After a seemingly grueling and contentious process over the past several months, the Texas Southern University (TSU) Board of Regents have made their decision on who will serve as the 12th president of the historic university. The new TSU President is Dr. Austin A. Lane.
“The Board of Regents engaged in a dedicated and thorough search of outstanding candidates and Dr. Lane was clearly the right man at the perfect time in Texas Southern’s existence,” said Derrick Mitchell, chair of the TSU Board of Regents. “We look forward receiving the benefit of his strong and progressive leadership to move TSU to the next level in higher education.”
Dr. Lane not only has local ties to TSU because of Lone Star College, but his father-in-law and late mother-in-law both attended Texas Southern. Dr. Lane’s father-in-law, Larry Williams, attended TSU with late Texas congressman Mickey Leland, and also served as the best man in Leland’s wedding. Dr. Lane also has a strong academic and relational connection as it relates to the HBCU experience, in that he received his undergraduate degree from Langston University – the only HBCU in the state of Oklahoma.
The search for TSU’s 12th president began with the formation of a 14-member Presidential Search Committee appointed by TSU Board Chair Mitchell in February. The Presidential Search Committee is comprised of members from the university and business community, including regents, faculty and staff, students, alumni, and local business leaders. The members of the Presidential Search Committee were: Ahunanya Anga, TSU Associate Professor; Alaina Benford, Norton Rose Fulbright, TSU Alumnus; Dominique Calhoun, TSU Student Regent; Marcus Davis, the breakfast klub, TSU Alumnus; Tandra Jackson, KPMG; Sherman Lewis, The Lewis Group; Jose Medrano, Medrano Insurance Agency; Fundi Mwamba, Total Gas & Power, North America, TSU Alumnus; Crystal Owens, TSU SGA President; Edward Stemley, Jr., TSU Dean, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; Marilyn Rose, TSU Regent, TSU Alumnus; Wesley Terrell, TSU Regent; Mammo Woldie, TSU Professor, Jesse H. Jones School of Business; and TSU Regent Oliver Bell, who was appointed to lead the search committee.
The committee was charged with conducting a comprehensive national search for a successor to Dr. Rudley, who announced last December that he would retire at the end of this year after leading the university for nine years.
After the formation of the Presidential Search Committee, the Board of Regents selected Diversified Search, Inc. as the firm to facilitate and assist with the presidential search process. According to Bell, Diversified Search was tasked with doing most of the early leg work, including posting the position description, fielding the initial slate of applicants and reducing that candidate pool down to 15-20 of the most qualified. Once those things were completed, the Presidential Search Committee began to conduct interviews with the short-list of candidates in that pool and then recommended up to five for consideration by the full board to become the future TSU President.
On April 28th and 29th, the Presidential Search Committee interviewed applicants from all across the United States, and following that thorough, nationwide search, they narrowed down its pool of applicants to two and forwarded those candidates’ names to the board for consideration as the next president of TSU. The candidates’ names remained confidential until a decision was made.
From March 7th through March 9th, the Presidential Search Committee hosted several forums and town hall type meetings with students, faculty, staff, alumni, community leaders and administrators to gather input on the characteristics of the next president. Those meetings were led by Diversified Search, Inc., but the real search process was anything but open to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, community leaders and administrators. According to Regents Bell and Mitchell, the process was primarily designed to protect the confidentiality of the applicants, in addition to get feedback and information from all stakeholders.
On May 12th, the Board spent nearly 12 hours interviewing the remaining two candidates for the university’s top leadership position, and conducted a healthy debate about the two remaining finalists until roughly 3 a.m. the next morning. Seeking to avoid making a hasty decision, the Board decided to adjourn their meeting and resume deliberations this past Monday, May 16th, which is when they came to their final conclusion on selecting Dr. Lane as TSU’s next president.
“After meeting until the wee hours of the morning, we felt a wise decision could not be made at that time,” said Board Regent Glenn Lewis. “We decided to take the weekend to absorb what we learned and heard from candidates.”
