Blais to retire after 20 years as provost

University of Tulsa Provost Roger Blais announced his retirement in an email to campus on Aug. 30, 2017:

Provost Roger BlaisI have been privileged to serve The University of Tulsa since fall semester 1977. As I begin my 41st year on the faculty, and my 20th year as provost (22 including an interim stint in 1990-92), I have informed President Clancy that I intend to retire at the end of this academic year. He will organize a search for a provost who can help with the exciting opportunities of a new strategic plan and the anticipated comprehensive campaign to fund it.

During my years here the university has been transformed by the teamwork of world class faculty, talented staff, and visionary leaders from every part of the campus. Four decades ago TU was largely a commuter campus, with many part-time students and evening classes to meet the needs of an urban area with few public higher education opportunities. We already had excellent students and faculty, but over the years that followed our student profile became more diverse, selective and residential. Meanwhile, our faculty drew increasing recognition for their scholarship and creativity, while our mission became more focused. Our facilities and grounds have also grown in capacity and beauty.

It seems almost quaint to reflect that in 1977 full-time tuition, room and board for a year was $3,010, equivalent to $12,138 today, and our total endowment plus trust funds came to $64 million equivalent to $258 million now, a fourth of its current value.

Since becoming provost in 1998, I have witnessed what the university has achieved with hard work and ability. Undergraduate enrollment grew 17 percent and graduate enrollment grew 20 percent. We added several doctoral programs, leading to a student body expansion from 4,107 to 4,553. Our median student, as determined by standardized tests and high school rank, has risen from 75th percentile among national freshmen to 95th percentile. One hundred sixty-six students have won nationally competitive scholarships. TU’s resident faculty has grown from 295 to 353, and our number of endowed chairs has increased five-fold. The percentage of full professor positions held by women tripled from 7.7 percent to 22.1 percent. We must remain committed to building a diverse faculty by every measure to mirror the cultural richness of our evolving student body. I had the pleasure of interviewing 72 percent of our current faculty when they joined the TU family, and I am honored to have also recommended 63 percent of our current tenured professors for that achievement in their professional lives. I have proudly witnessed 20,346 new alumni flipping their tassels from right to left at commencement exercises, and 510 doctoral graduates receiving their hoods.

Numbers cannot reflect TU’s enhanced curricular dedication to writing and critical thinking even as majors have grown in rigor. Nor can we fully quantify the impact of our commitment to independent scholarship, global education and service learning to develop competent, well-rounded alumni who are prepared and excited to contribute to the world. Our role in the community at large has become a model for other universities through such endeavors as the management of the Gilcrease Museum and creation of the Helmerich Center for American Research, partnerships with the University of Oklahoma medical school in Tulsa and the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, the establishment of the Oxley College and the contributions of all our students, faculty and staff to True Blue Neighbors.

As flawed as university rankings are, we rose in national reputation to be placed in the top 50 among private national universities in U.S. News & World Report. The London-based Times Higher Education World University Rankings has rated us for the past two years among the top 20 universities in the world with a student population under 5,000. Just this week CEOWORLD ranked TU as the No. 1 petroleum engineering program in the world. I could single out many individual programs deserving recognition as well. All the credit for these achievements goes to the TU family who have worked so hard to educate our students, to contribute to your profession and to build a community in which it is a joy to participate.

As we plan for new leadership in Academic Affairs, I want to express my sincere thanks for what you have created and for being extraordinary colleagues and beloved friends.

Roger N. Blais, Ph.D., P.E.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs