- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

DALLAS Texas A&M; University regents passed over Texas' senior U.S. senator, Phil Gramm, yesterday and picked a former Central Intelligence Agency director as the university's president-to-be.
Mr. Gramm, a former economics professor at the College Station school, has announced that he will retire from the Senate in January. Though he did not publicly seek the A&M; job, he had strong support from alumni groups and reportedly told close friends he would accept if the job were offered.
The regents yesterday designated Robert Gates, 58, who led the CIA from 1991 to 1993, as the only finalist for the job. Under Texas law, the university now has to wait 21 days before officially offering Mr. Gates the job.
Though he had been with the CIA for most of his adult life, Mr. Gates was not unknown in Aggieland. From 1999 to 2001, he headed the Texas A&M; George Bush School of Government and Public Service in College Station.
Board Chairman Earl Nye of Dallas said yesterday he did not expect anything would arise to change the regents' minds. "Barring some remarkable development," said Mr. Nye, "this matter is largely concluded."
The regents voted 5-2 for Mr. Gates over Mr. Gramm, with another candidate, Jon Whitmore, provost of the University of Iowa, receiving no votes. Mr. Gramm's wife, Wendy, a regent, abstained from voting.
Strong late support for Mr. Gramm caused considerable strain among the regents. Two powerful alumni groups, the Association of Former Students and the 12th Man Foundation, endorsed Mr. Gramm in the past few days, and both had representatives at the meeting yesterday to make strong pitches for the senator.
Regents have been bombarded with e-mails and faxes in recent days on behalf of Mr. Gramm. The alumni association has more than 260,000 ex-student members.
"I think there was really a missed opportunity here, and that Sen. Gramm clearly had the support of the A&M; community," said regent Phil Adams of College Station. "Obviously, the other regents didn't see it that way."
Though Mr. Gates didn't elicit the public support that buoyed Mr. Gramm's candidacy, he gained the strong recommendation of the search committee, which included many faculty members. About 125 possibles were on the original list.
"What you saw today isn't the full view of the support for Dr. Gates," said regent Lionel Sosa of San Antonio. "There are considerable numbers of Aggies who supported Dr. Gates. He was at this university for two years. I think all Aggies will see those assets as they get to know him."
The verdict yesterday likely will cool speculation in Austin and Washington that the Republicans might gain a distinct advantage if Mr. Gramm had gotten the job and decided to begin his new assignment earlier than January.
In that scenario, Texas Gov. Rick Perry would have named state Attorney General John Cornyn to serve out the last few months of Mr. Gramm's term, giving him an advantage in his November race against former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for the Senate seat.
Though the speculation intensified in recent weeks, Mr. Gramm always had vowed he would not leave early.
Remarks Mr. Gates made at a public reception irked some alumni, one Gramm supporter said. "I am an agent of change," he said. "If you wish to maintain the status quo or something close to it, I am the wrong man for the job."
John L. Junkins, an aerospace engineering professor who headed up the search committee, said he believed Mr. Gates didn't mean he wanted to change the university drastically.
"I think what he was talking about," said Mr. Junkins, "was elevating academics at Texas A&M; and raising the money to make that happen. I also think he had the political clout and national reputation to work with federal and state governments."


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