Posted: 7/01/24

A&M Chancellor Sharp Shares Retirement Plan


Chancellor John  Sharp
Chancellor John Sharp, The Texas A&M University System  

 Porter Garner jokes that he is not sure John Sharp ever sleeps.

“It’s not uncommon to get a text from John late at night, or at four in the morning,” said Garner, longtime president of The Association of Former Students at Texas A&M University. “He has some new idea or concept he’d like to discuss. Ultimately, it is about A&M, to benefit our students, our former students our university.”

“He’s the best chancellor we’ve ever had,” Garner added. “No chancellor in history has ever advanced Texas A&M and the Texas A&M University System like John Sharp has.”

Garner is among the Texans praising the era of the longest serving chancellor in the history of the Texas A&M System. Sharp announced Monday that he will retire as chancellor in 12 months.

“Texas is grateful for Chancellor John Sharp’s unwavering commitment to improving higher education in the State of Texas,” Governor Greg Abbott said. “His extraordinary leadership throughout his time as Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System provided young Texans with the tools they need to thrive in our booming economy.”

Sharp, who became Chancellor in September 2011, sent a letter Monday thanking past and present regents, system employees and elected officials for their years of support.

“Leading this grand enterprise has been one of the great privileges of my life,” Sharp said. “I feel a deep sense of gratitude to all of you who have shown confidence in me and contributed to our collective endeavor. Together we have lifted the Texas A&M System to historic heights.”

The Board of Regents will conduct a national search in the coming months for Sharp’s successor, said Chairman Bill Mahomes.

“It’s an understatement to say we have giant boots to fill,” said Mahomes, a regent since 2015. “John Sharp is an Aggie icon – bigger than life – and we all are the beneficiaries of his bold leadership. He has made the System smarter, more innovative, and more responsive to the needs of Texans in every corner of the state.”

Phil Adams, who served on the Board of Regents during the first 10 years of Sharp’s tenure, applauded the breadth of Sharp’s accomplishments.

“The A&M System has become a dynamo nationally since John Sharp became chancellor,” Adams said. “He has had more vision, energy, and know-how than anyone else. Every year he had a big idea, and it got done.”

TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz, who has served TAMIU and the A&M System throughout Chancellor Sharp’s tenure, concurred.

“Chancellor Sharp is a visionary and a leader who thinks bold and acts bolder. The imprint of his leadership on the A&M System is multi-generational. He’s called TAMIU the ‘jewel of the A&M System’s regional campuses,’ and he’s done everything to make sure that jewel shines brighter and brighter every year.  When he visits campus, he always wants to meet with students and hear about their experiences.  They treat him like a rock star.  His will be some very big boots to fill, but I’m honored to have served him, and know that he will likely redefine what being retired looks like,” Dr. Arenaz said.

Some of the Sharp era achievements:

  • A historic building boom with $11.4 billion for 306 projects that improved facilities at all 11 System universities and eight state agencies.
  • The Chancellor’s Research Initiative built up key research fields by recruiting elite faculty. With additional support from the Governor’s University Research Initiative, the effort has led to a five-fold boost in faculty who are national research leaders as evidenced by membership in the elite National Academies in engineering, science, and medicine.
  • The transformation of Riverside Campus into Texas A&M-RELLIS, a high-tech hub of research labs and test ranges to innovate for national defense and a variety of other needs. With backing from the U.S. Army Futures Command and numerous other outside stakeholders, the System and the state invested over $1 billion at RELLIS in the past eight years. The campus also includes an innovative academic component.
  • The acquisition and growth of the Texas A&M School of Law, which has risen faster in national rankings than any law school in history. It is now considered No. 2 in Texas.
  • The construction and renovation of athletic facilities throughout the System, most notably Kyle Field. Reopened in 2015 with more than 102,000 seats, it is the fourth biggest football stadium in the nation and the biggest in the SEC.
  • The 10-year agreement to co-manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory, helping with lab management, nuclear operations and national security and scientific research.
  • A more detailed list of accomplishments is available here.

In his letter, Sharp noted proudly that “Texas A&M, in particular, has grown to become the school of choice, with one of the biggest enrollments in the nation” while “our culture, our traditions, and the patriotic fervor of our students remain intact. We reflect the great traditions and culture of the state of Texas.”

Sharp earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M in 1972. He was a member of the Corps staff of the Corps of Cadets, and he was elected student body president.

Before becoming chancellor, he had decades of public service, beginning in 1978 when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. He later was elected to serve in the Texas Senate, on the Texas Railroad Commission and twice as state comptroller.

Twice Sharp played critical roles in debates on the future of taxation and state finance in Texas.

In 1991, with the state government facing looming deficits, Sharp, as the newly elected Comptroller of Public Accounts, issued a performance report (Breaking the Mold) that found billions of dollars in efficiencies to sidestep the crisis.

Again in 2006, Sharp – by then out of office – was called by his old college friend and political rival, Governor Rick Perry, to lead a tax reform commission and resolve a school finance crisis that threatened to close public schools. The commission created a business tax in lieu of an income tax.

“I killed the income tax twice,” Sharp said.

Perry was not the only governor to call on Sharp.

In 2017, Governor Greg Abbott named Sharp as the leader of the Commission to Rebuild Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Sharp accepted the challenge and the unpaid position while continuing to serve as the chancellor of the A&M System.

“Chancellor Sharp rose to the occasion and helped ensure victims received all the necessary resources to recover,” Abbott said.

Later, the state decided to improve coordination of disaster response by adding the Texas Division of Emergency Management to the A&M System as its eighth state agency.

“I thank Chancellor Sharp for his dedication to chartering a brighter future for Texas,” Abbott said, “and I am proud of the work we achieved together for students across our great state and for all Texans.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called Sharp “a Texas institution.”

“Throughout his 45 years of public service in many different roles, Chancellor Sharp learned and perfected how to get things done in Austin,” Patrick said. “In his years as Texas A&M Chancellor he was a fierce advocate for the Aggies and will leave an indelible mark on higher education in Texas long after his retirement. Chancellor Sharp is ever a maverick; he managed to keep me on my toes throughout my time as a public servant. I always enjoyed our meetings and dealings. He is truly one of a kind and I thank him for his public service.”

State Rep. Greg Bonnen, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, placed Sharp in the pantheon of Aggie leadership.

“Texas A&M has had many great leaders like Sul Ross and James Earl Rudder, each leaving behind a legacy that reverberates through the character and values of Texas A&M,” Bonnen said. “As John Sharp’s tenure draws to a close, he steps into the history pages of this elite class of Aggie leaders, adding an indelible chapter of transformational advancements and life-changing achievements. His practical and enthusiastic guidance, driven by the spirit of the 12th Man, has forever changed Texas A&M and made our state and country safer and more prosperous for generations to come. I am grateful to Chancellor Sharp and his family for his many years of service to this great institution and the State of Texas.”

In his letter, Sharp said, “While I am retiring from this job, I will find ways to continue to serve the great state I love.”

He added, “One thing is for certain, I will never be too busy or too old to help Texas A&M and the Texas A&M System.”



The Chancellor’s letter is available here.

A downloadable video message from the Chancellor is  here.

tamiu-ccht-group shot with Chancellor John Sharp and Cong. Henry Cuellar

The Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp joined TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz, Congressman Henry Cuellar, and TAMIU and community partners for February's announcement of the new  Center to Counter Human Trafficking  which received $1 million to develop the human trafficking research program.