Tag Archives: Bob Duncan

Texas Tech, Texas A&M battle over veterinary medicine

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp came to the Panhandle the other day to announce plans to enhance West Texas A&M’s veterinary medicine education program.

Sharp wants to maintain A&M’s monopoly on veterinary medicine throughout the state. I cannot blame him for looking out for the university system he administers.

Oh, but wait. His plan for WT have the appearance of a sort of pre-emptive strike to prevent Texas Tech University from building a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which is a live option on the table for the community … and for Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

Duncan and Sharp have distinct differences of opinion on whether Texas Tech should proceed with construction of a veterinary college in Amarillo. Duncan came to town not long ago to pitch the case to community leaders, suggesting that Tech’s board of regents are committed to establishing a vet school next to Tech’s existing Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

Sharp, meanwhile, is pulling out many stops to prevent Tech from proceeding. The top Aggie is a savvy enough politician to understand what the announcement that boosts WT’s role in veterinary medicine means to any potential competition. Then again, Duncan has been around the Texas political pea patch a time or two himself, so he must be acutely aware of what Sharp might be trying to accomplish.

I happen to believe that Texas — with 268,000 square miles and 27 million residents — is big enough to accommodate two schools of veterinary medicine. Duncan has high praise for the veterinary education that A&M provides. He also believes Texas Tech can provide a top-drawer education for veterinary medicine students who want to be educated here at home and who might want to remain in the Panhandle after they receive their DVM degrees from Texas Tech.

I happen to agree with Duncan.

I also believe the A&M initiative is good for West Texas A&M, it’s good for the community … but it shouldn’t forestall Texas Tech’s efforts to establish a veterinary medicine presence in Amarillo.

Tech chancellor pushes another ‘big idea’

Bob Duncan is on a mission. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.

The Texas Tech University System chancellor believes Texas is too big a state to have just a single college of veterinary medicine. He wants to establish a second vet school and he wants it to be in Amarillo.

So, here’s the simplicity and complexity of the notion he is proposing.

The Texas Panhandle is at the epicenter of large animal care, given the region’s plethora of livestock in the form of cattle and horses. “The feedlots and dairies are clustered in West Texas, not on the Brazos (River),” he said, alluding to Texas A&M University’s dominance of veterinary medicine education. A&M has the sole such college in Texas, and Duncan wants to rid the Aggies of their vet school monopoly.

In a presentation today to the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Duncan made several key points. He pointed out that Texas Tech was created in 1923 as the result of a “big idea.” He believes the school of veterinary medicine is the university’s next major step forward.

Duncan said Texas has a shortage of veterinarians, 40 percent of whom are educated out of state.

The chancellor said Texas Tech has been consulting with veterinary medicine programs at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and University of California-Davis. He also noted that Amarillo is closer to the vet school campuses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado than it is to College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s flagship campus.

But it gets complicated.

Duncan and his Tech team have been getting serious resistance from A&M, which is led by Chancellor John Sharp, who Duncan describes as a “fine chancellor” who’s also a friend. “We just disagree on this issue,” Duncan said of Sharp.

Sharp has been resisting Tech’s push for a school of veterinary medicine because he apparently believes there’s no need for a second such school in Texas, a state comprising 268,000 square miles and 28 million inhabitants. Indeed, Texas is the second-largest state geographically and second-most populous state in the nation. And we have just a single school of veterinary medicine?

I believe Chancellor Sharp has been bitten by the protectionist bug.

Duncan said he has no desire or intention to denigrate Texas A&M or its school of veterinary medicine. “A&M is considered one of the top 10 vet schools in the nation,” Duncan said, “but A&M cannot accept all the qualified applicants who want to be veterinarians.” He noted that most of the qualified Texas vet school applicants have to go out of state to obtain their doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Texas Tech has received $4.1 million from the Texas Legislature to develop a plan for a vet school in Amarillo, Duncan said, adding that Tech plans to present that plan to the 2019 Legislature, which convenes next January.

Tech plans to locate the campus next to it existing Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and School of Pharmacy campuses in west Amarillo.

But there’s a lot more money to raise, Duncan said, citing a $90 million goal from private, public and foundation sources. He said the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has set aside $15 million in grant funds to assist in that fundraising effort.

“It’s a natural fit,” Duncan said of the vet school plan for the Texas Panhandle.

How confident is the chancellor of success? He didn’t specify.

