New Regent Carroll Robertson Ray Brings Experience, Insight to Board

February 21, 2008

This is the second in a series of Q&A interviews with the four new UH System Regents. The other interviews featured Nelda Blair, Jacob Monty and Mica Mosbacher.

UHS Regent Carroll Robertson RayCarroll Robertson Ray was appointed to the University of Houston System Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Perry and will serve through Aug. 31, 2011. She is an attorney with Andrews and Kurth, LLP. Named as a Texas Rising Star in Texas Monthly magazine in 2004 and 2006, Ray is a member and former officer of the Junior League of Houston and was the first woman to serve as chairman of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Ray serves as secretary of the Cullen Trust for Performing Arts and as a board member of the Houston Ballet, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Neuhaus Center and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. She received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Houston.

Q What is your opinion of the state of higher education in America today? What's working, what's not . . . ?

A The United States is fortunate to have the diversity of opportunities in higher education available to students here. I think there is a reason so many students from all over the world want to come to the U.S. for their college education. We need to work, if we are to preserve this vital global advantage, on improving the number and quality of U.S. college-based research and advanced degree programs.

Q For the uninformed, how would you describe what it is a UH System Regent does?

A Our primary task is to assist our chancellor and her administration, and chart the path of progress for our great university through our policymaking. I believe we can assist also by advocating for the university throughout the Houston community, the state and the nation.

Q What led you to pursue a legal career, and why did you choose to attend the UH Law Center?
A I wanted to develop my knowledge of our legal system and my legal reasoning skills to pursue a law career and for use in my personal business affairs. I chose the Law Center because I knew of its great reputation. The training and education I received there gave me a tremendous base from which to build my career and manage my business affairs successfully.

Q What's your favorite place (or two) on campus?

A It is very hard to say. I am very fond of the Moore Opera House’s foyer and performance hall with its ceiling designed by Frank Stella. It is a work of art and a space to perform, all at once. I also love the fountains in front of the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building.

Of course, I have only mentioned spaces I enjoy for their beauty. There are many spaces I love for the fun I have had there, i.e. our football and basketball stadiums, or for the pride I feel about our accomplishments, such as the Texas Center for Superconductivity.

Q How much emphasis should the university place on becoming a nationally premier research institution?

A It is vital for the University of Houston to become a premier research institution. Only in this way can we provide the kind of education that our students deserve. Our students need to be exposed to the best and brightest, and to have the opportunity to achieve a significant piece of work as part of their course of study at the university.

Additionally, Houston is a great city, but it can only take its place as the greatest city in the United States if it has a top-ranked urban university helping drive the engine of its industry and the quality of life of its residents.

Finally, our faculty members have so much to offer in their fields of study; we need their insight to continue expanding our fields of knowledge in all directions. They need the right tools and financial capacity to achieve these goals. This can only happen if the university can attract the highest level of research grants funds possible.

Q Here’s a little known fact—one of our former regents (Michael Cemo) played drums in a popular rock band in the 1960s. Is there anything that surprising in your background?

A Well, I do love horses, and I have shown at the national level in the Arabian horse shows, many years ago. I am learning to jump, just for fun.

Q You're the secretary of the Cullen Trust for Performing Arts and a board member of the Houston Ballet, giving you a unique perspective of the cultural scene in Houston. What's your view of UH as place to indulge the senses through performances, cultural treasures, art and other creative works?

A Houston has a lively and abundant artists' community. The University of Houston is the home of some of the most creative individuals in the city. Together, they have developed our schools of drama, music, creative writing and the visual arts to the highest level, and they are having a huge impact on the creativity and reputation of Houston's arts scene as a whole.

Many of Houston's arts organizations, for example -- the Alley Theatre, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Menil Museum -- are nationally recognized for their excellence and vision. Their reputation has been directly enhanced by their collaborations with the University of Houston.

In addition, the university's many art venues are remarkable for their own scope and caliber. The Blaffer Gallery, the Opera Studio and the Texas Music Festival and Shakespeare festival, performed outdoors in Miller Theater, are some examples of the quality of art experience the university brings to the Houston community.
The arts are such an important part of the Houston economy. In fact, did you know that there are more tickets sold in the Houston area to performing arts performances than to all of our professional sports teams combined?

Q Sports can play a significant role in building school spirit, unifying the alumni base and attracting national attention. Are you a sports fan and, if so, are you excited about the direction in which UH Athletics is headed?

A I am a big fan of the Houston Cougars. I am very excited to see the level of play being achieved by our student-athletes. They are playing their hearts out, and we are building winning traditions in many areas with every game. We are fortunate to have such great coaches as Tom Penders and Kevin Sumlin and to have such a dedicated, never-say-die Athletics director in Dave Maggard.. Additionally, we are a great training ground for the individual sports athletes, such as track and field and golf.

Q If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about UH (or the UH System) tomorrow, what would it be?

A That's hard. Should I say Bowl Championship Series Bowl Champions or Tier I research status? All I'll say is, Go Coogs!

What's the biggest misperception the public has about UH?

A That we are not already a great, top-ranked research-level university system. We are already all of that.

Your term lasts through August 2011. What would you like to have accomplished by then?

A I would like to see us nationally recognized as a Tier I research institution. I would like to see that we have winning sports teams, each with an increasingly larger and larger base of loyal, screaming fans present at our games. I also would like to see those areas of our operations and our campus that need improvement, such as our Law Center, being upgraded as necessary to bring them up to the University of Houston standard.