By Katie Davern
Dr. Charles Eaker has been appointed provost and chief academic officer of the University of Dallas. Eaker is currently the longest serving academic administrator at UD, according to President Thomas Keefe.
Dr. Eaker filled the role of acting provost in the fall of 2014 while former provost, Dr. William Berry, took a leave of absence and administrative sabbatical. According to Keefe, Eaker had done such a good job serving as acting provost that Berry approached the Board of Trustees at the end of the semester with the recommendation that he serve as the permanent provost of the university.
Keefe explained that, according to the bylaws of the university, the Board of Trustees must approve the nomination by the president. This approval is conditional upon the president first consulting a committee of faculty members and administrators who give their advice and counsel regarding the nomination.
“I didn’t receive one negative comment about the appointment of Dr. Eaker,” Keefe said. “And I can tell you that in my five years at the University of Dallas, I don’t believe that there’s any suggestion that I’ve made that has been so overwhelmingly approved.”
Keefe believes Eaker complements his style as president and brings “critical intelligence and deep understanding of the university as a whole, a strong relationship with the faculty and the dean, [and] the respect of the Board of Trustees to the position. “
“I am an active president who is looking to continually improve the university. Dr. Eaker understands that,” Keefe stated. “As a team, Dr. Eaker is an exceptional complement to me.”
Eaker stated that his main role is to provide leadership and vision to the academic programs at the university – a role he finds both daunting and exciting.
“As an administrator I feel like I’m part of the bigger picture of the university,” Eaker explained. “Instead of me serving my role in the Chemistry department, I now can serve the university in a bigger way and help
maintain and improve the things that I think are important for the university.”
Now in his 39th year at UD, Eaker first came to the university in 1976 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He immediately enjoyed his first roles at the university in teaching and doing research. Eaker’s research, which specializes in reaction dynamics, has received funding from a variety of prestigious foundations. He has additionally served as an educational consultant to Texas Instruments, developing strategies for teaching science concepts and applying new methods of data collection and analysis.
As he worked here, Eaker said that he got to know faculty better and became involved in the Faculty Senate. He started seeing himself as taking on more administrative roles at the university, which eventually led to him becoming the Dean of Constantine College in 2005. Noting the special appreciation that both students and professors have for one another, Eaker feels that one of his most important duties is interviewing and hiring professors – something he sees as crucial to maintaining UD’s environment.
“The things I appreciate … about the University of Dallas, are more constant than changing. The thing that I enjoyed immensely as a teacher was that students here are interested in learning,” Eaker said. “That environment, that love of learning, is something that has remained constant for the years I’ve been here.”
Dr. John Norris, associate provost, said that he thinks that one of the greatest strengths Eaker brings to the position is efficiency, citing Eaker’s successes with the complex Southern Area of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation process. Norris also noted the development of new majors and programs under Eaker’s leadership, such as the Human Sciences in the Contemporary World major, the 3-2 program in Nursing with Texas Woman’s University, and the 3-2 program in Engineering.
Eaker is beloved by many colleagues and staff, not just for his excellent work skills, but for his character.
“He’s someone who sits down and talks with faculty and he talks to people and he finds out what’s going on,” Norris said.
Mrs. Sybil Novinski, who now works in the archives, first met Eaker at a lunch to interview him alongside former president Dr. Donald Cowan at the time Eaker first applied to teach at UD. She said that she feels that his integrity and love for the university are clear.
“That’s one reason I feel very comfortable that he’s the provost, because I know that he’ll always choose what he sees is good for the institution,” Novinski said.
“[Discipline is] bigger than a major, it’s a way of approaching the world,” Novinski said.
She cited Eaker’s 1992 fall convocation address in which he talked to the students about the joy of learning and discovery, recounting the story of how he learned quantum mechanics. He told them: “And for most of you it probably will not be quantum mechanics, but it might be creating a mathematical proof, or exploring Plato’s cave or staring at the powerful hand of Michelangelo’s David. The pursuit of truth occurs at many different levels and along many different paths, but each discovery that results from the struggle to learn and understand brings a profound joy.”
Senior chemistry major Alec DeKeratry, who has taken Eaker’s physical chemistry class, also thinks Eaker’s vision and understanding of the university makes him a good choice for the role of provost.
“When he’s teaching, he talks more about the meaning behind the physical chemistry in terms of a broader picture … he plays off the knowledge that we’ve learned from the Core, more so than I have experienced in my other chemistry classes,” DeKeratry said.
Going forward, Eaker says that one of his goals as provost is to provide more opportunities for students to be successful and achieve their goals. He also hopes to gain more international students as well.
“If [we are] good nationally, why wouldn’t it be even better to have even more of an international presence. We’ve got an agreement with various schools around the world now trying to see how we can bring students from other countries … and how we can have exchange programs and things like that. So I think that’s a direction that I think is very exciting and very interesting for the university,” Eaker concluded.