I’ll just add that Duncan moved into the chancellor’s chair after a highly successful career in the Texas Senate. Many of his former Senate colleagues are still serving there, along with a smattering of those with whom he served in the Texas House. Moreover, Duncan also believes the Panhandle delegation — Sen. Kel Seliger, and Reps. John Smithee, Four Price and Ken King — all are lending their considerable influence to push the vet school over the finish line.

Duncan developed a high degree of respect as a legislator. I believe that respect transfers to the Texas Tech chancellor as he seeks legislative support for what he calls Tech’s next “big idea.”

Full-blown med school for Amarillo?

I cannot remember precisely when it occurred, except that it happened when I was still working for a living at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Kent Hance was chancellor of the Texas Tech University System when he ventured to Amarillo and said something that got a lot of hearts fluttering across the Texas Panhandle. He said Amarillo well might be ready to welcome a full-blown medical school campus.

The Texas Tech Health Sciences University Amarillo campus already educates upper-classmen and women. Hance suggested that Tech could begin exploring the development of a complete medical school campus in Amarillo, giving the Tech System an opportunity to expand its medical educational opportunities for Texas Panhandle residents.

Hance retired from the chancellorship not long after that, assuming the role of “chancellor emeritus,” which is a symbolic role … at best.

His successor, Bob Duncan, has continued to oversee the growth of the Texas Tech System but to my knowledge hasn’t made much noise about the subject that Hance broached years ago.

Hance did qualify his wish for an expanded medical school role for Amarillo. He said the community has to demonstrate its support, meaning — I believed at the time — that the Panhandle had to pony up some money for it.

Amarillo and the Panhandle demonstrated similar commitment when Tech sought to build a pharmacy school in the region. The Tech Pharmacy School has been a hugely successful endeavor for the region and for the university; pharmacy school graduates have achieved a hugely successful rate of certification once they receive their diplomas.

I’m out of the game now. I don’t know what’s been discussed among Texas Tech regents, or at the chancellor’s office in Lubbock.

I’ll offer a statement of hope that the former chancellor’s view of an increased medical school presence in Amarillo wasn’t tossed aside when he walked into an “emeritus” role at Texas Tech University.

May the right university system win


My pal Jon Mark Beilue — a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News — as usual, has laid out a fascinating critique of a growing dispute between two highly regarded Texas university systems.

One of them, Texas Tech, just announced plans to build and develop a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

The other one, Texas A&M, has fired a shot across Tech’s bow, implying it will resist the effort to build an animal doctor school in the Texas Panhandle.

Beilue, himself a Tech alumnus, has taken up for his alma mater. But he’s right on the merits of his argument to argue that A&M is better than to exhibit a petulant streak in seeking to block Tech’s entry into the world of veterinary medicine academia. A&M’s credentials as a premier veterinary medicine institution are impeccable.

But let’s boil this possible tempest down to a more personal level.

Two men are leading their schools’ efforts. They both have at least one political thing in common: They both served in the Texas Senate.

Bob Duncan is chancellor of the Tech System. He’s a Republican who left the Senate this past year to take over the Tech job after Kent Hance retired to become something called “chancellor emeritus.”

Duncan’s Senate reputation is sparkling. He was named routinely by Texas Monthly magazine every two years as one of the top legislators in the state. His job now as chancellor is to raise money for the Tech System and he gets to lobby his friends in the Senate for help in that regard.

John Sharp served in the Senate quite a while ago, from 1982 to 1987; prior to that he served in the Texas House of Representatives. He’s a Democrat, who left the Senate to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission and then as Comptroller of Public Accounts. He, too, developed a reputation as a solid legislator, although he has fewer individuals with whom he served in the Legislature than his rival chancellor, Duncan.

This face-off will be fun to watch, particularly if it develops into something more than it appears at the moment.

I hope it doesn’t grow into anything more serious. Texas Tech is entitled to develop school of veterinary medicine anywhere it so chooses. That the system brass decided to bring it to Amarillo is a huge plus for the Texas Panhandle.

My hope would be that if Sharp stiffens his resistance that Duncan could call on his fellow Republican buddies in the Panhandle legislative delegation to use their own considerable muscle to make the veterinary school a reality.

As Beilue pointed out in his essay, the value of a veterinary school to any region of this state should rise far above petty politics.




Tech makes bigger footprint in Amarillo


Texas Tech University officials appear intent on increasing the school’s presence in Amarillo.

It’s obvious of the school’s plan with the announcement that Texas Tech plans to build and develop a college of veterinary medicine way up yonder … in the Texas Panhandle.

