Texas Tech University

Reminiscing on Raiderland

Lucy Greenberg

September 3, 2021

Duane Nellis

Former Texas Tech President Duane Nellis recalls his favorite memories as he returned to Lubbock for a plaque dedication to honor his tenure.

On the morning of Aug. 27, former Texas Tech University President Duane Nellis walked a corridor he had been down many times before. After five years, Nellis returned with his wife Ruthie to see a plaque placed into the Administration building's breezeway. The plaque was to honor his three years as president of Texas Tech.

Duane Nellis
Duane Nellis

Nellis became Texas Tech's 16th president in the spring of 2013. Over the next three years, he helped Texas Tech earn various achievements and recognition. During his tenure, Texas Tech achieved Tier One designation in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education's highest research category. Nellis encouraged a focus on Texas Tech's specialty areas of research: wind and food safety, which remain leading areas of research at the university today. Nellis also put an emphasis on boosting innovation and entrepreneurship as well as enhancing diversity on campus and developing new community partnerships. 

He stepped down as Texas Tech's president in the spring of 2016, but made the trip back to Raiderland to celebrate the time he spent here.  

In addition to the dedication ceremony and dinner with former colleagues and new friends, Nellis reminisced on his time as a Red Raider.  

In your opinion, what makes Texas Tech University unique?  

A true commitment to student success. Texas Tech does an excellent job helping students reach their dreams at all levels while being a top-tier national research university. Another aspect that stands out is the pride in being part of the fabric of West Texas culture.  

Can you share a favorite memory from your time at Texas Tech?  

It's difficult to choose just one. On the academic side, I enjoyed teaching an interdisciplinary science Honors class with Michael San Francisco and a team-taught (with Patricia Solis) course internationally through Youthmappers

From an administration perspective, seeing progress in becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution and helping to elevate the entrepreneurial innovation dynamic on campus.  

And of course, you can't forget athletics. I loved watching our football team dominate Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, our baseball team going to its first College World Series and our women's soccer team gaining national prominence.  

What is your favorite Texas Tech tradition?  

It's a tie between the Masked Rider and Fearless Champion leading the football team onto the field and the annual Carol of Lights® event.  

What do you think was a unique contribution you made to the university?  

Cultivating an environment of innovation and engagement (both nationally and internationally) as we moved to the highest category of national research university, helping the university progress toward being a Hispanic-Serving Institution, expanding the Honors program and its impact on student national and international visibility, and helping facilitate Lubbock Lights.  

Duane Nellis

You mention innovation, and one very notable accomplishment during your tenure was the start of the Innovation Hub at Research Park. Tell us about your interest in entrepreneurship.  

I believe universities create the greatest opportunity for students, and engagement of faculty, when they create an environment of innovation and partnerships with community and businesses, both locally and beyond.  

The economy of today and tomorrow requires universities and businesses to work together to be at the forefront of innovation in a rapidly changing world.  

What changes would you like to see in higher education in the next 10 years?  

Universities need to have the ability to pivot more quickly to meet the rapidly changing dynamics of our economy and society. The future requires us to work across disciplines, colleges and with external partners, not only in research but in teaching as well.

Is there any advice you would like to share with future Texas Tech presidents?  

I am sure each will bring their own talents and perspectives to Texas Tech. However, I would encourage them to recognize the wonderful history and talent at the university as well as its significant role in creativity and knowledge discovery as it prepares students for an ever-accelerating, dynamic world.  

How is Texas Tech different because of you?  

I hope I contributed as president in some small way toward accelerating the university's national visibility and success. I also hope my commitment to student success made some difference in the lives of Texas Tech students.