Tony Frank reflects on his time as president of CSU and his new role as full-time system chancellor.
On June 30, Dr. Tony Frank will end his tenure as president of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. On July 1, he will begin serving full-time as the Chancellor of the three-campus Colorado State University System.
Turning over presidential responsibilities to Joyce McConnell will conclude nearly 11 years at the head of a university that has seen its share of challenges and made the most of a number of opportunities.
When Frank moved from the position of provost and executive vice president to the office of president in 2008, the nation and the state – and Colorado State University – had just plunged into the Great Recession, and the financial future was uncertain at best. As he moves into the System offices in downtown Denver, he leaves behind a campus that has not only undergone a more than $1.5 billion physical transformation but also continues to live up to the ideals of its land-grant mission, providing opportunities for access and success for students from increasingly diverse backgrounds and scholarship and research that serve the world.
Frank has been both CSU president and System chancellor for the past five years. As he looks ahead to his new role, SOURCE asked him about his vision for the next five years, and beyond.
Q. What exactly does the Chancellor of the Colorado State University System do?
A. I see my job as falling into three buckets: First, there is maintaining state and federal government relationships that can affect our budgets and research initiatives, while staying out of the political fray.
Then there is the closer integration of our three campuses – our flagship university in Fort Collins, our regional campus in Pueblo, and our CSU Global campus that delivers degree programs completely online. We’ve already begun the process, for example, with our IT staff and systems in Fort Collins providing support to the Pueblo campus, and we are looking for more opportunities to make wise investments that support all our campuses.
Related to that is our involvement in large special projects. The System has taken the lead in planning and getting the National Western Center (a partnership with the City and County of Denver to redevelop the National Western Stock Show Complex) up and running. The partners recently held the NWC groundbreaking, and we will be providing programming to the various campuses at the center, which is set to open in 2022.
And finally, the Chancellor is responsible for providing the vision for Colorado State. As I see it, if you are a student who wants to get a college education, CSU can provide what you need, wherever you are. In Fort Collins, we have an elite research university that embodies the land-grant mission of access and opportunity. CSU Pueblo is located in a relatively rural region of our state and has been designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution. And if you are an adult learner, a student who may not have finished your degree, place-bound, a member of the military, or whatever your circumstance, the Global campus gives you the opportunity to obtain the education that can help you improve your life, and yourself as a human being.
Q. How are you feeling about the transition to full-time Chancellor?
A. I’m feeling good. I am as proud of my time on campus as anything in my life, but a decade is a long time. I’m proud of where we are now, but it’s time for a fresh set of eyes that can see things that maybe we’ve learned to live with and say, “Let’s fix that,” or “We can freshen that up.”
I am a huge fan of Joyce (McConnell). I think she will be a great match for CSU. I look forward to working with her, as I do with Tim Mottet in Pueblo and Becky Takeda-Tinker at Global.
My approach to leadership has always been that it’s not about me, but about facilitating the success of other people. The position of Chancellor gives me the chance to help a whole lot more people succeed in a wider arena.
Q. In baseball terms, what kind of bench are you leaving for President McConnell?
A. CSU’s leadership team is very, very solid. Many of us have worked together for more than a decade, and a number of senior members are retiring, while others are continuing on. That leaves her a good mix, with space to build her own team but the luxury to listen to the campus community without having to scramble to keep the lights on.
Q. Do you think working in a downtown office will be different from working on the Oval?
A. It will be different, but not better or worse. Denver is a wonderful environment, but what the chancellor’s office won’t have is the vitality of the students, and the energy that comes from that. I have spent the vast majority of my life on a college campus as a student, a teacher, a researcher, or administrator – the past 25 years at CSU – and I’m sure I’ll miss aspects of that environment.
Q. Any final thoughts?
A. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” It has been a privilege to serve CSU as president, and as she starts her second 150 years, I’m looking forward to helping out in a different way.
You can read more thoughts from Tony Frank in the Spring 2018 issue of CSU Magazine