Jack Carney on the 2008 name change

John F. “Jack” Carney, who served as chancellor at S&T between 2005 and 2011, explains his reasons for pursuing a name change for the campus and how he went about it.

Audio transcript

I really thought that the University of Missouri-Rolla was a disservice to the institution. It’s a tricky situation when you’re chancellor of the university, but you’re also part of the system. So you have to promote your own university, but you also have to be reasonable, play nice with the other three campuses in the system. And that’s a tough thing to do sometimes. One of the stories I kept hearing as I met some of the older graduates of the institution, some going back prior to 1963, I think it was, when the name was changed from Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy. Rightly or wrongly, there was a strong sense of it, that Rolla was getting, historically getting the short end of the stick, with respect primarily Columbia. I don’t know whether that was true or not, but I wanted to make darn sure that we got our fair share because I thought we had such a superb institution and you should reward institutions that are doing what they’re meant to do. So, in the northeast, for example, the mistaken impression on the part of some was that “What are you, a branch campus of Columbia? What, do you go to Rolla for two years and then switch to the main university?” And it really just annoyed me. It must be totally annoying to someone like you who’s spent basically your whole career there. So I wanted a name that told the world, not just the country, what we were; primarily a technological research university where, what’s the number, 75% of the undergraduates are majoring in engineering or science. Not that we don’t have superb history and English, but we are not a comprehensive university with a law school and a medical school and all the rest of them. And we should take advantage of that uniqueness. So, with the support of the Board of Trustees, and I must say Gary Forsee, who you know later became the president of the whole system, that was a wonderful event from Rolla’s point of view. I knew that if we were going to pull this off, it had to be done quickly. If we debated it for the concept and the name for a couple of years, forget about it, it wouldn’t happen. The whole thing was accomplished in about six months. And I divided the effort into two parts. First I tried to get support from the various groups. What are the groups? The students, the faculty, the staff, the community, the graduates, the businesses that hired our graduates, that a name change that would properly reflect the character of the institution was something we should do. But I did not start composing the name. I thought that would be a bridge too far to fight both battles at once. And then after more or less winning that first battle, then we zeroed in on, okay we all, we agreed, the majorities agree, we should change the name, what should the name be? And I was surprised that the consensus zeroed in rather quickly on the name that we chose. But it was tough. I think the only group that I basically got to a 50-50 proposition were the undergraduates. As you know, most of the undergraduates came from Missouri and rightly considered themselves the center of the university. And when I would say, “You know, we’re not well known in other parts of the country.” They would say “What are you, crazy? What do you mean, everybody knows Rolla is the place to go, blah, blah, blah.” So I had a tough sell with the undergraduates. I remember having a couple of open meetings with them, they were very interesting. But with the other groups, I would get, you know, over 60% at least agreeing we should do it. And then, of course, we had to get the Board of Curators to bless it all, AND I was hoping that the other chancellors from the other three campuses, would not throw a monkey wrench into the deal. And I have to give great credit to the other three campuses, especially Brady Deaton for not doing that. And I think that the curators may have had cold feet right toward the end, and it was great to have some strong individuals like Gary Forsee and other members of my board to say the right things at the right time, and we unanimously did it. And it was, I think it was quite an event. And I was very proud of it. I think it took a year, or two, or three to really win over the vast majority of folks with an interest in the university. But, if you look at things now, look at the enrollment, look at where the students are coming from, I think it was a wonderful change to be made. And, of course, we are still part of the system, but now we have a name that says something, and I’m really proud of that.

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