Tarleton president emphasizes partnerships in Chamber address
STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University is proud to work hand in hand with Stephenville’s municipal, county, school district and industry leaders to deliver an outstanding higher education while spurring economic development and improving regional quality of life.
Universities in college towns can sometimes get hypnotized by their own reflection in the mirror. But not this university, and not this town.
That was the heart of university President James Hurley’s keynote last week at the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce State of Tarleton luncheon.
Complementing Stephenville’s impressive growth, Dr. Hurley shared plans for endeavors sure to benefit the city and surrounding area. He applauded civic leaders and chamber members for their unwavering support.
“A strong university has a moral and social obligation to embrace its neighbors and partner with the community,” he said. “It takes all of us working together to create this special place that we call home.”
Dr. Hurley shared the university’s diligence in working alongside city and county leaders, and local and regional hospitals, to improve access to quality healthcare. He detailed plans for an $85 million facility (adjacent to the School of Nursing) to support new physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant programs, and he noted the university’s commitment to double its cohort of nursing students.
“Together we have a tremendous opportunity to help our neighbors enjoy longer, healthier lives,” he said. “We can make a difference. And we will.”
A new College of Health Science, a soon-to-be College of Engineering (now a School of Engineering) and expanded academic offerings in everything from agriculture to criminal justice equate to more faculty, increased enrollment and a boost to economic vitality.
A fourth record-breaking fall semester — projected to 15,000 students (more than 10,000 in Stephenville) and a 12% increase in freshmen — is certain to strengthen the housing market and pump dollars into Stephenville businesses.
Based on recent calculations, Tarleton’s overall annual economic impact well exceeds $1 billion, with the majority of those dollars staying in North Central Texas.
The move to NCAA Division I as a member of the Western Athletic Conference means enhanced facilities, including a new $12 million Aquatics Center open to the community and offering swim lessons, water aerobics and lifeguard training. And plans are underway for a hotel and 7,500-seat conference center with D-I basketball facilities, space for indoor commencements and room for conferences and concerts. All will spike Stephenville’s revenue stream.
Design has begun on a multilevel parking garage at West Washington and North Saint Felix streets, providing 600 spaces plus retail (including the first full-service Buffalo Wild Wings on a university campus). Approval from The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to begin construction is expected this summer.
Recently Tarleton partnered with the city to improve infrastructure along Harbin Street, contributing $1.4 million — something that rarely happens without a strong town-and-gown relationship.
Dr. Hurley: “Working with Mayor Doug Svien and members of the Stephenville City Council proves that collaboration leads to prosperity. This is our home, and partnering on projects like this is the responsible thing to do. Our students want to attend a traditional university campus in a choice location.
“We’re not just building Tarleton, we’re building Stephenville.”
He also mentioned the university’s renewed commitment to life-changing research in water treatment, grassland revitalization and pain management. He talked about working with regional industries to retain top-choice professionals through internships and experiential learning. And he shared Tarleton’s deep-rooted obligation to ensure that Stephenville and area high school graduates have the opportunity to earn a university degree.
“Our success intertwines with our hometown. It’s something we’ve known for 122 years. No point in stopping now. No plans to, either.”