By Dinorah Prevost
Amid the frustration that came after the former regional chancellor’s abrupt departure, Martin Tadlock, 63, has made it his mission to calm the nerves of students and faculty.
Last week, the new leader of the university assured the campus community that things will proceed smoothly in the months ahead.
Some of the forums were tense, as he contended with fuming faculty members who wanted answers.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about any one of (the faculty). It’s about how you treat (the students) and help them grow and reach their goals,” said Tadlock at a forum Wednesday. “If you focus on that, all your cares and worries are easier … So don’t forget that in the middle of a hurricane or a firing.”
Taking on the role of an interim university leader is familiar territory for Tadlock.
He was interim president of the Northeastern State University in Oklahoma for six months in 2011 after Don Betz, his predecessor, left to become president of another university. The chairman of the board at NSU recommended Tadlock for the position.
Joining USF St. Petersburg as vice chancellor of academic affairs 14 months ago, Tadlock directed the creation of a master academic plan to set the university’s goals for growth for the next five years. The goals of the plan included doubling the number of academic majors, reducing the cost of textbooks and doubling the number of part-time campus jobs.
At one of his faculty forums last week, Tadlock detailed his early life and his long journey toward college.
Tadlock grew up “dirt poor” in small town Rockingham, North Carolina. After high school, his father didn’t support his decision to go to college, calling it a “stupid idea.” No one in his family had gone.
In the midst of thinking about life after high school, Tadlock was at risk of being drafted for the Vietnam War, even as it was ending. He was terrified.
“I was watching on TV one night and they were rolling the Powerball cage, but it really was the lottery for the draft. And they pulled my birthday out, the number 12. I was the number 12 birthday that they pulled out of the cage … So I was going ‘Ok, I’m going to be packing a rifle and going to Vietnam if I don’t do something’,” he said.
Instead of waiting for the draft to send him to Vietnam, he signed up for the Air Force.
“I called a friend of mine and we went downtown the next day to the Air Force recruiter, and we signed up for the Air Force. I went home and told my mom and she cried,” Tadlock said.
He served in the Air Force for four years, married and had kids. Toward the end of his tour, he lived in Turkey. There he started thinking about life and work beyond his discharge. The thought of the GI Bill popped up, but he was frightened by the idea of college and quickly nixed it.
That outlook changed after taking a writing class in Turkey through extension services by the University of Maryland. He got a B.
After leaving the Air Force, he went on to Utah State University. But the road to graduation wasn’t easy. He and his wife both worked while he went to college.
What kept him at the university were the people. It was the advising offices and his professors, who were “so nice” and encouraging. After six years, three major changes and many excess credits, he earned his bachelor’s degree in geography with a minor in English.
He later went on to earn a master’s in secondary education at Utah State and a doctorate in educational administration and leadership at Miami University in Ohio.
First week as campus leader
That’s the word Tadlock used to describe his first week.
Behind the scenes, the greatest challenge has been learning how to balance the workload of his new role with that of his academic affairs position.
Since Thursday, Tadlock has tried to integrate the regional chancellor’s calendar with his vice chancellor of academic affairs calendar. He’s held forums, created new events all the while trying to find time to introduce himself to legislators, government officials, donors and various city and county organizations.
Tadlock has been making those phone calls with the help of William T. “Bill” Hogarth, who is tasked with helping Tadlock in his new role, and Helen Levine, regional vice chancellor of governmental relations. Hogarth himself was interim regional chancellor before Wisniewska took the position in July 2013.
Information for this article was gathered from Tahlequah Daily Press, NewsOK and Muskogee Phoenix.
Header photo courtesy of USFSP