U. of North Texas-Dallas Chief, a Champion of 'Disruptive Innovation,' to Leave in 2013

Brandon Thibodeaux for The Chronicle

John Ellis Price, president of the U. of North Texas at Dallas.
July 24, 2012

The president of the University of North Texas at Dallas, who brought in Bain & Company and a high-profile commission of civic and business leaders to advise him on ways to turn the institution into a "model" 21st-century university, announced on Tuesday that he would not remain in the job after his contract ends, in August 2013.

John Ellis Price has said he came to UNT-Dallas with the goal of making it more than "just another university," and he gave no public hint of his plans to leave even as he continued to meet over the summer with a faculty-and-staff committee evaluating the ideas from Bain and other proposals. But in a universitywide memorandum released on Tuesday, the UNT system's chancellor, Lee F. Jackson, said Mr. Price had been discussing his departure for "several months."

The shape of the new model for UNT-Dallas is still uncertain, but Al Silva, a member of the Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century and of the UNT Board of Regents, said Mr. Price's departure was in no way a signal that the regents weren't committed to remaking the campus with new management features and other forms of "disruptive innovation," like the use of online courses, to help keep it affordable.

"There is no going back on that," he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Mr. Price, in an interview, said it was his idea that he leave in 13 months, even though it means he won't be overseeing whatever new model is instituted at UNT-Dallas. He said he had achieved what he set out to do, including putting the 2,000-student institution on a path toward its own independent accreditation and, through the work of the commission and the university committee, giving it "a platform for future success."

In June the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accepted the university's application for accreditation. The Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century is scheduled to make its final recommendations in September.

"I have worked with these exceptional minds to develop the conceptual framework for our new university model and will leave it to you and the new leadership to determine the best ways to implement it," Mr. Price wrote in a letter that was distributed to employees at UNT-Dallas on Tuesday.

His move followed the announcement this month that the provost, John M. Beehler, would become vice president for research. Mr. Price said the university needed Mr. Beehler's experience in that role to help it attract more grant money. The Bain proposals called for greatly de-emphasizing research, but both Mr. Price and Mr. Beehler said they didn't share that view.

Mr. Price, 60, was a tenured professor of accounting on UNT's main campus, in Denton, Tex., before he took over as vice chancellor and chief executive, in 2001, of what was initially a branch campus. He became the university's founding president in 2010.

He said he was unsure if he would return to teaching at Dallas, where he now has tenure, or seek other opportunities.

Correction (7/25/2012, 5:55 p.m.): This article incorrectly said that John Ellis Price took over the forerunner of the University of North Texas at Dallas as its founding president in 2001. He became the campus's vice chancellor and chief executive in 2001 and was named founding president of the new university in 2010. The article has been revised to reflect that.