WT Establishes Barbara Petty Professorship in Tribute to Longtime Administrator

Chip Chandler Mar 30, 2023
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WT Establishes Barbara Petty Professorship in Tribute to Longtime Administrator

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — A newly established professorship at West Texas A&M University will honor a beloved former administrator.

The Barbara Petty Professorship of Business Communication was announced at a March 29 reception at the Alumni Banquet Hall on WT’s campus in Canyon.

Petty was a longtime WT employee who retired in 2016 after serving 11 years as assistant vice president for academic affairs.

“I am greatly moved,” Petty said. “I’m just deeply honored and humbled. I’m thrilled that they thought enough of me to put my name on a professorship.”

The position, located in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, will be held by Dr. Mary Liz Brooks.

“I am overjoyed to be named to this professorship,” Brooks said. “I realize the positive and selfless impact that Barbara has made to better the WT community in countless ways. This professorship will help foster research and teaching initiatives that will continue to move forward the business communication discipline at WT in a way that I hope will make Barbara proud.”

Brooks will shift from the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities, where she has been serving as the Jenny Lind Porter Professor of Communication, to the Engler College of Business. In the position, she will focus on leading the new digital business communications major, which will combine the core knowledge of business with the skills of digital communications. The digital component includes topics such as user interface, search engine optimization and Google analytics; the communications component includes topics such as branding and message strategy, visualization and persuasion techniques.  

Petty began her career at WT in 1992 as the assistant to Dr. Flavius Killibrew, then dean of the Graduate School. In 1995, she followed Killibrew to a new office and became his assistant as provost and vice president for academic affairs, ultimately being named an assistant vice president herself in 2005.

“I first met her not long after she and I both got to WT,” said Dr. James Hallmark, vice chancellor for academic affairs for The Texas A&M University System and former WT provost. “It’s hard for me to separate WT from Barbara. It’s hard to separate someone who’s had so much influence over where the University was 30-plus years ago and where it is now. People like Barbara make a huge difference.”

The professorship was established through joint donations from the Friends of the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, the Engler College of Business and the Office of Academic Affairs. It is meant to advance student enrichment by enhancing communication and leadership skills in the Engler College of Business.

Those are skills Petty herself has in spades, according to former colleagues.

“I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Dr. Wade Shaffer, professor of history and former WT provost from 2012 to 2020. “She truly professionalized the campus. Her fingerprints are everywhere, and I’m thrilled to see that her name will live on, because she is someone who deserves to be remembered.”

The professorship will offer Brooks additional funding for travel and career and professional development.

“That allows the faculty member to grow, and they pass it along to our students,” Petty said. “It’s a win-win for the University.”

In Petty’s time at WT, she became “one of the two or three most influential people on campus,” said Dr. Neil Terry, WT’s current provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

“She was very much a mentor to people across campus and helped keep the University on a positive path no matter what,” Terry said. “She is very much someone who is respected as a professional person and as a friend to all.”

Senior administrators always had confidence in Petty’s judgment and opinions, Hallmark said.

“It’s especially appropriate that this is a professorship in business communication, because that defines her career,” Hallmark said. “A named professorship is a huge honor, not only for the person who receives it, but also for the person it was named after.”

Dr. Amjad Abdullat, dean of the Engler College of Business, concurred.

“Barbara’s valuable contributions to our University are impactful and will have a lasting legacy,” Abdullat said. “Honoring her with this endowed professorship is one meaningful way to honor her contributions to the academic community and our University.”

Petty won WT’s Clarence E. Thompson Staff Excellence Award in 2004 and a University Excellence Award in 2007, among other honors. She and husband Arlie named the Arlie and Barbara Petty Dean’s Suite in the Happy State Academic and Research Building. Barbara Petty also established the Steve W. Steffey Scholarship in memory of her son, a WT student who died in 2000.

“When you think of the best the University can produce,” Shaffer said, “you think of Barbara.”

Recruiting, retaining and rewarding the very best in faculty and staff is a key maxim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $120 million.


Photo: Dr. Mary Liz Brooks, left, was named the new Barbara Petty Professor of Business Communication during a March 29 reception honoring Petty, right, a longtime WT administrator.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.