Abdallah returns to the 'heart' of UNM - Albuquerque Journal

Abdallah returns to the ‘heart’ of UNM

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

After 14 months as acting and then interim president of the University of New Mexico, Chaouki Abdallah said he is happy to be returning to “the heart of the university.”

Abdallah was named by the UNM Board of Regents to take up the school’s reins after the board and former President Bob Frank reached an agreement that led to Frank leaving the post on Dec. 31, 2016.

Abdallah will resume his previous position as university provost when Garnett Stokes assumes the presidency later this week.

Stokes has been provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri since February 2015, and takes over at UNM on Thursday.

Abdallah, who jokes he did not know what a provost did when he took on that role in 2011, said he now considers that job perhaps the most vital at the school.

“I am the chief academic officer,” he said Monday during a reception recognizing his work at the university’s helm. “I am responsible for the teaching and research mission, for the faculty, i.e. all that matters at the university.”

During Abdallah’s time as provost and interim president, UNM has made impressive progress in first-year student retention and graduation rates.

Earlier this month, the university’s regents paid tribute to Abdallah’s contributions in the top job by conferring upon him the honor of being UNM’s 22nd president.

So forget the acting or the interim tags. When Stokes starts the job, she will be the university’s 23rd president.

Chaouki Abdallah and his wife, Catherine Cooper, enjoy comments made during a reception in Abdallah’s honor on Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

At Monday’s reception in the lobby of Popejoy Hall, about 150 UNM staff, faculty and students gathered to show their appreciation for Abdallah’s leadership. There was cake, a board on which people could write messages of gratitude and no shortage of high praise.

“He leads with a conscience and is very effective,” said Pamela Pyle a piano professor in UNM’s College of Fine Arts and Faculty Senate president. “He communicates both ways – up and down – and he has the best interests of the university at heart. He cares about people. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

David Harris, UNM’s executive vice president for administration, said he knows only too well how tough it is to serve as UNM’s temporary president because he was the university’s acting president from January 2006 until May 2007. He said he believes Abdallah did a better job than he had done.

“I think Chaouki had more of the thunder for the job because he is more comfortable reaching out to the community,” Harris said. “I could not see myself doing that and I’ve lived here all my life.”

Richard Wood, UNM professor of sociology, has been serving as interim provost in Abdallah’s stead and will resume his former role as interim senior vice provost this week. He said Abdallah demonstrated terrific leadership of a university that has been plagued by controversies in the athletic department and nine years of budget cuts .

“He is a graceful leader with a sense of humor, and in a polarized world we need some grace and humor,” Wood said.

Abdallah has needed grace under pressure during his time in the president’s office. He had to deal with revelations that the university improperly used money in 2015 to pay expenses for potential donors on a golf trip to Scotland. And, earlier this month, the university suspended head football coach Bob Davie for 30 days after an investigation into the football program.

At Monday’s reception, Abdallah credited his wife, Catherine Cooper, with helping him through the tough times.

“When I go home, I know I’m going to have someone to smile at me and tell me everything is going to be OK,” he said. “I have learned that the most successful leaders are the ones who solve problems, who take down barriers. The best definition of a leader is one who defines reality. That is the first thing leaders do. The last thing is to say, ‘Thank you.’ ”

He admitted he has learned one more thing. Asked by the Journal if he would consider taking on the presidency of a university after his experience in the office at UNM, he said, “I have learned never to say never.”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Abdallah returns to the ‘heart’ of UNM

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Meateor Burgers to close at end of June
ABQnews Seeker
Business was going well for the ... Business was going well for the burger joint in the 505 Central Food Hall. But the business partners found out several weeks ago that ...
Hey MVD, where’s my license plate sticker?
ABQnews Seeker
I realized I had not received ... I realized I had not received the license-plate sticker over the Memorial Day weekend, and I remembered the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division had ...
Police searching for suspect in woman's slaying
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are searching for a ... Albuquerque police are searching for a man who they said killed his ex-girlfriend this weekend. Police said they responded to the home of Julias ...
APD: Three killed at house party
ABQnews Seeker
Three young adults were killed and ... Three young adults were killed and a girl was injured at a shooting during a party in northeast Albuquerque early Sunday morning. It took ...
Pet care: Scratching the surface of an itchy situation
ABQnews Seeker
We learn a lot about pets ... We learn a lot about pets by watching them move. ... I observe by trying to be inconspicuous, like a fly on the wall ...
New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico Finance Authority launches ... New Mexico Finance Authority launches program to rehabilitate homes.
New Mexico's free child care program a lifeline for ...
ABQnews Seeker
More than 40,000 families around New ... More than 40,000 families around New Mexico are eligible for free child care, based on income. However, only about 1 in 4 of those ...
‘We Spread’ explores what it means to grow old
ABQnews Seeker
"We Spread" is a taut novel ... "We Spread" is a taut novel packed with mysteries, starting with the title and a front cover design ...
Annual exhibit boasts layers of pastels with 'Enchanted Colors'
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Pastel Society's annual ... The New Mexico Pastel Society's annual exhibition encompasses 73 works at the Millicent Rogers Museum, augmented by an additional 40 online.