Bailey served as the university’s 15th president, from 2008 to 2012.
Oct. 2, 2009, was an eye-opening day for then-Texas Tech University President Guy Bailey.
It was a gorgeous fall Friday afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-70s and only a slight breeze instead of Lubbock's normal gustiness, and Bailey, who had been president of Texas Tech for 13 months, was about to present former President David Schmidly with one of the university's greatest remembrances – a presidential plaque in the Administration Building breezeway.
“It's really an honor, as a president, to bestow that upon the former president, but it also reminds you that you inherited something good because a lot of other people did a great job and worked hard on it,” Bailey said. “You didn't invent it yourself, so you stand on the shoulders of many people who came before you.
“When I did that for David, I took a little time, walked around and looked at other plaques, and I realized how we stood on shoulders of some really fine people, some great leaders who made Texas Tech what it was.”
It's even more of an honor, he said, to now be recognized as one of those leaders. Bailey will receive his own plaque in the breezeway during a dedication ceremony today (April 13).
“During Dr. Bailey's tenure, there was an increased focus on attainment of benchmarks that characterize a national research university, such as greater research expenditures and doctoral degrees awarded,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. “The university also experienced an increase in enrollment and qualified for the National Research University Fund, a very significant achievement in Texas Tech's history.”
Coming to Texas Tech
Bailey first arrived in Lubbock in June 2008 as a finalist for the Texas Tech presidency following the resignation announcement of then-President Jon Whitmore. Although Bailey's wife, Jan Tillery Bailey, was a Texas Tech alumna who had been raised in West Texas, Guy Bailey had never visited the university until that trip.
“I was struck by how absolutely gorgeous the campus was,” he recalled. “Everyone I've ever talked to has had the same impression. The campus, physically, is as beautiful as any in the country. And as I began to meet people, there are no nicer people in the United States. There are no better people to work with. So, that combination of great people and a beautiful place is really hard to beat.”
The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approved his hiring on July 2, and he began his new role on Aug. 1.
“The first month was very interesting,” he said. “I got there just as football season was beginning and practice was underway, so it was a beehive of activities with a lot of things happening, a lot of activities and a lot of excitement about the football season, because most people expected Texas Tech to do really well that season – and they did. What I remember is just that collective excitement.
“It had been a long time since I'd been on a campus with a major football program. That was a great year for Texas Tech: that was the Michael Crabtree-catch year.”
Bailey, who had previously served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), said the atmosphere at Texas Tech required some adjustment on his part.
“Where I'd been previously had been primarily professional and graduate programs,” he explained. “University of Missouri-Kansas City had a medical school, a dental school, pharmacy, law school. It had a great music conservatory. So it was more heavily focused on the arts, and it was a little bit different orientation to get into a university that had a much larger population of undergraduates, more focused on athletics and more focused on student life, generally.”
Texas Tech wouldn't be his first experience in such a student-focused environment, however.
“I had taught at Texas A&M University and at Oklahoma State University. I'd been a department chair, so I had been in similar situations,” Bailey said. “I knew exactly what I was getting into, and it was what I was ready to do. One thing I really had never done as an upper-level administrator was oversee a large, Division I athletics program. It was Division I at UMKC, but nothing nationally competitive, and I thought that would be an interesting thing to do.”
That said, Bailey's main goal in accepting the Texas Tech presidency was decidedly academic in nature. Before moving to UMKC, Bailey served as the provost of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) from 1998 to 2005. During that time, he had learned a lot about the push in Texas for universities to meet specific standards of eligibility for the National Research University Fund (NRUF), which provides funding for emerging research universities to achieve national prominence and become major research universities.
“I knew Texas Tech could be in the hunt for that, and it was very important to me to be at the helm of Texas Tech and help it get there,” Bailey said. “I'd say that was the single most appealing thing about Texas Tech for me – the drive to get into NRUF.”
As soon as he started in his new role, Bailey began promoting from within and recruiting from the outside to assemble the administrative team he would rely on to achieve his goal.
Among his team were three individuals who are now university presidents themselves: Taylor Eighmy, president of UTSA; Juan Muñoz, president of University of Houston-Downtown; and Michael Shonrock, president of Lindenwood University in Missouri. He rounded out the team with Kyle Clark, now vice president for finance and administration at Florida State University; then-Provost Bob Smith, now retired; and Martha Brown, now vice chancellor for governmental relations with the Texas Tech University System.
“That group of people really understood how to position Texas Tech to move into NRUF,” he said.
