Wendler up for Texas university president

By Gus Bode

Wendler interviewed for position Nov. 22

Chancellor Walter Wendler spent part of fall break in Texas being interviewed for the position of president of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Leo Sayavedra, chairman of the search committee and vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs over the Texas A&M University system, said the committee sought out Wendler and asked him repeatedly to interview for the position.


Wendler confirmed Nov. 19 on WJPF news radio that he is interviewing for the position in the university system where he worked for 20 years before coming to Carbondale.

Wendler did not return repeated requests for comment by the Daily Egyptian, but did briefly comment when pressed on the subject during Saturday’s the playoff game.

Wendler said he was asked to visit twice and made the trip, adding that he liked the campus, but immediately stated that he loves SIU and that “we are making progress and moving forward.”

Wendler did not want to comment on anything more than football, saying “I’m a football fan.”

Asked about who would fulfill his role as t he lead trumpeter for his “Southern at 150” plan if he left for Texas, Wendler said it is too early to speculate what would happen in his absence.

While Wendler said he did not want to comment on anything more than football Saturday and also declined other requests for comment, he was quoted by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times before his interview saying “I think A&M-Corpus Christi has tremendous potential for the future and has realized so many things already.”

Tuesday, the day after his interview, he was quoted in the paper, saying the campus needed to stress student recruitment and long-term planning, possibly like “Southern at 150,” the plan he put into place here.


While A&M-Corpus Christi is younger and smaller than SIUC, Wendler told the Caller-Times that he found those aspects attractive.

“One of the great things about youth is that you get to try things and shape the future,” Wendler told the Caller-Times. “Size is not everything. This campus has a tremendous future and the ability to serve South Texas and beyond.”

Sue Davis, SIUC spokeswoman, said Wendler has not committed to Texas yet.

“He was encouraged to apply, but he said he wasn’t interested, but they kept coming back, and finally he said he would,” Davis said. “It is a conversation – it doesn’t mean he has decided to leave. It just means he is exploring the possibility that is there.”

Wendler, who has been SIUC’s chancellor since July 2001, was the sixth candidate seriously considered for the position and interviewed by the search committee, Sayavedra said.

“The process is one that we are going to keep looking until we find the right combination,” Sayavedra said. “The committee certainly thought it was worth a more in-depth conversation with him.”

Sayavedra said the “Southern at 150” plan has nothing to do with their interest.

But it is an issue at SIUC, as the University has been working toward the plan’s goals since Wendler announced it in 2003.

SIU Board of Trustee Chairman Glenn Poshard said the University would follow “Southern at 150,” which is the University’s plan to be in the top 75 research institutions by its 150th birthday in 2019, regardless of Wendler’s decision to stay or go.

“We would expect that new leadership on the campus would adhere to many of those goals,” Poshard said. “There is no reason for new leadership to start over or fail to carry through on the goals articulated there.”

Davis said Wendler believes there are many positive pursuits underway, including the implementation of “Southern at 150” and SIUC’s status as a university welcoming of students who are the first in their families to attend college, as Wendler was the first in his to earn a college degree.

“There are many things here on campus that he feels are going well,” Davis said. “I am not sure there is anything that will convince him to walk away from here.”

Poshard said Texas A&M University gave Wendler a very strong recommendation during his application process for the chancellor’s position at SIUC.

“Competition for competent administrators is very high, and if the person is doing a good job, you are always going to have people knocking on the door,” Poshard said.

If Wendler does decide to leave, Poshard said the University will conduct a nation wide search for a replacement. He said such a search might take between six and nine months and could be costly and time consuming.

“For SIU, his real strength has been in his vision and his planning,” Poshard said. “He shepherded us through one of the worst fiscal times in the University’s modern history.”

Robert Benford, a professor in sociology and member of the Faculty Senate, said this interview, while it is only in its preliminary stages, raises the question of the future of “Southern at 150.”

Benford said, like in the case of “Southern at 150,” any chancellor who departs after pushing an agenda also leaves behind the plans he or she created during that time.

“Now the question is:would the next chancellor have a similar vision? If not, where does that leave us?” Benford said.

Faculty Association President Marvin Zeman said the announcement does not come as a surprise to him. He also said he never has much faith in long-range planning anyway, because many times high administrator turnover makes these plans short-lived.

“For the next chancellor who comes in, is he going to make his mark by carrying out the visions of Walter Wendler?” Zeman said. “The main thing is that I hope that if Chancellor Wendler does leave, he can go to a place where he can be happier.”

Poshard said no matter what Wendler decides, the University community wishes him well.

“It would be a significant loss to the University if he moved, there is no question of that in my mind,” Poshard said.

Reporters Andrea Zimmermann and Moustafa Ayad contributed to this article.