Dr. Gamble will continue working quarter-time at ENMU for at least a year in a capacity to be determined. During his 16 years, enrollment has grown every year, from 3,583 in 2001 to 6,014 in 2016 – an increase of 68 percent. Also, during that time ENMU’s campus has undergone approximately $175 million in campus improvement projects – mostly renovations of existing buildings.
In the following interview, Dr. Gamble, who has bachelor's, master's and doctorate from Texas Tech University, reflects not only on his experiences as president, but life outside of work.
Q. What are your retirement plans?
I bought a house near campus, and will stay there with my dad. I will work under the quarter-time provision at 10 hours per week – probably for a year. My responsibilities will be up to the new president. I will also do some traveling.
Q. What are some of the accomplishments that stand out during your time as ENMU president?
Playing a role in providing students with a degree that will influence the rest of their lives is the accomplishment that I’m proudest of. We will graduate over 1,300 this year. That’s more than double what we graduated 15 years ago.
Q. How does where ENMU is today compare to your vision for ENMU when you arrived?
Eastern was a good school long before I ever got here. My goal was to protect its strengths. For example, to protect the academic environment that had developed here through the years. We were a good academic school when I got here. I wanted to address some of the areas that I wouldn’t call strengths. Those two areas were enrollment and the need for continued renovation of the campus. In both of those areas we have done well in the past 16 years.
Q. What would you like to see ENMU accomplish in the future?
I would like to see ENMU continue to be consistent with the mission of the school. I truly believe that if we stay in accordance with our mission we will do well.
Q. As president, what were the hardest issues to deal with?
The most difficult problems are always personnel-related. Making decisions on retention of faculty and staff. Dealing with student discipline – especially with the discipline that could result in someone being suspended from the institution.
Q. What have you enjoyed most as president?
The interactions with the students, faculty, staff and alumni. Getting to interact with alumni who tell me the positive impact that Eastern had on their lives. And working with and talking with the faculty who unerringly put the needs of the university and the students ahead of their own. This is the most cooperative faculty I’ve ever worked with. A whole lot of my job is desk-bound. It has to be accomplished in the office. A lot of the paperwork, the studying of data to make the right decisions – that is not necessarily enjoyable work, but is very necessary. The enjoyment has been attending student concerts, eating lunch or dinner with students in the campus dining hall, meeting prospective students and their parents.
Q. What have you enjoyed least?
Having to deal with external matters that are beyond the control of the University. This is a very necessary part of the job, but I do better with decisions that are mine to make rather than trying to influence other people to make decisions that are positive for Eastern.
Q. What sparked your desire to become a university president?
When I first became a vice president for Academic Affairs for a university, I enjoyed the position and it was only logical that the next career step was to be a university president. By the way, the current crop of university presidents in New Mexico is the best group with whom I have worked in my 26 years as a president. That’s the truth.
Q. After being a university president for 26 years, are you ready for a break?
Well, I’m not burned out, but I’m ready to retire. I honestly believe I work as hard today as when I became a university president 26 years ago. It’s a very time-intensive job, and if you’re not willing to commit a large portion of your life to it you may not be successful.
Q. What are your hobbies?
I used to play a lot of golf. I gave that up about 20 years ago, and I gave up tennis about seven or eight years ago when my sciatic nerve blew out. I read a lot, and I travel when I can – maybe two- or three-day trips. I also enjoy attending concerts by 1950s and 60s “old washed-up” rock and roll acts. For example, Johnny Rivers is one of the best nostalgic acts. He can play hit after hit and doesn’t have to rely on patter or singing someone else’s songs. He’s still very, very good.
Q. What was your life like growing up?
Dad was a career military officer in the Air Force. I went to first grade on Guam, and still go back there every four or five years. We lived everywhere from Alaska to the Mojave Desert. I went to three different high schools. One in Greenville, Mississippi, one in Tokyo, Japan, and I finally graduated from Big Spring, Texas. We never lived anywhere in the United States for more than 24 months. Japan was a three-year tour though. We are a strong Christian family and we liked every place we lived.
Q. Do you have a general philosophy you try to live by?
I just try to follow the Golden Rule. I know that sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. It’s biblically based, and I just try to treat others like I’d like to be treated.
Q. How do you want people to remember you?
Just as a successful president who hired good people and worked hard. The majority of the success I’ve had is because of the people I was fortunate enough to hire or inherit. Ronnie Birdsong is a good example. What she did with enrollment was amazing. I had nothing to do with enrollment. I gave her the money to work with and told her to grow the enrollment – and she did.There are a lot of good people at Eastern who made their career at the school. We didn’t get to be a good school overnight. It was a good school when I got here and, hopefully, it’s a little better when I leave. I hope Dr. Elwell can say the same when he leaves the University.
Q. What is on your bucket list?
I really don’t have a bucket list. There aren’t things I’m dying to do. I’ve already traveled a lot of the world—mostly as a military dependent or when I was on active duty or in the reserve.People think I am kidding when I tell them my retirement goal is to grow old gracefully. But I am not. I guess part of a bucket list would include going back and revisiting the places I’ve lived before.
Q. Final thoughts?
I’ve enjoyed it all. I’m glad to see a person like Jeff Elwell follow me in the presidency. That’s always a worry for an outgoing president. Every contact I’ve had with him shows that he is a first-class person. I’m convinced he’s the right person for the job. I’d also like to thank all of the people—students, faculty, staff and alumni—that I’ve met or worked with over the past 16 years. I am grateful for their good work and support.
Resolution from Board of Regents
WHEREAS, Dr. Steven G. Gamble has served Eastern New Mexico University as president for sixteen years, supporting ENMU’s mission of providing the best possible education to the students who come to ENMU; and
WHEREAS, during that time, the campus has experienced continuous growth, increasing headcount enrollment by 68% and recognized by the Chronicle of Education as the 14th fastest growing institution in the Nation (2014-15); and
WHEREAS, under Dr. Gamble’s leadership, the University compiled an impressive list of recognitions for institutional quality and affordability from entities ranging from USA Today, TheBestSchools.org, and the Chronicle of Higher Education; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Gamble has guided the campus through almost $180M of renovation and construction that has significantly improved the teaching and learning environment for students and faculty; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Gamble has set a standard of openness, transparency, and mutual respect for ENMU students, faculty and staff and of collaboration and collegiality with other University presidents, legislators, and state officials; and
WHEREAS, by his regular attendance at and support of student events and the activities of Cannon Air Force Base and the Portales-Clovis metroplex, Dr. Gamble has demonstrated civic engagement with all sectors of the community; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Steven Gamble has positioned Eastern New Mexico University to prepare students to compete successfully with graduates of any other university now and for years to come;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Regents of Eastern New Mexico University does hereby confer the status of President Emeritus upon Dr. Steven G. Gamble this 3rd day of June 2017.