ADA — Dr. Richard Rafes, a long-time university attorney, administrator and educator, was named president of East Central University by the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges on Monday.

Rafes, 54, senior vice president for administration at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, will become president of ECU on July 1. He will succeed Dr. Bill S. Cole, who is retiring after 17 years of leading the 4,400 student university in Ada.

“Dr. Rafes has dedicated his career to higher education. We were impressed by his experience, enthusiasm and commitment, both in academics and in external affairs. We are confident that he will provide outstanding leadership to East Central University for many years to come,” said Ann Holloway, chair of the board. “Dr. Rafes was one of four tremendous candidates. We were looking for the best balance of experience and ability for the university.”

Regents approved an annual salary of $160,000, a $12,000 housing allowance and moving expenses for Rafes.

“I am absolutely thrilled and excited to get to work,” Rafes said. “East Central University is an outstanding educational institution led by a distinguished president. I am honored to be selected to follow him.”

“There are many options for the university to advance,” he added. “ECU has an outstanding faculty, staff and students, and Ada is a wonderful community. The individuals I met were very interested in economic development and supportive of the university.”

Rafes said he is impressed with the regents and the board’s executive director, Sheridan McCaffree.

Before being named senior vice president for administration at UNT, Rafes previously was the university’s interim vice president/vice chancellor for administrative affairs and was chief legal counsel for the University of North Texas System which includes the University of North Texas, University of North Texas Health Sciences Center at Fort Worth and University of North Texas at Dallas. 

His previous employment included serving as general counsel for the Texas State University System in Austin and as an assistant attorney general of Texas. Rafes received a bachelor’s degree in government from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He earned a doctor of jurisprudence degree at the University of Houston and a doctor of philosophy degree in higher education administration at the University of North Texas.

In addition to his career achievements, Rafes has received numerous honors and awards including the College of Education Honors Day Outstanding Alumni Award, the Honors Day President’s Special Recognition Award, Administrator of the Year award and the Top Professor award from the Mortar Board National Honor Society. 

The University of North Texas Urban Astronomy Center was named the Richard and Tommye Rafes Urban Astronomy Center in 2005. Rafes also has served on numerous boards and committees, including the United States All Star Federation Special Needs Committee, North Texas Community Clinics, YMCA Executive Committee and Fort Worth Regional Science Fair at the University of North Texas.

Rafes and his wife, Tommye, have three daughters.

Holloway said the regents had completed their most thorough process of any presidential search. Each candidate visited Ada and the campus to allow faculty, students and staff and community residents to meet them and ask them questions.

“It was a very beneficial process and we received very important feedback for the board,” she said. “We wanted to do everything possible to ensure we made the right choice.”