Dr. O’Brien Leaves a Lasting Legacy

Editorial Board

Dr. J. Patrick O’Brien made waves around the campus of West Texas A&M Wednesday, Feb. 24, when he announced that after 10 years as president of the university, he would be retiring at the end of the spring semester. O’Brien, who always had a vision of progression and growth for WT, accomplished much during his tenure that made progress towards that vision.

When O’Brien came to WT’s campus in 2006, times weren’t tough in Canyon, but things weren’t moving along much either. The status quo had largely stayed unchanged at WT, and enrollment stayed essentially stagnant. O’Brien has done his part in increasing the enrollment at WT, overseeing much of the programs that have led to increased enrollment. Programs such as Buff Promise were created during his tenure, which covered students’ tuition who’s families made under $40,000 a year, which helped many incoming students actually pay for school. He also pushed to keep tuition rates one of the lowest in the state and the country, many times ensuring that incoming students would have fixed tuition during their time at WT. Out of state tuition costs were also one of the lowest in the country, and helped build a student body that had almost a fifth of its students from somewhere outside Texas.

O’Brien also oversaw the building of many new facilities at WT, and many renovations to existing buildings. The Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex, where the members of this editorial staff spend a good portion of our time, was constructed, boasting the state-of-the-art AT&T High Definition Production Studio, the nationally acclaimed KWTS radio station, and The Prairie’s very own newsroom. The Virgil Henson Activity Center and the Jack B. Kelley Student Center also saw some major face lifts.

Many programs improved during O’Brien’s tenure. The online graduate and undergraduate degree programs are consistently ranked among the best in the state, and sometimes the country. The Princeton Review has also featured WT as one of the “best in the west” when it comes to its ranking among schools in the region. Also, a College of Nursing and Health Sciences was created.

Though he leaves with some issues unresolved, such as that pesky parking problem, O’Brien will exit the school knowing that his vision of growth and progression was realized. WT has never been stronger, enrollment has never been higher, and the future for WT looks very bright.

From the editorial staff of The Prairie to you, Dr. O’Brien, we say thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done for this campus, and thank you for what you’ve done for this newspaper and the Department of Communication as a whole.