Putting students first
Published: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Before Silver Taps occurs, the families gather in the Corps Center and Loftin tries to join them if he can. Yet he struggles with his interactions.
“What do you say to family that’s just lost a 20-year-old?” Loftin said. “That’s hard.”
“I watch the families, especially those who are not Aggie acquainted. Maybe their child is the first to go to A&M, so they’re not too sure of this place,” Loftin said. “They come here, they see Silver Taps and they go ‘wow’. It doesn’t lessen the grief but it has a way to make you understand you’re part of something bigger than your own family — you’re part of a very large family that shares your grief.”
Loftin said he sees magic happening at Silver Taps and Muster.
The second most difficult task Loftin said he faces is grappling with extraordinarily difficult financial challenges. The past years have seen an astounding decrease in state funding for higher education. According to Loftin, raising tuition rates is not a feasible solution in today’s economic climate. So he struggles daily with how to keep the experiences of students as high quality as it has been if not better despite the decreases in resources.
“People talk about how bad things are at A&M right now with funding. Most people have a narrow window in which they’re looking at A&M,” Loftin said. “There have been worse times, in terms of money and in terms of political influence, and so that gives me perspective. Without it, you’d be hard pressed to keep your head up everyday.”
Despite the difficulties, Loftin embraces the opportunity to live out the presidency at his alma mater every day.
“It’s pretty special. There aren’t many of us like that,” Loftin said. “I’m the 24th president of A&M, but I’m only the 5th Aggie.”
It’s possible that the uniqueness of Aggieland adds to this specialness.
“You can’t be here, especially as an undergraduate, without falling in love,” Loftin said. “That love is not something that every student will experience at every school.”
This love for A&M coincides with and often fosters Loftin’s love for students. He said he makes a concerted effort to interact with students as often as possible to gain perspective. “Everyday is full of problems and some are hard and unpleasant to deal with. But I can always count on students to perk me up,” Loftin said.
While Loftin was an undergraduate student, James Earl Rudder was president of the University.
“I never approached Rudder. I never dared approach him,” Loftin said. “He was feared, and I don’t want to be like that.”
Despite the dominant memory of past presidents like Rudder and more recently, Robert Gates, Loftin strives to create his own path.
“I don’t guide myself by what Rudder or Gates would have done. I just simply do what I do,” Loftin said. “But you’re wise to pay attention to what people have done and be familiar with A&M’s history.”
Loftin said that people can judge what he has done as president at a later time.
“People have said to me oftentimes that somehow A&M gets the right leader at the right time,” Loftin said. “I can’t claim that’s true of me by any means. You can judge that sometime in the future possibly.”
Many already talk positively of Loftin and can attest to his student interaction.
“I love students and I hope that will be the legacy I inherit,” Loftin said.