By VIMAL PATEL
George W. Bush's last ambassador to Iraq was appointed dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service on Friday.
Ryan Crocker begins in his new role at the graduate school Jan. 25.
"I'll have to work on the accent," said Crocker, who speaks fluent Arabic but will now have to learn Texan. "I've got the 'Howdy!' down."
In a conference call with reporters after the Board of Regents' unanimous confirmation, Crocker said he wasn't aware the school needed a new dean when he visited in March to speak at the George Bush Presidential Library.
But, he said, the students' and faculty's commitment to public service impressed him. And 41st President George H.W. Bush, who has an on-campus apartment at Texas A&M, was also a draw.
"He embodies the very ideal of public service," said Crocker, who served as Iraq ambassador from 2007 to 2009, during the "surge" of troops credited with helping to stabilize the war-torn country.
Nicknamed "Sunshine" by the 43rd president for his often grim assessments of Iraq, Crocker has served much of his 37-year career as a diplomat in some of the world's most dangerous places, including Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan.
The 41st president, who is the namesake of the Bush School, said he was "thrilled" that Crocker had agreed to take the helm.
"It is the mission of our school to help inculcate into each of our students a commitment to public service with integrity, and I can think of few American diplomats who have so embodied this concept as has Ambassador Crocker," Bush said in a statement. "His becoming Dean of the Bush School is a great addition to the Aggie family."
Crocker was selected following a national search by a 19-person advisory committee chaired by former regent Don Powell that began its work in the spring. The committee included several of the Bush School's instructors.
Committee members said that all three finalists for the position had support, but that Crocker was the favorite.
The other two finalists were Montgomery C. Meigs, a visiting professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, and S. Enders Wimbush, the director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
Crocker, whose wife is in College Station hunting for a home, grew up in an Air Force family and attended schools in Morocco, Canada and Turkey. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Whitman College in Washington state, where he was born.
In January, George W. Bush gave Crocker the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award. In May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the establishment of the Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Expeditionary Diplomacy.
Crocker said he wants the school to grow in the number of students and faculty without sacrificing quality, but the details will have to wait until he gets settled in.
"I'm not going to go into this with a preconceived agenda," he said. "I want to consult with faculty for the way or ways ahead."
Regents during the two-day meeting also approved:
* Establishment of the Energy Engineering Institute, which would fall under the College Station-based A&M state agency, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, and, officials say, establish the Texas A&M System as a global authority on energy.
* Approved the appointment of Craig L. Nessler as director of Texas AgriLife Research, the state's lead research agency for the life sciences, natural resources and agriculture. Nessler, who began his career as a research scientist at Texas A&M in 1979, most recently was head of the department of plant pathology, physiology and weed science at Virginia Tech.