Ray Watts named new UAB president - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Ray Watts named new UAB president

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Ray Watts (source: WBRC video) Ray Watts (source: WBRC video)
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A new president has been named for UAB.

The University of Alabama System's board of trustees met Friday and voted unanimously for Ray Watts to take the position as the university's 7th president. The 59-year-old is a native of Birmingham and a UAB graduate.

The search committee who nominated Watts was formed after Carol Garrison stepped down as president in August after ten years of service.

"I love UAB. I'm where I want to be," said Watts after the decision was made.

Watts had formerly been the dean of UAB's Medical School and is a doctor, an aspect that many on the board was important.

"I felt it was important to get a doctor to head UAB. This is one of the greatest medical centers in the world. Ray Watts is a terrific choice," Trustee Joe Espy said.

Watts told board members on Friday that he is commited to patients and the discovery of new cures.

"I'm fully committed to achieving the economic impact of our mission...Our people are our greatest assets," said Watts.

It's all what UAB students and supporters wanted to hear.

"I think it's an opportunity everyone will be proud of, faculty, students, administrators," Adrian Jones, a senior and student representative on the Board of Trustees, said.

Ready to grow the University

The new president also noted that UAB has "room for growth in the near future." He says he plans to launch a fundraising campaign and that capital investments will be critical to the UAB mission.

Watts plans to meet with key players at UAB and from there develop a strategic plan for the entire university over the next six to nine months. "Go through a deliberate planning process that will guide our priorities and investments in growth." Watts said.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell was there to congratulate Watts soon after the vote Bell calls UAB the economic engine for Birmingham and the state of Alabama.

"I came here to assure him he would have my support and cooperate on making sure UAB will continue to be successful." Bell said.

But, a threat to UAB is a possible federal budget cut from the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services due to the continued budget impasse with Congress.

"We need so much for our government leaders in Washington DC to find a way to come together to make a decision that is for the best American people." Watts said. Watts said he hopes to avoid layoffs by relying on the school's resources.

Desire to see every part of UAB succeed

A big money drain on UAB continues to be the school's athletic program. Watts says wants to see athletics succeed.

"Sports provide life lessons, opportunities to understand team work and the individual price you have to pay for excellence," Watts said.

There have been vocal supporters at UAB pushing for a multi-million dollar on-campus football stadium. UAB senior and Board of Trustees student representative Adrian Jones spoke with Watts Friday about support for the stadium shortly after the vote.

Jones said both agreed there needs to be greater support.

"We just need our fans to come out and support our Blazers. We need to bring out our Blazers and then we be able to get our stadium," Jones said.

Convincing the Board of Trustees to back a stadium will be an uphill fight.

"What we got to do here is invest our money in research first and foremost thing we got to do and with the shortage of dollars that is where we got to go," Trustee Joe Espy said.

But UAB supporters continue to press the issue.

"We are going to put money into research. This is a full fledge university. That issue is not going away," Rep. Jack Williams said.

Watts is calling for a strategic plan for all of the university, including the athletic department. Like Jones, Watts says that more fans have to show up.

"To increase the attendance and support by our students, our faculty and alumni to show how much this means to us," Watts said.

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