Texas A&M University-Commerce interim president Dr. Ray Keck plans to live in Heritage House, the building which was home to school presidents Samuel Whitley, James Gee and Whitney Halladay. The move is part of Keck's drive to strengthen the recent development of campus life at A&M-Commerce.
Mark Haslett: Texas A&M University-Commerce interim president Dr. Ray Keck likes traditions. And he understands that the on-campus experience is an important part of university life -- for students, of course, but also for faculty and staff. Keck intends to continue to build on what could be described as a gradual renaissance for the on-campus environment at A&M-Commerce.
Dr. Ray Keck: One thing that I very much want to engage myself in is campus life, residential life. The tremendous pushback in recent times against traditional university experiences has left residential life, I think, vulnerable in ways that it shouldn’t be. Patricia and I plan to move into Heritage House. I want the President’s presence to be very much a part of campus life.
Haslett: Heritage House is located between the Journalism Building and the Alumni Center. It was built in 1927 with the purpose of providing an on-campus home for the school president. Samuel Whitley lived there for most of his tenure. James Gee lived there for his entire time at ET. And Whitney Halladay lived there briefly at the beginning of his tenure. Keck plans to be the first president to live in Heritage House since the 1960s. Regarding student living options, Keck would like to see the addition of a house system similar to those that are common at many universities.
Keck: I’m in dialogue right now with the people that run this part of our university. I very much want to move toward implementing a house-type system, whereby faculty, administrators live in apartments connected to our dormitories, our residential halls and engage in the life of students in their residential experience. It’s expensive to live on a campus and to live in a residential community. It requires a commitment from students. They leave home. They leave jobs. They spend four years in an environment that is precious and never likely to be replicated in their lives. And I believe it’s important, I believe it’s vital, I believe that it is crucial in building the kind of student and the kind of experience we want at Commerce. And I want very much to engage myself in that.
Haslett: Keck says that the house system helps develop the ties between faculty and students and creates a richer campus experience for everyone.
Keck: I went to a university that was divided into houses, colleges, where everyone lived on the campus. I don’t believe, and I don’t even like when I hear people say “well you know everything that mattered that I learned in college, I learned out of the classroom.” I don’t believe that. The college classroom created the person I am, but life in the residential halls and the dormitories and interacting with faculty informally, out of class, a vital part of university experience. Every book written on this subject today, and there are just boxes full of them available now written in the last five years on university life and what it should be and why it doesn’t work or why it does work, everyone agrees the gold standard is residential community in a college-type environment. We have everything to make that happen here. In fact, it’s very near to that right now in Commerce, and I very much want to see that strengthened.
Haslett: Keck says that this fall, there will be some faculty living at Prairie Crossing, the university-owned student apartment building that houses the Honors College. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.