Dressed in purple and gold, Randy O’Rear stood on the pitcher’s mound, prepared to lead the Cru baseball team to another victory.
As a student athlete, he never imagined in 20 years he would lead the school in a different way. But from the center of the field to the president of the university, O’Rear has never been a stranger to UMHB.
“It is not unusual for the board of trustees to do a succession rather than a search for a new president when they already have someone on campus they believe in and has proven to be successful,” said university President Dr. Jerry Bawcom who steps down June 1 as president and becomes chancellor.
“It would be a significant loss for the leadership of this institution if we didn’t take advantage of Dr. O’Rear’s knowledge, experience and his already existing relationships with others.”
Bawcom said O’Rear has successfully contributed much to the school, including increased enrollment and progressive physical campus improvements.
“Dr. O’Rear’s greatest accomplishment has been leading the institution in strategic planning and institutional visioning,” Bawcom said. “He knows and understands the mission of the university. As an alumnus, nobody could love the institution more than he and his family do.”
O’Rear will be the first UMHB president who is also an alum. He graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration in 1988 and an MBA in 1997. He received a doctorate in higher education management from Baylor University in 2004.
O’Rear believes his past will help him lead the school as president.
He said, “I think having experienced the quality of our faculty and staff as a student makes me appreciate all that the university is about even more. I was blessed to experience this school as a student and what it was like to truly have committed faculty in the classroom.”
O’Rear’s Crusader roots run deep as well as his desire to see the school accomplish great things.
“I wake up every day and can’t wait to come to work to try to make a difference,” he said. “I am blessed to serve here.”
O’Rear’s plans include expanding what has already been built.
“Dr. Bawcom has guided the university to a really high level of excellence, and my goal is to work with the faculty and staffand continue to pursue higher and higher levels of that.”
As president, he hopes to establish solid internal and external relations.
“We have a strategic five-year plan that goes out through 2010, and it has been a good road,” O’Rear said. “I will work with faculty and staff, and we’ll craft a collected vision for the future.”
He believes progress is dependent upon the school as a whole.
“I’m looking forward to having more in-depth conversations with (faculty and staff) about their dreams,” he said. “More than anything I am looking forward to coming up with a shared vision for the future. I am a very participative manager.”
The future president has served in a variety of positions at the university for more than 20 years.
His roles have included executive vice president and chief operating officer, associate director of advancement, director of development, associate vice president for enrollment management, vice president for external relations and assistant baseball coach, which was his first full-time job. O’Rear believes these experiences and his mentorships have prepared him well.
“Dr. Bawcom has laid out a great road map for me on how to be successful,” he said. “We are very blessed that the school is in great shape everywhere imaginable, and a new president doesn’t have to come in and change a bunch of things.”
O’Rear will use the next nine months before moving into the presidency to help Bawcom and prepare for the transition in June 2009.
“I will continue to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer, running the daily campus operations to the best of my ability,” O’Rear said. “We all desire to make this a wonderful year for Dr. Bawcom, and I look forward to doing what I do every day now to allow him more free time to work externally with donors.”
O’Rear said the change in leadership will “be seamless for students, faculty and staff,” providing a healthy transition.
“We will continue to be about three things,” he said, “academic excellence, a focus on teaching and personal student attention. These are Mary Hardin-Baylor’s hallmarks, and we will not change that.”
Vice-president of Student Affairs, Dr. Steve Theodore, knows O’Rear on both a professional and personal level and thinks he will be a good president.
“He is dedicated to Christian higher education,” Theodore said. “He has a proven track record of successful fundraising and administrative leadership.”
“He is student-oriented and student-driven and knows we are here to serve them, and if we don’t do a great job of that, we will lose our competitive edge. Students will be very pleased with his leadership.”
Beyond the executive office doors, O’Rear is a family man.
He spends weekends like many fathers. With three active children, O’Rear keeps busy cheering for his daughter at Friday night volleyball games, playing a round of golf with his oldest son and admiring his 13-year-old son as he takes flying lessons.
O’Rear’s wife graduated in 1990 from UMHB’s nursing program. She serves as the director of the Clinical Trials Office at Scott & White Hospital but will resign this spring in order to be involved on campus.
“I think with Julie and I both being alumni, we have a deep passion and love for Mary Hardin-Baylor, and I think the students will see that.” O’Rear said. “She loves the school just as much as I do.”
The O’Rear family is looking forward to the transition next June.
O’Rear said, “We have invested our lives here, and it has been a real blessing. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”