UNT Chancellor Lesa Roe, the First Woman to Lead the System, to Retire

Chancellor Lesa B. Roe, a three-decade NASA veteran, plans to retire in March 2022 after guiding UNT System through unprecedented growth for the last four years.

Effective March 31, 2022, The University of North Texas System’s Chancellor Lesa B. Roe will retire following a career that spanned four years at the UNT System and 33 years as an electrical engineer and executive at NASA. She was the first woman named to lead the system.

Impactful growth has been the story of the UNT System under Roe’s leadership since she arrived in October 2017.

UNT achieved a record combined enrollment of more than 47,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year between its three member institutions—the University of North Texas in Denton, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, and UNT Dallas—and set new records for degrees awarded, philanthropic fundraising, endowments for scholarships, and research expenditures.

By the numbers: She helped to increase system-wide degrees awarded by 15 percent to a record total of 11,901, grew endowments by 91 percent to a record $401 million level, and increased research expenditures by 69 percent to a record $128 million across the UNT System. That was all as of 2021.

That growth means more students’ lives have been transformed, more talented graduates are meeting workforce needs, and more discoveries are being made to solve problems. The university sees her leadership as helping to enable North Texas to move forward as a modern center of commerce.

From the start of Roe’s appointment, she has been responsible for all operational aspects of UNT’s multi-location system, including general oversight of a $1.3 billion budget, more than 14,000 employees, and the system’s campuses.

Below are several key accomplishments and milestones reached since her arrival:

  • UNT Dallas became the fastest-growing public university in Texas, eclipsing 4,000 students for the first time in 2019-2020;
  • Opened four new, or significantly renovated, facilities totaling more than $300 million in construction, including UNT’s College of Visual Arts & Design, HSC’s Interdisciplinary Research Building, UNT Dallas’ Student Center and the UNT Dallas Law Center;
  • Launched a new UNT branch campus in Frisco, with plans to expand the university’s presence to more than 100 acres in Collin County;
  • UNT joined UNT Dallas as a federally designated Minority Serving/Hispanic Serving Institution; and
  • Created and deployed system-wide strategies focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, including the appointment of the UNT System’s first chief diversity officer.

 

“Lesa Roe is a world-class leader who transitioned seamlessly into higher education following her NASA career—we are grateful for her service to the University of North Texas System,” Laura Wright, chair for the UNT System Board of Regents, said in a statement. 

Because of her idiosyncratic leadership strategies, Roe has not only been applauded by her team, but also by locals. For the last five years, she has been named to the Dallas 500, a list of the most influential business leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth compiled by D CEO Magazine.

Roe also serves as a board member for the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Citizens Council, Downtown Dallas Inc., and Space Dynamics Laboratory, and chair for the Texas Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC). She’s also a trustee for the Southwest Research Institute.

“It has been a great privilege to lead the UNT System in service to our students, the Dallas-Fort Worth Region and the great state of Texas,” Roe said. “Thank you to our institutions and the local community for embracing me—I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished, and I look forward to following the UNT System’s continued progress and cheering on the Mean Green.”

Prior to her arrival in North Texas, Roe was NASA’s second-in-command. Her role as chief operating officer capped a 33-year career in aerospace. In that role, she oversaw 17,000 NASA employees, a $19.6 billion budget, $31 billion in assets, and the operation of ten field centers across the nation.

During her tenure at NASA, Roe became the first woman to serve as Director of NASA Langley Research Center. She also served as Manager of the International Space Station (ISS) Research Program at the Johnson Space Center where she worked on 38 Space Shuttle and ISS missions in various leadership roles.

From space shuttles to scholarships, it was at NASA where Roe’s leadership skills were fostered, and at UNT where they flourished.

“Under Lesa’s guidance we have emerged as the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s leader for higher education, reaching new milestones in enrollment, research and fundraising, while deepening ties to the local business community as we educate and develop the workforce of tomorrow,” Wright said in a statement.”We will begin a search for our next Chancellor immediately and look forward to finding the right leader to help carry our momentum forward in service to our region and state.”

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