We all ought to welcome the addition.

Texas Tech already runs a pharmacy school here, courtesy of a lengthy and intense local fundraising campaign in the mid-1990s; and that school came after Tech had established a medical school campus here.

When you think about, Amarillo’s higher education footprint is growing on a number of levels.

West Texas A&M University is in the process of turning a one-time downtown Amarillo office building into an urban campus, which no doubt will expand the Canyon-based university’s presence in the Panhandle’s largest city.

Let us not forget that Amarillo College’s presence here for decades has been significant. AC runs three campuses just in Amarillo. It also has branch campuses in Dumas and Hereford, making it a regional junior college.

The buzz today, though, belongs to Texas Tech University.

Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan led a large university delegation of officials today to announce plans for the veterinary school. Duncan said today the school’s aim is to ensure that students learn their profession here — and then stay here to practice it.

So, the footprint is set to expand and the community figures to reap the benefit.


Texas Tech announces vet school plan for Amarillo


When he was chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, Kent Hance ventured to Amarillo and made a fascinating pronouncement.

Amarillo, he said, is ready to support a full-fledged medical school campus, rather than a campus for upperclassmen and women — as it does now.

It would require community support to make it happen, Hance said. He went back to Texas Tech’s “mother ship campus” in Lubbock and the subject has been pretty much dormant ever since.

Then this happened today: The current chancellor, Bob Duncan, ventured north to Amarillo and announced concrete plans to develop a college of veterinary medicine right here.

OK, so Texas Tech isn’t yet announcing a plan for an expanded health sciences operation here, but the veterinary school announcement is pretty darn big.

Reports have been circulating for the past few days. Texas Tech is aiming to serve a significant audience by bringing such an academic institution to Amarillo. The city sits in the heart of some of the richest agricultural land in the nation. Rural residents own lots of animals — large and small — that need medical attention.

The veterinary school would be poised to train “animal doctors” to care for these patients.

Chancellor Duncan has made a significant pledge to the Amarillo region with today’s announcement and has pledged to deepen Texas Tech University’s footprint in the Panhandle, which by itself is going to bring a major economic development boost to the region.


Higher ed turf fight in the offing … perhaps


Texas Tech University has announced it is considering the development of a school of veterinary medicine.

No plans have been set. It’s just talk at the moment. The word came from Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan that the university system is scouting around for a proper location while deciding if it actually wants to go ahead with development of the program.

Amarillo is considered one of the potential favorites for the new veterinary medicine campus.

The Texas Tribune that Tech has cited increasing student interest in the veterinary medicine campus and noted that Amarillo — with its huge agricultural base nearby — might be a good fit for such a campus.

OK, but it gets even more interesting.

Texas A&M University — which already has one of the premier veterinary medicine programs in the country, if not the world — is considering expanding that part of its curriculum to other regions of the state. You have just one guess on where the A&M System might locate that new veterinary medicine campus.

If you said West Texas A&M University, you’d win an undetermined prize.

The Tribune reported: “After Tech’s announcement, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp seemed to hint in a statement that A&M was considering expanding its school to other areas in the state.  ‘As a courtesy, last weekend I informed Chancellor Robert Duncan that the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine would soon announce a presence in several Texas A&M System schools,’ Sharp said. ‘In response, Mr. Duncan comes up with this long-rejected claim we should fund a vet school at Texas Tech. The Coordinating Board has specifically rejected the notion. The Legislature has rejected this for 40 years. We will proceed with our announcement as planned.’”

Here’s the full Texas Tribune story.

So, is there a bit of jockeying taking place here? Would the Texas Panhandle be in the running for both university systems’ desire for veterinary schools? I doubt strongly we’d get both of them.

Whatever happens, we’ll just have to stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Texas Senate to lose a giant

Texas Tech University’s huge gain is the Texas Senate’s equally huge loss.

Republican Bob Duncan is leaving the Senate soon to become chancellor of the Tech System. He won’t disappear from the State Capitol, as my pal Enrique Rangel writes for the Amarillo Globe-News. He’ll be visiting the Capitol looking for funds to keep the myriad academic programs and extracurricular activities going at Texas Tech, which is what a university system chancellor is supposed to do.

But a legislative body that benefited greatly from Duncan’s expertise and decided lack of showmanship will be a lesser place once he takes up his new job in Lubbock.

