The Duncan Banner
A little more than three months into his new role as the 17th president of Cameron University, John McArthur has learned a valuable lesson.
He loves the job.
“Being president,” he said while spending most of a day in Duncan last week, “is the best job ever. As a professor, I never liked teaching the same class two years in a row. I always wanted to learn something new. As president, every day is new. The variety of people I get to work with is amazing. And the opportunities are abundant.”
A significant slice of his time has been devoted to listening.
“The people of Lawton (home to the 4,300-full time equivalent students that opened in 1909 and Duncan (home to the 600-student branch that opened in 2004) have been so welcoming and so engaging.”
Time with government officials, community leaders, education administrators and job-seeking developers has yielded much data, shared a unified passion and solidified the message he most wanted to hear.
“Cameron University matters here,” he grinned, adding, “and Duncan and Stephens County matter to Cameron”
McArthur sees growth and prosperity ahead.
As provost since 2006, he has been involved in campus initiatives to broaden and deepen a student’s academic experience, strategic plans to plot aggressive paths into the future and physical growth that has elevated campus life to levels competitive with regional institutions nationwide.
Already, strategic plans give meaning to diversified expectations for 2013, 2018 and 2025.
He likens a quote by former President Dwight Eisenhower, who said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” to the Cameron process. He values the synergy, welcomes the involvement and embraces the commitment.
“We’ll meet 80 percent of what we’ve planned because of the process,” he said. “But communities change, so the process will help us change.”
His own enthusiasm and drive are obvious His background as an academician is strong. And he seems up to the challenge of not only maintaining the legacy of former president Dr. Cindy Ross, but capable of adding his own dramatic touch.
McArthur “grew up with a lot of books” in Tallahassee, Fla., where his parents both graduated from Florida State and entered the education field. He attended elementary school in Memphis where his dad served as psychologist for the Memphis public school system and Alice Walker, his third grade teacher, inspired his interest to learn.
He played football and graduated from high school in North Little Rock as a National Merit Finalist. Early on, like every boy in Arkansas, he thought he’d become a Razorback in the old Southwest Conference. His dream changed to attending Princeton, playing football there and becoming a space scientist
A College Night encounter, encouraged by his dad, led to a conversation with a recruiter from Rice. He was impressed. When he leaned the Owls did indeed have a football team and had just beaten Arkansas, he was hooked. It was a perfect fit, blending athletics and academics at the then 3,000-student prestigious school in Houston.
He redshirted a year, played guard and tackle a couple of years, then concentrated on a degree in mathematical studies.
It seems he has been preparing for the Cameron job ever since.
McArthur earned a Master of Applied Mathematics and Ph.D. in Mathematics from Colorado, met and married Karla Oty, an accomplished university administrator and musician, and, together, they launched a 20-year path to their home, now in the historic 7,200-square foot Cameron House near the Lawton campus.
McArthur was on the physics faculty six years and later chaired the Department of Computer Sciences and Technology at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He was on the math faculty at Colorado State-Pueblo three years and joined Cameron in 2004.
He served first as Dean of the School of Science and Technology, was promoted to Vice President of Academic Affairs in 2006 and was named Provost in 2011.
He shares pride in the growth of Cameron University-Duncan, applauds the leadership of director Susan Camp here and praises the vision of a Board of Regents that is “always connecting the dots and putting pieces together.”
He says capitalizing on skills to help the light manufacturing industry, offering more biology and chemistry classes to support added emphasis on allied health courses, using available employment opportunities and enabling the Duncan campus to move in the direction it needs to pursue seems a sensible approach here.
McArthur, with his parents and Karla’s parents looking on, will officially be installed as president Oct. 23 at the Aggie Gymnasium on the Lawton campus. That it is a big and important day is obvious.
But judging from his first three months in the office, many more big days are ahead.
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