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Best Betz


UCO’s new president is no stranger to higher education in Oklahoma.

Emily Summars July 27th, 2011

Don Betz isn’t the restoring-sailboats-playing-17-rounds-of-golf kind of guy.

He takes pleasure in the little things in life, because he doesn’t have time for much else; Betz  (pictured right) officially takes office Monday as the 20th president of the University of Central Oklahoma.

“When you are selected and choose to follow a pathway like this, you realize that there’s no downtime,” Betz said. “It’s not like you’re somebody eight hours a day, and then you’re somebody else later. You’re literally on call always.”

And Betz means “always.”

He said being the president of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah is similar to being the mayor of a town. Except that “town” is about to get a whole lot bigger.

“His understanding of higher education, of the world, and his unique skills in communication really make him the perfect person for UCO at this time,” retiring UCO President W. Roger Webb said.

Webb is leaving at the end of this month and is helping Betz make the transition from NSU to UCO.

“His persona and capacities go beyond; I’ve seen him deliver in so many different situations,” Webb said.

Webb and Betz met in 1978 when Webb became NSU president.

“I bet it wasn’t two weeks after he arrived that we had really connected,” Betz said. “Obviously, we meet a lot of people, but it’s one of those things that happen. He and I’ve been associated for 33 years now.”

In fact, Betz is returning to UCO; from 1999 to 2005 Betz was UCO vice president for academic affairs and professor of political science. Betz said he didn’t choose Oklahoma, but the state chose him.

“A one-year temporary assign-ment from my perspective turned into a 23-year career move,” he said.

Betz had just returned from Beirut when he became a political science professor at NSU in 1971.

“It turns out, I ended up in an international location in the midst of Oklahoma,” Betz said.

Betz said Native American tradition piqued his interest, along with returning Vietnam veterans. Vets were very interested in learning about where they were stationed, generally Kason, Betz said.

Betz furthered his knowledge of international affairs when he took a leave of absence from NSU to work for the United Nations. Bringing his experience back, Betz was the adviser for NSU’s model United Nations class.

“I’ve known him in a variety of roles since then,” Oklahoma Secretary of State Glenn Coffee said. “He has a tremendous amount of energy. He’s tough on himself and tough on his students; he has high expectations and strives for excellence in all he does.”

Coffee is a former student of Betz’s and has known him 26 years.

Webb said UCO has grown into a dynamic, exciting metropolitan university.

“Students expect high quality and value,” Webb said. “There is a different set of expectations … no longer as administrators can we sit back.”

Webb said Betz understands challenges facing students and faculty. Students are technologically advanced, interactive learners, and Betz “gets that,” Webb said.

After four decades in higher education, Betz said it’s more than a paycheck.

“I don’t have a job; I have a lifestyle,” Betz said. “The growth and development of the people we serve is, for me, a very strong factor in encouraging my continuing interest in higher education. It’s service leadership.”

 
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