Tag Archives: Texas Tech University

Vet school plan ‘coming together’

The late actor George Peppard once portrayed a TV character, Hannibal Smith, on the series “The A-Team,” who was fond of saying he loved it “when a plan comes together.”

Well, ladies and gents, a Texas Tech University plan is coming together for Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

The Texas Tech Board of Regents has authorized Tech President Lawrence Schovanec to execute an agreement with the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sets aside as much as $69 million to help finance construction of a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

Is that cool? Or what? Of course it is!

AEDC delivered a monumental pledge to Texas Tech to help move the vet school program forward. Tech is planning to build a vet school in Amarillo that will cost an estimated $90 million. It will be located near Tech’s existing campuses near the medical center complex in west Amarillo.

This is huge deal for Amarillo. And for Tech. And for the future of large-animal veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle.

The project ran into some resistance from another university system, Texas A&M, where its leaders didn’t want Tech to proceed. A&M has the state’s only school of veterinary medicine and I suppose they wanted to keep its monopoly on that form of higher education.

Texas, though, is a large and diverse enough state to accommodate more than a single school of veterinary medicine. Thus, Tech’s plan is a good fit for Texas, not to mention for the Panhandle.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reported about the May 8 decision by the Amarillo City Council to proceed with the project: “This investment by the EDC ensures the vet school will happen and also challenges industry and community partners to join in the success of making this vet school happen,” Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said at the time. “The timing of Amarillo’s investment before the legislative appropriations request will increase the momentum of private fundraising and hopefully assist the legislative funding request. Funding for the project will come from annual tax revenues, which is sales tax, recognized by the EDC. The estimated annual economic impact for the veterinary school of medicine will be $76 million annually to Amarillo.”

Yep, a huge plan is coming together. Hannibal Smith would be proud.

AEDC steps up … big time

If Amarillo manages to reel in a project being pitched by Texas Tech University, it can possibly look at its economic development arm as a big reason for the success that will follow.

Texas Tech wants to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo; it would be the second such school in all of Texas, the other one being run by Texas A&M University.

The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has ponied up $69 million to incentivize Tech even further to build the vet school in Amarillo. Moreover, a significant land donation made possible by the family of Mary Emeny has sweetened the pot even more for Texas Tech.

This is precisely the kind of project that AEDC has helped bring to Amarillo since its creation in 1989. Voters then approved creation of AEDC, which collects a half-cent of sales tax revenue generated in Amarillo and uses it for job-creation projects.

Without question, AEDC’s biggest success to date is the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly project next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. In the late 1990s, AEDC came up with a $45 million inducement that lured Bell/Textron from Fort Worth to Amarillo and … the rest is history.

The Texas Tech vet school is aimed at educating Panhandle residents to learn a profession of untold value to communities throughout the region. Veterinarians could remain in the Panhandle to care for the livestock that populate our region’s ranches and which fuel the agricultural economy.

AEDC has stepped up in a major way once again for the city and the region. Its contribution will be augmented by private donations that local business, civic and political leaders are gathering.

And just as the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy has borne plenty of economic efruit for the region, so would the school of veterinary medicine, which has gone from “possibly,” to “probably” and is on its way to “likely” coming to Amarillo.

Is a vet school on its way? Maybe? Possibly?

I don’t rely on my trick knee as much as I did in the old days. It’s led me astray too many times, such as when its throbbing told me Hillary Rodham Clinton would be elected president of the United States in 2016.

It’s throbbing yet again. The source of the pulse happens to be a possible — or perhaps it’s now probable — school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

Texas Tech University wants to build a vet school in the Panhandle. It already has a pharmacy school and a health sciences center in Amarillo. A vet school could add a huge new rung on Tech’s educational ladder in the Panhandle.

We might be witnessing the tangible benefits of having an economic development corporation at work on behalf of Amarillo. The Amarillo EDC is expected to step it up Tuesday in its effort to persuade Tech to build the veterinary medicine school here. The project is expected to cost about $90 million.

What’s more, the Mariposa Village Community Land Trust has donated the land for the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine. That, dear reader, is a huge development.

The Amarillo City Council is expected to make some announcements soon, possibly Tuesday, about the the Texas Tech project. I’ll wait along with the rest of the community that is interested — and supportive — of Tech’s possible new academic addition to the Texas Panhandle.

Meanwhile, my ol’ trick knee keeps on throbbing.

Yep, Amarillo is ready to welcome a vet school

Mary Emeny is a friend of mine with a particular interest in a plot of land that she hopes will become home to a new school of veterinary medicine.

She chairs a trust that donated the property to Texas Tech University, which is considering whether to build a vet school in Amarillo.

I, of course, have no such vested interest. I merely want to endorse my friend’s column that appeared in the Amarillo Globe-News that pitches hard for the vet school.

