McALLEN — After nearly 10 years in leadership, Texas A&M University-Kingsville President Steven Tallant announced his plans to retire effective December 2018, but before that even happens, he said it’s his intent to have a fully accredited campus in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I had some goals for this year; I wanted to get us accredited for a college of business … and we got that in October,” Tallant said during an interview Monday. “The other thing I wanted to do was to get (SACSCOC) accreditation for Weslaco so that it could be a full-blown branch campus, and we just finished review. I know we are going to get that … I wanted to leave us in good, good shape for the Valley and I’m doing that.”
The announcement of his retirement as the 19th president of the institution broke Monday morning, and Tallant said his decision to retire was based solely on his need to spend more time with his family, in particular his wife of more than 40 years.
“These have been the best 10 years of my professional life, and I love South Texas,” he said. “But I’m going to be 70 years old. I’ve been married 44 years and I just think that for me and my grandchildren and family, it’s time to go to the next stage of my life. … I need to spend time with my wife. We are not going to have each other forever.”
Tallant was hired by the Texas A&M University System in 2008 and is the third-longest-serving president for TAMUK. Before his arrival at Kingsville, he was provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
One of his goals over his tenure was to nurture the university’s roots in the Rio Grande Valley, he said, as the area has historically provided a vast number of alumni, especially the Hidalgo and Cameron counties, where most of their students are from.
“Our bread and butter and who we get the most are Valley kids, and I love Valley kids,” Tallant said. “Valley kids do not feel entitled. They are hard working, lower-middle class who work for anything they want in life, and I just find them an inspiration every day.”
TAMUK was the first university in South Texas in 1925, he said, and even though they have worked to expand courses that are offered in the area — such as the recently created paths toward several engineering degrees which launched in 2016 — they have only been permitted to teach no more than 49 percent of a degree in the area due to accreditation limitations.
But Tallant is confident that this will soon change as the university received a positive review from the accrediting agency SACSCOC — the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges — on their application to offer full four-year degrees in Weslaco.
“This took us several years of putting this together,” he said about the opportunity to get full accreditation for the campus. They came and they visited us, and they issued a draft report two weeks ago and they told me we are going to get it, and I answered the report. We believe we can have full accreditation by June or July.”
Tallant said even though they are still waiting on final confirmation from SACSCOC, they are in talks of what full degrees can be offered starting this fall, and so far agricultural degrees have been part of the initial conversations. In the meantime, he plans to continue visiting the area to leave a steady plan of action before his exit.
For now, the Texas A&M system is expecting to form a search committee soon to begin the search for a successor, but so far no timeline has been announced.
“Steve Tallant is one of a kind,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp in the release. “He has been an incredible asset to the Texas A&M System and to Texas A&M-Kingsville. Finding another Steve Tallant will be a real needle-in-the-haystack challenge. We will all miss him greatly and wish him and his wife well in their retirement.”