System Board of Regents will be formed in accordance with the Board of Regents’ Rules and Regulations, which include a provision for representation on such committees by various constituencies of the institution. The search advisory committee, which will include faculty, staff, student and community representatives, will present names of potential candidates to the board. The regents will make the final decision and plan to have a new president in place by Fall 2017.