HACKENSACK, N.J. — Austin Lane traveled a long way from Hackensack to his current perch as president of Texas Southern University (TSU) in the Greater Houston area.
When the 45-year-old graduated Hackensack High School in 1989, he had no idea he’d head up a four-year college.
“I was first team, All-Bergen County in basketball,” Lane said. “When I left high school, the only idea I had was to play basketball at Odessa Junior College, which was pretty prominent.
“I thought I would stay two years,” he added, “and get exposure and still get the opportunity to play Division I basketball later.”
None of that worked out, recalled Lane, whose mother is from Wichita, Kansas and whose father is from Hackensack.
But he did have a good time in West Texas so he stayed, never thinking the road would lead him to this month, when he took the reins as president.
“Back then I couldn’t afford to come back to school in New Jersey,” he said. “It was just a lot cheaper out here. I’ve been out here ever since.”
Lane earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Langston University in Oklahoma.
Then he went on to get a master’s in human relations from the University of Oklahoma and then a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Alabama.
“Hackensack High prepared me to do the things I’m doing today,” he said. “It’s been a fun and exciting ride.”
In the past 20 years, Lane has worked at the University of Texas At Arlington, Lone Star College in The Woodlands, and now TSU, founded in 1927 as Houston Colored Junior College.
In 1947, an era of segregation, Texas Southern became one of the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“During that time,” Lane said, “the options of students of color were limited to Texas Southern.”
The school, long known for its pharmacy and law schools, boasts some famous alumni, including the late civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, the late Congressman Mickey Leland, and Michael Strahan, formerly of the New York Giants.
But it’s the future of TSU that concerns Lane most.
State funding is a concern of higher education nationwide, he said, and it’s no different at TSU.
Lane also wants to increase the current enrollment of 9,000 students. Since the school is in the Greater Houston Area, he said, some 12,000 to 13,000 should be enrolled.
“The question is, how do we attract those students?” he said. “Most importantly, how do we retain and graduate them so they can contribute to the state’s economy?”
Lane pointed to growing new innovative programs in TSU’s STEM fields and school of public affairs.
He and his wife, Loren, have three children, ages 19, 15 and 9, according to the TSU website. The family attends Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston.
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