Outgoing Fresno State President Welty praises Prop. 30

The Fresno BeeJanuary 14, 2013 

In his final speech to faculty and staff, outgoing Fresno State President John Welty said Monday that the university is prepared for the future, mainly because voter-approved Proposition 30 "has provided us with some breathing room."

After several years of cutbacks, Welty said Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative will allow the university to re-allocate millions of dollars into academics, deferred maintenance projects and key initiatives such as online courses.

"I can say for the first time in several years that I feel good about the semester ahead," he told hundreds of people who packed the Satellite Student Union to hear his 40-minute speech.

Afterward, they gave him a standing ovation.

Also Monday, Welty gave the first details of who will be looking for his successor. Pete Mehas, a California State University trustee and former Fresno County schools superintendent, will lead the selection committee to find Fresno State's new president. Joining Mehas is the central San Joaquin Valley's other CSU trustee, Hugo Morales, founder of Fresno-based Radio Bilingüe Inc., plus CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, board chair Bob Linscheid and trustees Rebecca Eisen and J. Lawrence Norton.

The selection committee will have a local advisory committee, whose members include Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin; Robert Oliver, a Fresno County Superior Court judge; Luz Gonzalez, dean of Fresno State's College of Social Sciences; and community members Bill Smittcamp and Pete Weber.

The CSU board hopes to name the new president in May, said Welty, who plans to remain on the job until the end of July.

Mehas said Monday, "Dr. Welty has set a pretty high bar."

In general, the new president will have to have a firm grip on the Valley's diverse demographics, know the role that agriculture plays, and be able to reach out to the faculty, staff, students and the community, Mehas said.

The candidate also must be a big fundraiser, Mehas said.

During Welty's presidency, the university added many endowed schools, including Craig School of Business, Kremen School of Education and Human Development, Lyles College of Engineering, and Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Welty's fundraising helped rank Fresno State in the top three among CSU's 23 campuses, Mehas said.

In his speech, Welty said Fresno State continues to have strong appeal: a record number of first-time freshmen applications were received for the 2013 fall semester. Transfer-students applications also have increased significantly, he said.

He said the governor's proposed $250 million increase for the CSU system is a step in the right direction, but it may not be enough to cover all the costs.

For example, Brown has made it clear that fees will not be increased for students, Welty said. "(But) there is language in the budget proposal about the CSU system assuming responsibility for debt service in the future," Welty said.

Welty also worried that the federal budget may cut into higher education. Congress has delayed addressing any funding reductions until March 1, he said.

Despite the gloomy forecast, Welty said Fresno State is moving forward with "several bright spots." Among them:

Susan Elrod has been named the new dean for the College of Science and Mathematics. She started Monday.

Construction of new faculty offices and a laboratory will begin in late summer or early fall near the Aquatics Center. Renovations of the former North Gym Pool also should be completed by next month.

Grading work and utility installation are under way at Campus Pointe in preparation of a development near the Save Mart Center that will include a theater and 175,000 square feet of retail and office space. The project is a public-private partnership between Fresno State's auxiliary corporation and Kashian Enterprises.

In addition, Welty said the university soon will celebrate a major milestone -- the completion of the Campaign for Fresno State! $200 million fundraising goal. The campaign, Welty said, "has been a testimony to the support the university draws from alumni and the community."

More than 32,000 individuals and corporations have made nearly 133,000 gifts to the university, he said. These gifts have supported student scholarships and faculty research and expanded academic programs.

In conclusion, Welty said it has been a privilege to be the university's president. "The students need you and thank you," he told the gathering. "I thank you too for all that you do."

Search for a successor

The committee that will pick Fresno State's new president will hold a public forum from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 11 at the campus Satellite Student Union.

Selection committee: California State University trustees Pete Mehas (chair), Hugo Morales, Bob Linscheid (Board of Trustees chair), Rebecca Eisen and J. Lawrence Norton; CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.

Advisory committee: Fresno State faculty members Nora Chapman, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College and professor of Classics and Humanities, and David Schecter, professor and department chair of Political Science; R. Lynn Williams, chair of the Academic Senate; Dean Luz Gonzalez of the College of Social Sciences; staff member Shirley Staton of Accounting Services; Associated Students President Arthur Montejano, representing students; Brad Fischer, representing alumni; Katherine Flores, representing the President's Advisory Board; community members Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert Oliver, Bill Smittcamp, Peter Weber and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin; and Jeff Armstrong, president of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, representing the presidents of other CSU campuses.

The Welty file

Age: 68

Started as Fresno State president: August 1991, making him the longest-serving of seven presidents in Fresno State's 102-year history

Salary: $299,000 a year -- the same salary he has made since 2007, university officials said

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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