Part of Lawrence Schovanec’s duties as Texas Tech President is meeting and spending time with alumni. He travels inside Texas to visit some of the state’s 47 chapters and outside Texas to some of the other 32 chapters across the U.S.
Schovanec says the value of the alumni can’t be overstated. One alum’s academic input is leading to the addition of an executive banking program in the Rawls College of Business Administration. Scott Deuser, a former system regent and a prominent banker, was the genesis for the creation of a $10 million endowment for the program.
“Why is the alumni important? It’s the university. You don’t cease to be a Red Raider once you graduate. I mean that’s it, they are a part of the university. Who we are is because of them. You’re a Red Raider forever. What alumni need to know is their continued input and involvement is terribly important. Their involvement can reveal itself in terms of programmatic changes, but also just in terms of support.”
The university says there are nearly 225,000 living alums and that about 199,500 of those live in the US across all 50 states. Of those, about 159,500 of those live in Texas. There are alums in 119 countries worldwide.
Schovanec, who visits about two dozen alumni groups a year in spurts, says the Texas Tech Alumni Association is quite active. He recently traveled to Colorado and visited alums in Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.
“It’s always impressive just to see how engaged those alumni want to be with the university and they do remain fairly close with their local activities; they have game watching parties, they get together every so often. They’re very keen to know what’s going on. What was different this year from trips in the past, was the dialogue after I’d give my remarks, and quite a variance in opinions about what is good and what others think is not so good.”
There is one topic that alums regularly raise.
“The alumni are very interested in things like our growth. They see that as a sign of vitality. And because this 40,000 enrollment figure was raised in 2010, it still remains part of their standard of growth. And so we’re 2,000 away with two years to go, it’s going to be a challenge, we’ll be very, very close. It’s interesting, it always comes up.”
The university continues to add dimensions. Schovanec says one alum told him she was gratified Tech has earned the Hispanic Serving Institution status.
“One lady said to me how proud she was that we were so more inclusive. She was proud of our HSI status, she was a Caucasian, she wasn’t Hispanic. She said ‘I remember, I was raised in West Texas and when Hispanic students would speak Spanish, sometimes they’d wash their mouths out with soap.’ And she said ‘I just think it’s wonderful we’ve progressed beyond that kind of behavior.’”
Many alums aren’t aware of the university’s efforts to grow its archival materials holdings, including the James Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community and the Natural World. Schovanec tells them Tech’s foundational values remain but that the school should always have an eye to keeping apace.
“If you are on campus, you’ll realize that there are certain core values that are just as fresh today as they were when you were there, and at the same time it’s changed. That’s one of the wonderful things about the university, Tech still retains elements of our history, that distinguished Tech education, but we’re adapting to the world we live in.”
Schovanec says that as he prepares his state of the university address, he’ll pull stories alums have shared with him. One will be from a Colorado Springs man who told him he settled on Tech’s civil engineering program because the chairman of Tech’s department was waiting for him and walked him around campus.
“I’m preparing for my state of the university address this year, there will be no PowerPoint, but I’m going to relay individual stories of what people do that make a difference.”