Dr. Michael Tidwell made a commitment to transforming the University of Texas at Tyler into the primary economic driver in the region during his InaugurationAddress.
Tidwell was honored, and officially sworn in as president of the university, in the first Inauguration Ceremony hosted by the university.
Tidwell was named the sole finalist to take the reins for Dr. Rodney Mabry in November 2016 before coming to campus in January. He spent the spring semester getting to know his staff and building a mission for the campus to carry it into the future.
The ceremony was attended by a veritable who’s who of Northeast Texas, from former Tyler mayor and state senator Kevin Eltife, who currently serves on the University of Texas System Board of Regents, to UT Chancellor William McRaven and past presidents Rodney Mabry, James Stewart and the Janie Hamm, wife of the late Dr. George Hamm.
Tidwell’s wife, Karen, and their two sons Cyrus and Bradley also attended.
The event began with a procession of the flags from the more than 50 countries that students of the university have called home over the years.
Many of the community leaders who spoke reflected on the selection process and the profound impression Tidwell left upon them.
“I know firsthand how important this university is to this community, economy, culture and our future,” Eltife said. “We wanted to select a president that was worthy of Tyler, UT Tyler, Northeast Texas and the great people whose lives are touched by this campus.”
McRaven said selecting a new president to lead a UT campus is one of the most important, if not the most important,tasks the board of regents can face.
McRaven said he believes that under Tidwell, UT Tyler can serve as a model of constructive, energetic and thoughtful engagement.
“To be the president of a great university you have to do more than just check the boxes,” McRaven said. “You have to inspire, be enthusiastic and light up a room with your energy when you walk into it.”
Tidwell’s big ideas and willingness to listen to and engage with students and staff was one of the primary reasons he was selected for the role.
Already the university is engaged in rebranding efforts as it looks to expand and possibly move into Division II NCAA Athletics competition.
Tidwell said Tyler feels like home and long before he interviewed for the job, he grew up with his grandfather, a Tyler native, telling him about the people and the culture of the region.
“Our vision is simple,” Tidwell said. “The University of Texas at Tyler will be the primary educational and economic driver of East Texas.”
Tidwell said that doesn’t always mean the university will be number one, it means they will drive their efforts with leadership and dedication to the community.
“Oil has been the foundation of the East Texas economy for decades and the energy industry still plays a leading role,” Tidwell said. “But more recent developments in the medical industry and educational industry have helped diversify the region’s economic base. Whether educating future engineers, nurses, or new professors, each of these industries has benefited greatly from the new talent educated at The University of Texas at Tyler. Nevertheless, the question remains, are there other areas for the economy to diversify into? The unequivocal answer is yes.”
Tidwell plans to accomplish those goals within three primary areas of focus: building successful students and engaged alumni, building strong faculty by investing in their disciplines and research and helping the region build a diverse and vibrant local economy.