Erica Greider, writing for Texas Monthly, took note of Duncan’s reputation recently. Here’s what she wrote:

Duncan has been a genuinely superlative senator. When we were working on last year’s Best List, we crunched the numbers, and found that he was the most honored legislator in the history of the project—it was his fifth time being named a “Best Legislator,” and he also had an honorable mention and a rookie of the year notice. Beyond that, Duncan is the kind of legislator who illustrates the reason that we spend so much time researching the Best List. He’s not particularly high profile, and he’s not at all a showman. If you had watched every minute of proceedings on the Senate floor last year, you probably wouldn’t even have noticed him. And yet if you started talking to legislators, staffers, lobbyists, and advocates, you would hear Duncan cited consistently, warmly, and across party lines as one of the most thoughtful, trustworthy, and effective people in the building. As a senator, he’s tackled serious but unglamorous issues, such as the solvency of state pension funds; he’s also provided critical, behind-the-scenes assists to colleagues of both parties. An example would be last year’s equal pay bill. His departure from the Senate will be a loss for that chamber, because he’s been a real credit to it — because of the laws he helped pass, and because of the example he set.

What’s next for Senate District 28? Voters will take part in a special election that Gov. Rick Perry will call. They’ll elect a Republican from the district, which is a given in one of the most GOP-centric Senate districts in Texas.

With Duncan’s departure, though, the Senate is losing one more voice of reason. I have no clue who’ll take his place. Rangel has suggested that state Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, is a likely candidate to succeed Duncan. I don’t know much about Perry, other than he appears to be among the cadre of conservatives who seem intent on getting things done their way … or else.

I just hope the Texas Senate doesn’t gain a show horse who’s replacing a serious work horse.

Duncan to lead Tech … who knew?

This might be the least-surprising story to come out of West Texas since, oh, the revelation that the cotton can get mighty tall at times.

State Sen. Bob Duncan is the sole finalist to become Texas Tech University’s next chancellor.

Who’da thunk it?


Duncan is going to replace Kent Hance as head of the Tech university system. He’ll have to wait 21 days before Texas Tech’s regents can make the formal announcement. Then Gov. Rick Perry will call for a special election to select someone who’ll replace one of the Legislature’s shining lights.

This is an excellent development for the Texas Tech University System.

The chancellor’s main job is to raise money for the university. Duncan’s standing in the Texas Senate — where he routinely is named among the best legislators in the state, according to Texas Monthly. He has an

Duncan is an outstanding choice. He is a Tech alumnus, earning his bachelor’s and law degrees from the Lubbock school. He built a successful law practice on the South Plain and has taken time off from that practice since the mid-1990s to legislate every other year from the Legislature.

Sen. Duncan will do very well to meet his new challenge.

Why not put income tax to a vote?

This crazy idea has been rattling around in my skull for some time.

It involves a state income tax for Texas. The idea is this: If Texas legislators are so sure-fire certain that a state income tax never would be approved by rank-and-file Texans, why don’t they just put the issue to a vote and let them decide this issue once and for all?

My pal Enrique Rangel, writing for the Amarillo Globe-News, talked to some leading Texas pols recently to get their take on ways to improve the state’s rickety tax system. Tea party Republican comptroller candidate Debra Medina favors a consumption tax to pay for public education; state Sen. Bob Duncan, R-Lubbock, favors a statewide property tax to pay for schools; Fort Worth Democratic state Rep. Lon Burnam wants an income tax.

Of the three ideas, I kind of like the idea of an income tax coupled with property tax relief.

Here’s the problem with an income tax: It requires an amendment to the Texas Constitution, which requires a statewide popular vote.

The Legislature, in a silly act of buck-passing, decided some years ago to require a constitutional amendment election, believing it didn’t have the votes in the body to approve an income tax by itself. Legislators figured that such a monumental decision needed voters’ stamp of approval.

They knew all along Texans wouldn’t approve such a tax, even if it could be structured with a serious offset somewhere else, such as local property taxes.

The state has been dancing all over this issue for as long as anyone can remember. Only lame-duck politicians — and a few active pols living in districts where they won’t be threatened with electoral defeat — have had the guts to talk openly about reforming the state tax system with an income tax.

It’s an open secret that an income tax would enable the state to keep its public school system from courtroom fights when judges rule the financing system to violate the state’s Constitution.

So, why not put the issue on the ballot. Burnam’s idea goes nowhere every time he pitches it to his legislative colleagues.

If it’s such a bad idea that’ll never fly with voters, put it on the ballot and let’s decide it.