On Monday evening, Dr. Lane became the sole finalist for the job, and per Mitchell, Dr. Lane has already laid out his primary goals for the future of TSU during his tenure.
“His plan for TSU includes strengthening student recruitment and enrollment, and focusing on retaining students through a four-year graduation plan,” said Mitchell.
“Another major priority is keeping TSU strong and independent, and maintaining its stature as a premier HBCU. Dr. Lane plans to maintain his passion for student academic productivity and growth, and wants to produce graduates who will be prepared for the global workplace at the point of graduation.”
For now, Dr. Lane won’t be able to start in his new role, because according to state law a sole finalist is not able to take on the role of president for 21 days. However, the TSU Board of Regents indicated that he will start in June and that Dr. Rudley, who was previously set to leave in August, has been asked to stay on in an advisory role to help Dr. Lane during this transition for at least six months.
In his new role as TSU president, Dr. Lane will provide overall leadership and strategic direction to the institution, while maintaining excellence in academic programs, oversight of athletics programs, and cultivating relationships that benefit TSU and enhance its visibility and brand.
Dr. Lane comes to TSU after having served as the Executive Vice Chancellor of Lone Star College since January 2015. In his role, Dr. Lane oversaw Academic Affairs, Student Services, Workforce Education, Corporate College, Office of Completion, Honors College, International Programs, LSC-Online, Strategic Planning and Assessment, Texas Completes, and University Centers (The Woodlands and University Park). Prior to be appointed as Executive Vice Chancellor, Dr. Lane served as the third president of Lone Star College-Montgomery from July 2009 to January 2015, where he led one of the fastest growing institutions in the State of Texas and the nation.
Dr. Lane replaces Dr. John M. Rudley, who has served as president since 2008.
As a seasoned administrator who leads by example, Dr. Lane has amassed a stellar list of credentials during the course of his career in higher education. His career in higher education is marked by a variety of successive leadership roles and professional achievements, affording him experience in virtually every aspect of administration and teaching. Before joining Lone Star College-Montgomery, Dr. Lane served as vice president for student affairs at Tyler Junior College and was responsible for directing a college-wide strategic enrollment management team that posted the largest enrollment in the school’s history. He also planned, developed, and oversaw several construction projects that were designed to enhance the academic and student service reputation of the college. Prior to joining Tyler Junior College, he served as the dean of students at The University of Texas at Arlington and was instrumental in planning and overseeing several student success initiatives that were designed to increase enrollment and retention. In addition to his administrative experience, Dr. Lane has served as an adjunct professor in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Arlington, in the Behavioral and Social Sciences department at Tarrant County College-Southeast Campus and in the higher education program at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Lane served as an on-site reviewer for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). He has also conducted extensive research on traditional-age, low-income, African American and Hispanic students in the State of Texas that focuses on access to higher education, affordability, need-based vs. merit-based aid, college persistence, and student success. Dr. Lane also served as an adjunct professor in the higher education program at Sam Houston State University and serves on the Masters in Higher Education advisory board for the College of Education at SHSU and doctoral advisory board for Southern Methodist University’s College of Education.
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Lane graduated from Hackensack High School and attended Odessa Junior College in West Texas on a basketball scholarship. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Langston University, M.A. in human relations from The University of Oklahoma, and Ed.D. in higher education administration from The University of Alabama.
Dr. Lane is very active in the community and currently serving on the Amegy Bank Advisory Board, Montgomery County Women’s Center Board of Directors, Rotary Club of The Woodlands and the Texas Diversity Council Board of Directors. He has previously served on the Montgomery County United Way Board as Campaign Chair 2011-12, The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Conroe/Lake Conroe Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, and Education for Tomorrow Alliance Board of Directors. Dr. Lane has been recognized as recipient of the 2015 Drum Major Award, 2014 Interfaith of The Woodlands Hometown Hero Honoree, and 2012 Pacesetter of the Year for the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations.
Lane and his wife, Loren, have three children, ages 19, 15 and 9. They are members of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston.