Immediately before the formal investiture of Tom Courtway as the president of the University of Central Arkansas, the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall was abuzz with anticipation and excitement for the future of the university.

“This is a good day for UCA,” one man said, and others around him agreed.

Courtway was invested with the office of the president of UCA Wednesday afternoon, and he took that opportunity to share his dreams — and a plan to make those dreams a reality — for the future of the university.

“Very good things are happening at UCA,” Courtway said. “In short, we are a vibrant, growing and diverse campus of over 11,500 students, but moving ahead the key question is, ‘How do we build upon this foundation of strength, excellence and heritage?’”

Courtway introduced the new comprehensive strategy entitled “Framework for the Future: A Blueprint for National Leadership and Regional Prominence,” which outlines goals to bring UCA to the next level.

“In that ‘Framework,’ there are responsibilities and there are time lines established,” Courtway said. “It may — and probably will — change periodically.”

The three basic goals of the plan are to become one of the top regional universities in the south; create a campus that attracts and retains the best students, faculty and staff; and maximize external relations effectiveness.

After these three goals were established, Courtway said he wanted to take a step back to dream about what he wants to see when he looks back on this period in UCA’s history.

“First, I want to see a university that is a top regional university in the South with 13,000 students or more taught by an engaged and energetic faculty, fairly and competitively compensated both in terms of pay and salary adjustments and supported by a dedicated staff,” he said.

He said this would happen through the leadership of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff; competitive recruitment; strengthened admissions standards; and increased student retention.

When it comes to attracting and retaining top students and faculty, Courtway said that it will happen “through planning and prudent budgeting for critical maintenance needs. It’s not the most glamorous expenditure of funds, but certainly ones that are critical.”
Planning, development and construction of new facilities are also a priority to achieving the second goal.

Partnerships with the city of Conway to develop Donaghey Avenue will also play into bringing key students and faculty to the university, Courtway said.

“It happens through the planning and development of the university’s main street — Donaghey Avenue — which, through careful planning with the city of Conway, can become a true university thoroughfare with student housing, shops and cafes,” he said.

As far as external relations, Courtway said establishing clear communication with the community, alumni and university friends is another key to bringing success to UCA.

This goal also involves the outreach programs associated with UCA fine arts.

“I see — in the future — school children and adults from El Dorado, Stuttgart, Mena, Mountain View and other places in the state experiencing the UCA fine arts,” he said.

At the end of the day, Courtway said the focus has to be on the students of the university.

“As always, we must provide for our students the best education, keeping in mind the cost to them and their families,” he said. “Their learning, development and success is and must always be our singular purpose. That is why we exist.”

Gov. Mike Beebe spoke at the investiture ceremony, praising Courtway for his previous success and current dedication to the school.

“Tom, we in Arkansas owe you a debt because you have constantly given back,” Beebe said. “We’re all lucky he has chosen to share himself with the people of Arkansas and the family of the University of Central Arkansas.”

The governor also charged those in attendance to do what they can to help Courtway as he carries out his duties as president. Courtway, Beebe said, takes on a lot of responsibility and internalizes issues. This has made him a compassionate leader, but it also takes a toll.

“If I have a message for all of you, it’s to aid him and help him relieve some of that burden, relieve some of that stress,” Beebe said. “Some of it you’re never going to be able to because it’s in his DNA to worry, but he cares about you and he cares about this place and it’s incumbent I think on all of us to help him and relieve as much as we possibly can that burden, that mantle of leadership that he will wear deep down into his heart.”
Courtway expressed this unwavering stance as he closed out his statements with a vow of leadership.

“My pledge to you is that each day I will advance no agenda or interest except this: To lead this great institution with integrity and character and honor the trust and responsibility you have placed in me,” he said. “We have the vision, we have the plan and we have the focus, and most importantly we have the resolve together to lead this university to even greater things, to greater promise. That is our course. That is our charge. Together, let’s make it our commitment.”

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)