The atmosphere in the Draper Museum rotunda was similar to a late night talk show.
One-liner after one-liner were peppered between facts and figures lauding the state of the University of Wyoming.
“We have put the turmoil behind us,” said UW President Dr. Dick McGinity, who served as master of ceremonies for “An Evening in Park County” on Monday, Aug. 3, at Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Referring to what host Al Simpson called the “ghastly few months” that saw the departure of several deans, McGinity said a “calmness has come over the university.”
“We have focus and energy,” he added.
Helping UW’s standing is a recent report listing it as the No. 9 school in the 2015 Forbes Best Value Colleges list. The Cowboy State’s only university trailed eight essentially tuition-free schools, five of which were military academies.
Present at Monday’s function were three recently hired deans, including:
• Dr. Sanjay Putrevu, College of Business.
• Dr. Ray Reutzel, College of Education.
• Dr. Klint Alexander, College of Law.
They each spoke about the vision they hope to bring to UW, and the business and personal partnerships that make the university a success.
“When Al Simpson speaks, the University of Wyoming family listens,” said McGinity after Simpson introduced him, referring to the 25th UW president as having provided a “steady hand at the helm.”
Simpson’s words and style were vintage “Al.” He told the 160-plus gathered, “The best papers I ever wrote were never published. One was called ‘Peeping Toms and Other Men of Vision’ ... and ‘The Role of the Deceased in Estate Planning.’”
Each speaker used humor and facts, one second telling a funny story about a UW alum who was in attendance, and then transitioning and offering useful information.
Alexander, who is from Nashville, Tenn., described Wyoming as a beautiful state.
“I feel like a tourist,” he said. “Everything here is a painting.”
He lauded the state’s support of public education, recognized Judge Steven Cranfill – “I’m looking forward to working with you” – and reminded attendees the UW College of Law “teaches our lawyers to hit the ground running.”
Following Alexander to the podium was Putrevu, who said he had informally polled several people earlier in the evening about jobs in Wyoming for college graduates. He also emphasized the importance of involving students in research and recognizing how vital learning is.
“I grew up in India as a member of the middle class and education is the key to doing well in life,” Putrevu said. “I want to pay it forward.”
Seconds later, his tone shifted.
“My door is always open. I’m on the third floor. You have to go through 19 other doors to get there, but my door IS always open.”
Reutzel was the final dean to speak and started by saying of his time in Wyoming in the early 1980s, “Everywhere I went I knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody ... Wyoming is one town with very long streets.”
Within minutes, Reutzel spoke proudly of the Trustees College of Education Initiative and the “Aspire Higher” philosophy.
“Our goal is to educate, graduate and place the finest teachers in the nation,” he said. “Education is a noble profession.
“Teachers at their very core are idealists who help every individual reach their potential as a human being.”
As the event neared completion, Ben Blaylock, president of the UW Alumni Association, discussed the aesthetic improvements on campus, specifically the new gateway, which is described on the UW website as follows:
“The Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center is the University of Wyoming’s ‘front door.’ It is a dramatic welcoming center with a state-of-the-art technological infrastructure.’”
Blaylock said the gateway provides a warm welcome to campus visitors, but jokingly warned of one factor that seemingly has haunted a good many who’ve been to or attended UW.
“As you’re walking to Knight Hall, you still get a parking ticket.”
(Vin Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)