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This item originally appeared in the May 5, 2005 issue of The Tech Talk.


Senior News Editor

For one crucial week, Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau carried an envelope wherever he went.

The envelope had writing on the back: Reneau's goals to reach his vision for Tech. He has lost the list, now, but his goals have been accomplished.

In his office Reneau pulled a chair over to his seating area to visit with Tech Talk student editors. Surrounded by rich red woods and brass bulldog statuettes, he laughed about his list.

"I never write speeches; I just scribble notes," he said. The envelope contained a laundry list of things to accomplish in the week.

Reneau said he started with the list on Monday.

"The first thing I had to do on the list was to raise a million dollars," Reneau said nonchalantly, as if it were everyday business. The money was for the biomedical engineering building, for which the Blanco administration donated the remaining $300,000.

The visit of a reporter from Time magazine was second on Reneau's envelope list. Several things have drawn Tech into a national spotlight, Reneau said, such as increased graduation and retention rates.

"Increased admissions standards pave the way for a better student body. When the students are motivated, they are proud to be here," Reneau said.

"Students don't come to Tech for the nightlife on a Saturday night in downtown Ruston," Reneau added, with a chuckle.

Reneau said the Washington, D.C.-based Education Trust was using Tech as a model for administration and graduation retention.

"We are one of five universities to be recognized in their presentation," Reneau said.

Reneau said accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was third on the list, though "maybe it should have been first," he joked.

Tech has reached a high academic level, "in terms of benchmarks we set against ourselves 10-15 years ago, in terms of culture and student body," Reneau said.

The hiring of a new Lady Techster basketball coach was fourth on the list, and the fifth goal to accomplish was to contact Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the spring graduation speaker.

As the week progressed and goals were met, items were crossed out on the envelope. When the week was finished, so was the list, and Reneau was able to relax.

"I slept well Friday night," Reneau said.

The now-reached goals on the list were only contributions to what many have seen as the best year in the university's history.

Reneau attributed a portion of the year's success to the 21 or so percent graduate enrollment, the largest in the university's history.

Reneau said the goal for the next 10 years is to raise that number to 25 percent. The additions of new doctoral programs in several departments will help the university achieve that goal.

"We're a broad-based university," Reneau said. "We have from the finest of the fine arts to the most technical of the technical.

"We are dispersed; we fit niches where they can fit best."

Reneau said the year has gone exceptionally well, and the only blights are budget cuts. Reneau said there have been so many in the past, the cuts no longer hold the shock value they once did.

"We just roll up our sleeves and buckle down to see what needs to be cut," he said. "We hate to cut anybody."

Reneau said wonderful things have come from student ideas and faculty research, and he is convinced such research will intensify in the future.

"I may be dead, but a Nobel Prize is going to walk out of that Biomedical Engineering Building," Reneau said. "Some day. Some day."

Speaking of some day, retirement for the 64-year-old president will not be some day soon. Reneau has given 38 years of his life to the university, and will continue to as long as he is productive, he said.

"I'm not thinking about it," Reneau said, "but I do not see myself as the type to go sit in a rocking chair."

"I come alive in the morning," Reneau said. "When I wake up I am alive, and I think I can whip the world in the morning.

"Sometimes by midnight, I think it is a draw."

Wiley W. Hilburn Jr., head of the journalism department, has heard Reneau say he comes alive in the mornings. Hilburn, after 37 years at the university, was hesitant to say if this was Tech's best year ever.

"That covers a lot of context," Hilburn said. He also said many great things had been accomplished over the years, but, "all things being equal, this is the most productive year at Tech."

Hilburn said the biomedical engineering building, the SACS report and a renewal in the tradition of the Lady Techsters made the year productive.

Hilburn was not surprised that Reneau carried an envelope of goals to accomplish.

"He doesn't write speeches," Hilburn said. "He jots down notes and delivers a speech. No one writes his speeches for him.

"Everybody has a signature. I write my notes on a yellow legal pad with a blue pen. [Reneau] uses envelopes. I saw him use the back of a check once. That's how he organizes his life."

Dr. Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System, shared Hilburn's sentiments.

"I agree with Mr. Hilburn on this milestone year," Clausen said.

"Both good news and bad news is to the credit of the leader."

Clausen said Tech is full of news this year, such as the successful accreditations and new biomedical engineering building.

"The groundbreaking for the biomedical engineering is no more than the tenacity of the president to get things done," Clausen said.

Reneau's leadership abilities are enhanced by his communication skills, Clausen said.

"Not only does he communicate with us, he communicates with the students," Clausen said. "The students feel comfortable with him; he is approachable and puts priority on student needs."

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