Read the full column here.

Texas Tech University regents have declared their intention to build a vet school. Tech is getting a lot of push back from Texas A&M University, which at the moment has the only veterinary medicine school in Texas. A&M Chancellor John Sharp wants to keep it that way, or so it appears.

My own view is that Texas is a large enough state to accommodate more than one university’s desire to educate veterinarians. We comprise 28 million residents, spread across nearly 270,000 square miles. Tech regents — and Chancellor Bob Duncan — want to establish a veterinary medicine campus in Amarillo that could help train and retain vets who come from the Texas Panhandle and who might want to stay here after they earn their DVM degrees.

As Emeny writes in the Globe-News: Even as we urbanize, our base is still ranching, and more recently dairy and hogs, with farming that supports them all. The veterinary school will bring much needed assistance to overworked veterinarians, especially those that tend to large animals in the region. Moreover, it will do so in a wonderfully elegant way. By assigning students to practicing veterinarians in the area, the vets become the mentors and the students assist the vets. Such a model bypasses the need for a separate teaching hospital, significantly reducing student tuition while giving local vets a platform for interaction and ready access to the latest knowledge and technologies.

Does any of this diminish A&M’s role in training veterinarians? Of course not! It does add to the pool of aspiring veterinarians to a community — such as the Panhandle — that can serve a region with a compelling need for them.

Well stated, Mary.

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.”

Is a vet school coming to the Panhandle?

Texas Tech University officials want to put a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s the word from the chancellor’s office and from others within the sprawling university system.

The notion has a couple of big obstacles. One of them involves money; the other involves politics.

First, the money obstacle.

The Texas Legislature has appropriated about $4 million to Texas Tech to start researching how it can install a large-animal veterinary school that would serve the Texas Panhandle and, indeed, the rest of the state and perhaps the tri-state region.

The hope would be for Panhandle residents to get their DVM degrees and then stay home to serve the community.

But Tech needs about $90 million more, according to Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed to speak on behalf of issues and officials who want to improve Amarillo and the surrounding region. Time isn’t on the side of Texas Tech. They don’t have much time to raise the money and they’re searching for the deepest pockets possible to help finance construction and development of the school.

I happen to believe a veterinary medical school makes perfect sense for Amarillo and the surrounding region. Texas Tech, based in Lubbock, is the ideal school to establish it, given that it already has medical school and pharmacy school campuses in the city. Indeed, the Tech School of Pharmacy came to being after the community ponied up a lot of money to show Tech that it had sufficient interest in the project. It has been a successful venture.

Now for the politics of it.

Texas A&M University doesn’t want Tech to proceed with a veterinary medicine school. Aggieland is totally opposed to Tech impinging on the monopoly that A&M has on veterinary education in Texas.

This interference doesn’t make sense.

There surely must be ample opportunity for a second top-tier university system to develop a veterinary medical school. Last time I looked, I noticed that Texas is a mighty big state, comprising more than 250,000 square miles and stretching more than 800 miles east-west and north-south.

Tech and A&M apparently haven’t yet worked out their differences. My hope is that Texas Tech wins out in this battle of university system wills.

Then the Tech System needs to find the rest of the money.

Amarillo (still) Matters

I had been wondering whatever became of Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed early this year to campaign for a slate of City Council candidates.

A High Plains Blogger post posed the question: Where have they gone?

Just wondering: Amarillo Matters … where is it?

I have some news. Amarillo Matters has re-emerged. It’s not exactly a scoop, but I’ll take a touch of credit for prompting Amarillo Matters to show itself again on the public landscape.

It’s now a 501(c)4 non-profit group, according to a press release issued by Amarillo Matters. It has some ideas on how to make life better in Amarillo. I certainly welcome Amarillo Matters back into view.

Amarillo Matters has elected a board of directors and it has chosen a president, Jason Herrick. The group’s press release talks about Amarillo Matters’ interest in promoting projects designed to improve the city’s economic well-being.

One particular project is one that caught my eye when I first heard about it: Texas Tech University’s proposal to build a large-animal veterinary medical school in Amarillo.

According to Amarillo Matters’ release: “We started working on this during the last legislative session. Our goal was to get funding in the state budget for a vet school in Amarillo,” Board Treasurer Andrew Hall said. More than $4 million was eventually allocated to Texas Tech to begin initial plans for a school. “This is the perfect example of the types of projects we are going to focus on. It’s something that will not only benefit Amarillo but the entire Panhandle and beyond,” Hall added. 

It’s fair ask: What can be wrong with that?

I have lamented about flashes in the pan that come and go on occasion in Amarillo. We hear from political candidates who emerge at election time; they lose and then they disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

The same can be said of the organization formerly known as the Amarillo Millennial Movement. It formed to pitch its support for the multipurpose event venue. The MPEV was put to a citywide referendum vote in November 2015; it passed and then the AMM went poof! when the young woman who founded the organization moved to Fort Worth.

