“To let a new generation, new ideas come forward”

President Keck explains his reasons behind stepping down

President Ray Keck III announced Jan. 11 that he is stepping down effective Aug. 31.

Todd Kleiboer | Co-Editor

With the book “College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be” sitting on the coffee table in front of him and the NCAA plaque commemorating the recent football championship shining on the windowsill, President Ray Keck III explained his decision to step down effective Aug. 31.

“I very strongly believe that leaders need to plan to exit the job, not just stay until they collapse in it, and we need to get out of the way and let a new generation, new ideas come forward,” Keck said while holding an A&M-Commerce coffee mug.

When he first came to this university, Keck said he was asked if he felt like a “transition figure” to which he responded “I’m not.” However, that has changed somewhat.

“If I’m remembered as somebody who came in at the moment of a horrible, unpredicted, unexpected tragedy and sort of tried to put things back in shape, analyze what needs to be done and set in motion a good path to the future,” he said. “If I’m remembered that way, and that’s considered transition, I’m happy.”

An initial goal for Keck at the start was to “figure out what’s right for this university and do it, and do it as quickly as possible and decisive as possible”, adding that he had goals in mind for the university, not for himself.

“I was already at the point of my life when I was happy with what happened for me,” Keck said. “I really wanted what was right for the institution, and whether or not it suited me didn’t factor. I think that’s an advantage to an older administrator.”

After he steps down as president, Keck will return to TAMUC as a faculty member after a year of developmental leave.

“I think an administrator here at the level of president needs to be a credible academic,” he said. “I think that’s crucial.”

I very strongly believe that leaders need to plan to exit the job, not just stay until they collapse in it”

— President Ray Keck

As a faculty member, Keck has set a goal to “lead students to…a life-creating experience [and] to lead them to see an identity of themselves that they want to take on.” If student graduates unchanged, he views that as a “mistake”.

“I want to say to them how urgent it is to do it and get with it because they only have four years, five years to experience these things that are around them which they’re going to build a whole life,” Keck said. “I want them to know how important that is.”

Keck urged his successor to “do the obvious things to propel this university forward using the strengths we have”, focusing specifically on planned projects such as an event center, a university village for faculty and staff, and the creation of a new agricultural center.

With increasing tuition among private institutions, future students may have keep accumulating debt, but Keck hopes to see the university as an alternative to that.

“We’re a state institution,” he said. “We are available to the people of Texas because we belong to the state at a very good price, and we can become that tremendously powerful, personal, warm, embracing environment that is academically rigorous and challenging.”

Before arriving to TAMUC, Keck had been president of TAMU-International in Laredo, and he had been considering stepping away from his position there.

“At the time of Dr. Jones’ death, which was spring of 2016, I had already made up my mind that that summer, I was going to tell the Chancellor that I wanted him to start a search for a new president at Laredo,” he said while holding an A&M-Commerce coffee mug. “I’d been president for 15 years. Fifteen years is a very good run as college president, and they were 15 wonderful years.”

Keck had known Jones because Jones had served as provost at Texas A&M University-International under him, and he knew the university because of his family’s relationship with the McFarlands, the president before Jones.

Ray and Patricia Keck walk down the field during halftime of the 2017 homecoming game. Photo by Kimmie Thompson

“I thought this would be an opportunity to do something very important and very good,” Keck said. “It seemed like a really nice, good, morally sound and important thing for me to do sort of toward the end of my career.”

However, this act of goodwill soon turned into something more for Ray and Patricia Keck.

“What I didn’t factor in and I didn’t know is that we were going to come here and fall in love with the place, with the people, the teachers, the history, the students, the part of Texas, all of it,” he said. “And that made it harder to do this.

“But, in the end, the head had to overrule the heart because in February, I’m going to be 70, and that makes 17 years now I’ve been a college president.”