The two most important benchmarks for NRUF are the number of doctorates a university grants and its amount of restricted research expenditures – that is, expenditures of funds for research and development, on which an external entity has placed limitations of use.
“The state finalized criteria for that in the spring of 2009,” Bailey recalled. “Most people thought it would take five to seven years for us to get there. We got there in the spring of 2012 – in a little less than 3 years – and we were the first school to get there.
“It was a huge point of pride, but even more importantly, it meant significant new resources for Texas Tech.”
Despite his wealth of administrative experience both before and after his time at Texas Tech, Bailey points to his NRUF experience as the most educational.
“The biggest lesson is, you need to do things in a hurry,” he said. “Delaying is the same as failure.
“If you look at NRUF, had we not moved so quickly there, it would have had a negative impact on Texas Tech. Getting there as quickly as we did – nobody thought we'd get there that quickly, in fact people were shocked – had a huge positive effect, not only on Texas Tech's reputation but also on the resources available. The key point is, you don't gain anything by delaying. You gain things by acting in a very prompt manner.”
While working toward his NRUF goal, Bailey recalls dealing with his fair share of difficulties as well. When he started, the university's student population was around 28,000 and had not grown for some time.
“That creates two issues,” he said. “When you're not growing, there's no dynamism on campus – you're not doing very good job of reaching out to students across the state and building that Texas Tech brand name.
“The other issue is financial. Because Texas Tech had not grown in enrollment, our state funding had been declining a little bit. Tuition dollars grew only when you raised tuition, and that's not a good thing.”
By acting promptly again, Bailey said, they were able to reverse course on that stagnancy fairly quickly. He instituted the Raider Roadshow, a statewide recruiting event, in 2008 and by the time he left Texas Tech, student enrollment was around 33,000.
“When I think about my time there, what I remember most fondly are the experiences I had working with students,” he said. “Texas Tech has a great student body. Recently, Texas Tech had its Raider Roadshow in McAllen, so I went by.
“I was proud to see it flourishing, but what made me even prouder is that two of the people running it – Rex Oliver and Jessica Cravens – were student workers in my office. They were part of President's Select. When I see those kids being successful, doing a great job, doing wonderful things for Texas Tech, it's pretty hard not to have your buttons pop. I'm really proud of them.”
With the university's acceptance to NRUF in 2012, Bailey found himself in an interesting position. After less than four years as Texas Tech's president, he had achieved his largest goal – the main reason he came to the university in the first place.
“It was a great sense of accomplishment, but you then have to figure out what your next big goal is,” Bailey said. “Unless you have big goals like that, you don't make a lot of progress. Progress is really a consequence of you trying to meet very ambitious goals.”
So Bailey set his sights on another lofty objective: becoming a distinguished research university that continually advances society through education, research and discovery.
“There are 62 universities that form the American Association of Universities (AAU),” Bailey said. “The ultimate thing for a university is to have a profile like those AAU institutions.”
But even as he announced his ambition to position Texas Tech among those universities, Bailey knew he wasn't likely to be around to see it realized.
“That's really a decade-long goal, at least,” he explained. “I would have been at Texas Tech at least 15 years, and that's a long time. For that goal, you get started knowing other people will finish it.”
As it so happened, only a few short months later, Bailey's alma mater, the University of Alabama, began recruiting him to be its new president.
“It's an unusual opportunity to get to be president at your alma mater,” he said, “so had that not come up, I probably never would have left.”
Alas, his time there would be short. After battling cancer for 20 years, his wife Jan's health had deteriorated to the point that Bailey – only 58 days into his new position – decided to resign in order to devote more time to her. She died 10 months later, on Sept. 1, 2013.
In 2014, Bailey was selected as the founding president of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – a consolidation of the former University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas' Regional Academic Health Center-Harlingen – and he remains there today.
But he says Texas Tech will always be a part of him.
“I love Texas Tech,” he said. “I enjoy visiting the campus and coming back for the occasional football game. I follow the progress of the university very closely, and it'll always be a really important part of my life and close to my heart.”
- 1979, visiting assistant professor of English, Emory University, Atlanta
- 1982, assistant professor of English, Texas A&M University
- 1990, department chair, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater
- 1995, dean of liberal arts, University of Nevada
- 1998, provost and vice president for academic affairs, University of Texas at San Antonio
- 1999, Texas Governor's Executive Development Program
- 2006, chancellor, University of Missouri-Kansas City
- 2008, president, Texas Tech University
- 2012, president, University of Alabama
- 2014, president, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley