WT starts academic year with convocation, recognizes top faculty and staff

Local News

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – AN agricultural sciences professor called a “true champion of students” and a staff member described as innovative and behind the scenes were celebrated by West Texas A&M University during its Monday convocation ceremony.

Professor of agricultural education and Department of Agricultural Sciences Head Dr. Lance Kieth was named 2021-22 Magister Optimus, the highest honor for a WT faculty member. Senior director for campus community Chance Haugen was given the Clarence E. Thompson Staff Excellence Award, the University’s highest staff honor.

“Convocation marks the beginning of the academic year, and WT’s faculty and staff gathered “to recognize exemplary faculty and staff, be inspired as we envision the future, and prepare for the upcoming year,” said vice president for philanthropy and external relations Dr. Todd Rasberry.

The University said that WT President Walter V. Wendler discussed the University’s long-range and strategic plans with the gathered staff. During his remarks, he reported that WT’s doctoral program in educational leadership has grown to more than 100 students, with additional growth in the Ph.D. program in agriculture.

“I am proud to be associated with WT, and I hope you are as well as we begin this new academic year,” Wendler said.

The ceremony also included honoring Staff Excellence Award winners Kyler Estes, assistant director of operations in the Office of Admissions, and Sarah Ramey, head strength and condition coach in WT Athletics.

Continuing to describe Kieth, the University he joined WT in 2001, tasked to rebuild the agricultural education program. That year, he had only eight students, but the ranks swelled to more than 100 within his first four years.

“Over his career he has taught thousands of students in the art of teaching, and these students have gone on to represent WT at the highest of levels,” Faculty Senate President Dr. Anne Medlock-Ely said. “Dr. Kieth is a true champion of students.”

The Magister Optimus winner is voted on by the Faculty Senate and must have taught at WT for at least six consecutive years, according to the University.

Haugen was described as having joined WT in 2005 in recreational sports before moving to the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

“Chance Haugen is one of the most hardworking, engaged professionals that I have had the opportunity to work with at WT,” said Mike Knox, vice president for Student Enrollment, Engagement and Success. “Everything that Chance works on is a success, and his service touches the entire campus community and beyond.”

The Thompson Award is named for a former mayor of Canyon who worked at WT for decades, ultimately serving as vice president for business and finance.

Estes was noted as having joined the WT Office of Admissions in 2013, where he is known for his detail-oriented work in making sure students are correctly entered in WT’s system.

“He also is one of the kindest people around our University,” Dane Glenn, president of the WT Staff Council, said in presenting the award. “He always responds to emails and phone calls with polite answers, and never seems to have a bad day, though I know we all do. He is an exemplary employee in the background that must be brought to the forefront.”

Ramey, a 14-year veteran at WT, was cited for her “dedicated and diligent efforts” in helping guide WT Athletics through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In spite of the pandemic, the 2020-21 athletic season has been one of the best in the history of WT Athletics, with championships and memorable moments that brought attention to our great university,” WT Athletic Director Michael McBroom said. “The leadership, initiative and drive of Sarah Ramey helped guide our program through the unique challenges of this past year and make our success possible.”

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