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Strong leadership can pay off handsomely for higher education

BY GENE A. BUDIG Published: January 13, 2013

In Texas, a nonpartisan organization of business and political leaders named Sharp the 2013 Texan of the Year. Once a student body president at A&M, Sharp was recognized as having “the leadership skills serving those from all walks of life without deference to political parties.”

Sharp reached a landmark agreement with Compass USA to provide dining services to all system entities within Brazos County, including A&M's student population of more than 52,000. The agreement is valued at more than $260 million in revenue, cost savings and infrastructure improvement for a 10-year term, including a $45 million up-front payment to the university. These funds will go toward what Sharp calls the “core assets of the university — teaching and research.”

Sharp has introduced a new competitive sealed bid requirement on all major construction projects throughout the A&M system. The first project resulted in a $12 million savings on the original estimate of $50 million for the Texas A&M University-Central Texas' Multipurpose and Library Building project. The money saved goes to research and teaching, the chancellor says.

The A&M system was just picked as one of three Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing. The $285 million grant places A&M on the front line of defense of the nation and brings significant economic opportunity (more than 1,000 new jobs) for biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Of the three centers, A&M is the lone university system serving as a prime contractor.

These are tough times but at these universities, superior leadership pays handsome dividends for students, faculty and the economy.

Budig is a former president/chancellor of Illinois State University, West Virginia University and the University of Kansas.