The University of North Texas System Chancellor Lee Jackson said Thursday he’ll retire at the end of August. He’s been on the job for the last 15 years. Jackson’s service in North Texas goes back decades.
Jackson became UNT’s third chancellor after serving as Judge of the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court and spending time in the state legislature.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said those political and personal experiences helped him excel as a leader of the UNT system.
“Lee is a strategist first and foremost,” Rawlings said. “He really understands the big picture and what organizations need. That’s what that system got. He was also able to collaborate with people. You’ve got to build a team to do that. And he was able to collaborate across North Texas.”
Jackson spent part of his tenure improving UNT’s academic reputation. Back in 2011, he told KERA that UNT’s schools needed to be more competitive to keep the brightest talent in Texas.
“We have 10,000 top high school students in Texas who now leave every year for other states and 4,000 from other states who come to Texas,” Jackson said. “So we have a 6,000-student-a-year brain drain already. Helping our universities — not just one but three or four or five or 10 — develop a stronger academic reputation will help us keep more of those top students.”
Under Chancellor Jackson, UNT’s four-year graduation rate more than doubled, and the number of annual degrees jumped from 5,000 to nearly 10,000. To better attract top teachers, researchers and students, investments in research more than doubled to $68 million a year. And he helped establish the new public university at UNT Dallas, the first public campus within city limits.
Mayor Rawlings says it’ll be tough to fill Lee Jackson’s shoes.