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April 2, 2010

Cofer award well deserved

We join the community in recognizing Dr. James E. Cofer Sr., president of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, recipient of this year's E. Joseph Savoie Chief Executive Leadership Award presented by District IV of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

While the years have flown since Jim and Deborah Cofer became not only ULM's first family but also key community leaders, the award presentation in Austin coincided with Cofer's eighth anniversary at ULM.

CASE established the award in 1999 to recognize the chief executive of a member institution for leadership and service in support of education. District IV includes Arkansas, Mexico, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The award was renamed in 2007 to honor then-Louisiana higher education Commissioner E. Joseph Savoie for his leadership in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"When we looked at the presidents who were nominated, Dr. Cofer stood out not only for his qualifications, but because he brought a fresh face, a new hope and a renewed enthusiasm to ULM," said Liz Landry, chair-elect of CASE District IV.

Cofer became ULM president on March 28, 2002, during a time of declining enrollment, financial deficits and deteriorating infrastructure. The Cofers became the "most visible people on campus," getting to know not only students, faculty and staff, but also attending literally every university function. Thousands of students, faculty, staff, community leaders and area residents were involved in their first initiative — "Reclaiming Our Campus."

That involvement has continued. You can rarely walk with the Cofers on campus without stopping to talk to students, alumni, faculty or staff. They are as comfortable eating lunch in the cafeteria as they are hosting formal events on the top floor of the university library or at the president's residence, Bon Aire.

The campus itself is a very different place, not only in appearance with more than $80 million in improvements, but in academic matters. The list of accomplishments is long, but perhaps the most significant to the community and university were Cofer's efforts that secured new facilities for the university's flagship pharmacy program and ensured its continued accreditation and position as the only state-supported College of Pharmacy.

The renaissance era at ULM continues. The university's "students first" emphasis has resulted in living-learning communities, peer and faculty mentoring programs, extensive undergraduate research initiatives and online courses and degree programs.

ULM and our region are fortunate to have Cofer's commitment and leadership. This recognition by peers in the higher education community confirms an outstanding performance we have watched unfold.


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