Dr. Richard Rafes is like the Energizer Bunny -- he keeps going and going, intent on finding and making the most of any opportunity to advance East Central University.
After a year on the job as ECU's president, Rafes will be invested with the symbols of the office during his inauguration at 2 p.m. Friday [SEPT. 18] in Kerr Activities Center. The public is invited to the ceremony and a reception which follows in the University Center.
A light-hearted revue at 6 p.m., Tiger Tales, will end the day's activities and help fund a new scholarship. The show in the Dorothy Summers Theatre will include large-screen presentations about the university's presidents and entertainment that was popular during each era. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 580-559-5253.
"I am excited about the future of East Central University," Rafes said. "This university is highly regarded for so many of its programs, some of which are truly unique, and for having high-quality faculty who know their students. But there are so many opportunities to grow and excel.
"We are already seeing results from focusing on new objectives because of the hard work of the faculty and staff over the last year."
Rafes, the son of a physician and a teacher, spent his early years in Beaumont, Texas, but graduated high school from Culver Military Academy in Indiana. He credits Culver with teaching him self reliance and that there is no substitute for hard work.
A top student, Rafes also set 12 school records in football and was recruited by Harvard, Purdue, Tulane and others. He chose Tulane but left after a year when a new coach would not guarantee his scholarship.
He returned to Beaumont and Lamar University on a full scholarship, played football and was named an outstanding campus leader. He intended to become a doctor but changed his major to government. He earned a law degree from the University of Houston's Bates College of Law and looked for a job "that would be exciting," he said, "that would give me an opportunity to experience many facets of life."
He became an assistant attorney general for the state of Texas, and his first case was exciting - he traveled to California with a team of attorneys for a case involving the Howard Hughes estate. The novice lawyer was assigned to interview Billie Dove, a silent movie star acquaintance of Hughes, while the others talked with celebrities such as John Wayne.
Rafes later became general counsel of the Texas State University System in the Attorney General's Office. Next, he served as chief legal counsel for the University of North Texas System which included UNT at Denton and the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth.
He said his most enjoyable experiences came from advancing the university through partnerships with external entities, such as negotiating UNT's purchase of a Texas Instruments property which became a research park and home for a new engineering program.
Rafes was senior vice president for administration at UNT for four years, a time which fueled his desire to lead a university himself. He calls those years productive, filled with constructive changes rather than the combative process of the legal system.
He helped bring about the construction of a number of new buildings and facilities during that time as well as the completion of campus beautification projects.
Rafes also taught for 26 years, but the highlight of his time at UNT was meeting his future wife, Tommye. She was a student from Virginia who worked on campus and ran errands to his office.
An accomplished educator herself, she taught integrated physics and chemistry for 11 years and was selected as a teacher liaison for the National Space Foundation. She was "Teacher of the Year" at Gene Pike Middle School in Justin, Texas.
They have three daughters, Megan, a medical student at UNT's Health Science Center in Fort Worth; Rachelle, a student at Texas Tech University; and Courtney, a sophomore at Texas A&M.
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