COMMERCE - For Dr. Keith McFarland, the 10th president at Texas A&M University-Commerce, the thought of having a building named after him never crossed his mind.
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents Friday approved the recommendation by current President Dan Jones for the Keith D. McFarland Science Building, in a moment the former head administrator called surreal.
He learned of the pending decision two weeks earlier.
“I was just thrilled and honored at the same time. It came as a complete surprise to me and I don’t know anything that the university has done for me over the years that was more gratifying than that,” McFarland said.
His retirement in 2008 came two years after formal dedication of the $28 million Science Building.
“I said I won’t interfere [with the design process]. But then when the plans were drawn up they had the Planetarium as an optional piece of construction. And I said ‘I told you I wasn’t going to but I am’ because it’s absolutely essential that we have a planetarium in there because it’s going to be so important for our outreach to the school districts in this Northeast Texas area.”
No date has been set for a formal dedication of the Keith D. McFarland Science Building.
Prior to taking over as president in 1998, McFarland served in various roles at the university as a history professor, department head, and dean of the graduate school. But after 38 years at East Texas State University and Texas A&M University-Commerce, the Dover, Ohio native still holds a strong desire for higher education.
In 2010 he served as interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. And on Tuesday, McFarland assumed the role of acting president of Texas A&M-Texarkana, following the recent resignation of Dr. C.B. Rathburn, III.
“I’ve always said to people of the [A&M] System office if there’s ever anything I can do to help the System or a particular university I’ll do everything I can to help them. So the call came and they said they hoped to have the search completed by the end of the semester and would I take it and I said yes.”
McFarland says he’s proud of his accomplishments at A&M-Commerce and of the opportunity to use those experiences to assist other institutions. He’s also excited to again educate students and grow his knowledge of higher education.
“I always stress to the people I work with, whether it’s A&M-Commerce, Denton or Texarkana, to the people who work under me I always say you have to learn something every day. I press that by asking people, especially when something bad has happened.”