Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Opinion

June 29, 2007

Don Newbury: Keeping the right side up

Kenneth Ashworth, Ph.D., scaled great heights in the world of higher education with brilliance, commitment and diplomacy, not necessarily in that order. And that diplomatic bent is serving him as he changes gears from administration to academia.

Who else, pray tell, could hold teaching posts for the University of Texas and Texas A&M; University at the same time?

Well, Dr. Ashworth is doing just that. The longest-tenured Texas commissioner of higher education (1976-1997) is teaching courses in public policy development and public administration and management at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and at Texas A&M;’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

———

“You’ve got to be kidding,” the printer laughed when Dr. Ashworth explained that he wanted a two-sided card with different colors on each side.

You are way ahead of me, aren’t you?

Yes, Dr. Ashworth wanted orange ink on one side and maroon on the other.

———

In a nutshell, as higher education commissioner, his state-mandated task was to coordinate and “make better” all public colleges and universities in the state. (In these efforts, he fully recognized and appreciated the roles of independent institutions.)

To say that he was in a hot seat most of the time would be a classic understatement. I doubt very much that he ever sat in a cool one, nor sought to.

He represented all institutions, whether large or small, with the same fairness, logic and fervor. And he gained respect, admiration and confidence from constituents throughout the state.

———

Now in his sixth decade of public service, he says he is “still trying to retire.” My guess is he’s having too much fun teaching graduate students the “how” of administration in theoretical settings where real bullets aren’t used.

I know this Phi Beta Kappan is having fun writing. He’s published numerous articles and authored four books.

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