I’m glad that Amarillo Matters has resurfaced in some other form.

The city already is undergoing a significant makeover in its downtown district. Mayor Ginger Nelson has declared her intention to clean up residential alleys that have become cluttered with trash. Interstates 40 and 27 both are under major construction, as is Loop 335 along its Hollywood Road right-of-way.

Amarillo Matters will retain its PAC status as well, as the release notes: The group … will be involved in local elections. “We’re going to limit the races to those that have a direct impact on our city, economy and future,” Herrick said. The PAC has been watching the upcoming primary election and is expected to issue endorsements soon. 

I suspect those “endorsements” will generate their share of public discourse, debate and perhaps even a little dissension.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

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.

PAC weighs in on possible vet school for Amarillo

Meanwhile, back home on the High Plains …

While much of the rest of the nation is swirling over news about Russia and other things related to the new president, a political action committee formed to push the interests of the Texas Panhandle has kicked into gear.

Amarillo Matters has decided to pressure the Texas Legislature to approve money for a proposed school of veterinary medicine that would be set up in Amarillo.

The Texas Tech University Board of Regents recently voted to cease the search for money to pay for the vet school in Amarillo, citing tight state money and other priorities that the Texas Tech University should fund first.

I happen to believe the Tech regents made a mistake. I also happen to believe that a veterinary school of medicine in Amarillo is the right ticket not only for Tech, but for the farming and ranching community that is so important to this region’s economic health and well-being.

As the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported: “‘We as a region and as a city need to be standing up for ourselves in Austin and make sure we get a fair share of the pie,’ PAC member and President of Pantera Energy Co. Jason Herrick said.”

I am gratified to see a group formed to apply pressure where it believes it is needed among legislators who control the purse strings for projects such as this one.

I need not remind Amarillo Matters that one of our region’s own — state Sen. Kel Seliger — chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee. Oops! I just did!

Amarillo Matters’ formation piqued my curiosity a few weeks ago. I asked in this blog what it was and wondered for what it stood. Now I think I get it.

Here is what I wrote.

Texas Tech got some push back from Texas A&M University, which has a top-drawer veterinary medicine program, when it first pitched the idea of building a vet school in Amarillo. I presume the Aggies thought Tech would be perhaps too competitive. My own view is that, hey, A&M doesn’t have a veterinary medicine school anywhere near Amarillo … so what’s the problem?

The A-J reports further: “The PAC believes a new school is vital to the state — which experts and lawmakers say is suffering from a lack of veterinarians in rural areas — and is crucial to Texas Panhandle industry, Herrick said. ‘I don’t know that urban and downstate folks understand what a strong cattle and dairy industry we have here in the Panhandle,’ Herrick said.”

This is precisely what PACs do. They “educate” others to the concerns of the regions they serve. I wish Amarillo Matters well in this endeavor.

Tech pulls plug on vet school in Amarillo

I was disappointed to hear the other day that the Texas Tech University Board of Regents has decided against seeking money to create a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

The money would have come from the Texas Legislature, which I am quite certain has gotten its share of pressure from Texas A&M University to spend the money on, um, other priorities.

Tech had floated the notion of creating a veterinary school in Amarillo as a way to create a pool of medical professionals who would serve the cattle and horse industries that are so prevalent in this part of the world.

Tech, though, got some immediate push back from A&M, which has a first-rate veterinary medicine program already — but none in Amarillo or elsewhere in the Texas Panhandle.

The systems happen to be run by two men with extensive legislative experience, I hasten to add. Tech’s chancellor is former state Sen. Bob Duncan, the Lubbock Republican who gave up his Senate seat to take the chancellorship at his alma mater; the A&M chancellor happens to be John Sharp, a former Democratic state senator from Victoria who’s also held elected posts as a Texas railroad commissioner and comptroller of public accounts.

I don’t know what kind of relationship these men have, but they no doubt now are rivals for a depleted source of revenue that would pay for the establishment of a veterinary medicine school.

Let’s also acknowledge the presence of a third state senator with something to say about this notion. That would be Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who happens to chair the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Didn’t the chairman see a need to fight for Tech’s veterinary school — which would serve his sprawling West Texas Senate district?

I believe a Texas Tech veterinary school would be good for the state, good for Amarillo and the region and good for the university system. A&M officials seemed intent on torpedoing the idea from the get-go, suggesting that there is insufficient demand for a veterinary medicine school to justify an Amarillo campus run by a competing university system.

So, Texas Tech’s regents say they won’t seek money this legislative session to finance development of a veterinary school in Amarillo. They have other pressing needs … they said.

Fine. I just don’t want this idea to get buried under a pile of manure.