Minding the University’s Business On May 1, Dr. M. David Rudd was named the University of Memphis’ 12th president. The former military psychologist has heady plans for the University’s future.
BY GREG RUSSELL New University of Memphis President M. David Rudd poses the question, which easily stumps the listener. “There is only one thing that has not outpaced the cost of health care in the U.S. and it is not tuition,” says Dr. Rudd, heading off the obvious before inviting a response with a quizzical look. “It is the cost of textbooks. Isn’t that remarkable?” On this day in early July, Rudd is sounding as much the part of economist as he is University president, which bodes well for potential and current U of M students and their parents, and, for that matter, anyone interested in the viability of the school. (The University faced a $20 million operating deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30; Rudd has since implemented a strategic plan to offset future shortfalls.) In his first interview with The University of Memphis Magazine since taking the helm of University president this summer, Rudd discusses how his military background and psychology degree have meshed into research that has made him a Pentagon “go-to” guy. He offers a glimpse into his personal life, as well as details his plan of action for the University — at times sounding like a concerned parent and at others, a man on a mission. A TIGER THEN AND NOW Before exploring Rudd’s goals as U of M president, let’s travel to the third floor of the U of M’s Administration Building and get to know the man behind the desk. Surprisingly, the Ivy League school graduate doesn’t sound too unlike the typical University of Memphis student. “If you look at my own experience in college, I was a first-generation college student,” says Rudd, who received his degree in psychology 12
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while on an Army ROTC scholarship at Princeton. “Both sides of the family were tobacco farmers. My father became an enlisted Marine who didn’t have a college degree. My mother now has a college degree, but she went back and completed it 10 years after I completed mine. “I have always had a great appreciation for the difference that college degrees made in both my life and in my wife’s life. She is a first-generation college student, too.” Dr. Loretta Rudd, a U of M associate professor of educational psychology with a specialty in early childhood education, describes Rudd as “down-toearth.” She says the two began dating in ninth grade, “If you can consider your mom driving you to the mall as a date,” she fondly recalls. “Across all aspects of his life, I have watched him grow both professionally and personally,” she says. “When it comes to attaining goals, he is persistent in the pursuit and patient in the process.” On the social side: “He is an avid classic rock fan, he likes to golf and he loves movies — our families used to tease us when we were younger that we should both be movie critics because we saw every movie on the day it came out,” she imparts with a laugh. On the professional side: “He first and foremost recognizes that institutions of higher education exist for students,” she says. “His family didn’t come from wealth, and he attended Princeton on an Army scholarship. So he knows attending college can be a financial challenge for students. He recognizes that many of our universities are the same price now as Princeton, which puts them out of reach for many college students. He is passionate about providing access for everyone, regardless of economic status, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. He feels everyone should have the opportunity to obtain a degree.” THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS
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