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Gamble returns to head ENMU-R as interim; Retired system president takes helm during search

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A familiar face will be back on the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus to head up operations while the search for a permanent president is underway.

Dr. Steven Gamble, the retired president of the Eastern New Mexico University system, has been selected to serve as the interim head of ENMU-Roswell.

The current ENMU system president, Dr. Jeff Elwell, also announced Friday that he intends to begin the presidential search immediately and to have the new person in Roswell by Aug. 15.

The announcement was made to the university campus and the public after Elwell spoke Wednesday with the ENMU-R Community College Board and met Friday with the ENMU Board of Regents at the Ruidoso campus.

“Dr. Gamble will do a fantastic job as the interim president at ENMU-Roswell,” said Elwell. “He already knows the faculty, staff, the Roswell Community College Board and the community. He is well-respected and beloved.”

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The president of the ENMU-R board agreed.

“I cannot imagine anyone more welcome back to this campus to lead us through the rough times than Dr. Gamble,” said Eloise Blake. “He is a communicator. He is a peace-keeper and he is a people person. He knows our mission. He knows the relationship between our campus and Portales. I think he will be a tremendous asset to Dr. Elwell.”

Gamble headed the ENMU system from 2001 to 2017, retiring as president in July. He now holds the title of president emeritus with an office on the Portales campus. In that capacity, he worked quarter-time handling issues, concerns or requests as asked. For example, he said, he recently gave a talk about leadership at ENMU. Prior to joining Eastern, he had been president of Southern Arkansas University for nine years starting in 1992.

Gamble said that his work on the Roswell campus will begin early next week and will include meetings with senior administrators and faculty and staff. He said he intends to limit his time on campus to 20 hours, or two to three days, a week.

“I have a dad — he will be 98 in August — who lives with me and I am the caregiver for him, so I have to balance the two,” he said.

He said he does not intend to bring change while he serves in the temporary post.

“I don’t think they (staff) need to adjust changes I make and then to changes a new president brings in,” he said. “One of my jobs down there is very simply to maintain a status quo until we get a new president, but status quo does not mean we are not going to try to move forward. As things come up that need to be addressed, we are going to address them.”

He said his goals will include ensuring that the campus does not get distracted from its mission to educate students and that decisions are made and actions taken promptly as needed.

“One of the reasons it is kind of good to go outside for interim president is that if you appoint someone internally,” he said, “you take someone away from their regular job and you have that gap.”

Gamble added that he is looking forward to his new role.

“I have long admired the people on the campus of ENMU-Roswell, and this will give me a good opportunity to try to help them meet the goals of the institution,” he said.

Elwell’s announcement indicated that he and members of the ENMU-R board decided that the interim president should not be someone who will be a candidate for the position.

Dr. Ken Maguire, vice president for Academic Affairs and acting president for a couple of weeks, said he does intend to apply for the presidency.

Maguire said he is pleased with Gamble’s appointment and will do what he can to help him and the university over the next few months. He said that while he is interested, of course, in what happens in his own circumstances, the well-being of the university come first with him.

“I think we are in a really good spot with the choice of the interim and where we are headed as a campus,” he said.

Maguire was tapped as acting president after Dr. John Madden, ENMU-R president for almost 10 years, retired in early March, taking immediate leave that will last through the end of June.

The new ENMU-R president will head a campus with about 2,900 students and about 80 full-time and part-time faculty. It offers 80 certificate and associate’s degree programs as well as courses for high school students.

Compensation of the president post typically depends on years and type of experience. Elwell’s annual salary as head of the system is $230,000.

Blake said the search committee has not been formed yet but is expected to include Community College Board members, ENMU-R faculty and staff, and community members from the area.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.