Guest writer

OPINION | STEUART WALTON: The right choice to propel U of A

A clear vision

Watching a rocket launch is a sight to behold. Lifting millions of pounds of hardware into space requires flawless execution, coupled with untold hours of planning, communication, and testing.

Applying this metaphor to our state's flagship university, I'd suggest we have had a successful first-stage launch. Notably, in 2011 the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville attained an R1 ranking for research activity, an elite designation awarded to only 3.7 percent of American universities.

Today the university's Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to fire the second stage of the rocket by choosing a bold and experienced leader as the next chancellor in Fayetteville.

The search committee tasked with identifying the next chancellor had a clear mission--to identify a leader who would continue the transformation of our university and establish a trajectory to "propel the institution among the nation's top public research universities." Finding such a leader was no easy task.

However, I believe they rose to the occasion by identifying Arkansas native Dr. Dan Reed. He is the right leader and I, alongside my family, agree with University President Dr. Don Bobbitt's recommendation and encourage the Board of Trustees to affirm it.

I am excited about the possibility for Dr. Reed's experience and clear vision to propel the university forward. I would encourage Arkansans to view his public presentation where he shares his vision. His accomplishments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Iowa, and the University of Utah have given him the depth of knowledge and experience that the U of A needs.

Dr. Reed's time at Microsoft and direct industry knowledge of how to build a pipeline for applicable and marketable academic research will undoubtedly open new pathways for resources, opportunities, and talent at all levels.

Some may ask why I wrote this or why I care so much, and it's simple: Arkansas has been home to our family for generations. We have continually worked to invest in our home state and give back in service of our community that enabled our success. The University of Arkansas has been an important piece of our state's success and will be critical for our prosperity tomorrow.

Choosing a new and different direction for leadership at one of the great Arkansas institutions carries risk. But transformation doesn't happen without responsible risk-taking--it is an essential part of life, education, and business. And leadership requires balancing risk and setting a vision, whether it's putting an American on the moon or leading a great university to new heights.

Reaching this next stage of our growth will require visionary leadership and relevant expertise. Dr. Reed is the right choice to get us there.

Steuart Walton is the co-founder of Runway Group, a holding company that invests in real estate, hospitality, and other businesses in northwest Arkansas, and the founder and chairman of Game Composites LLC., which designs and builds small composite aircraft. He serves on the board of directors of Walmart, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.