Provost Roger Blais, who’s served TU since 1977, will retire after the current academic year.
Roger Blais came to TU from Old Dominion University in 1977.
“My department had a lot of differences and infighting, and I needed a change,” he explained. His wife, who is originally from Tulsa, did not have plans to return to her home city, but they came back when Blais received an offer from TU.
After he took the job teaching in the physics department, he and his wife had children. He said, “Suddenly, being in Tulsa was very good, especially having grandparents around for our kids.”
Blais, who holds degrees in physics and French literature and a doctorate in experimental physics, said he first found joy for the discipline in his ninth-grade physical sciences class.
“We had a teacher who encouraged free inquiry and problem-solving,” he said, adding, “I liked that.”
He built a microphone that earned honorable mention in the state science fair that year. Then he read an introductory book on the special theory of relativity.
“I was hooked after that,” he admitted. “With the launch of Sputnik, there existed almost a patriotic duty to go into the sciences.”
Blais pointed out that once he was in school, he knew he wanted to become a professor, recalling, “The position was good for self-directed research, which I liked.”
Blais eventually served as chair of the physics department here at TU. When the need surfaced for a new vice provost in 1988, the then-provost asked him if he wanted the position.
“I worked specifically on retention issues,” Blais stated.“We developed the forerunner to the Center for Student Academic Services.”
In the following months, TU’s president died, and the provost stepped in as interim president. Blais then moved from vice provost to interim provost. He stayed in that spot for a year before returning to the physics department.
“Then in 1997, [TU President] Bob Lawless asked me if I wanted to come back to the provost’s office. I did. Then I reapplied for the position in 1998 and have been here ever since.”
As the Chief Academic Officer and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Blais is responsible for all academic departments of the university. This includes hiring, reviewing and tenuring faculty and reviewing all academic policies.
Blais explained that “professors who can balance research and teaching are key to TU’s success,” adding, “Our faculty are truly invested in educating their students.”
Blais also serves on the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra Board. A graduate of Leadership Oklahoma, he’s well-educated on issues that affect Oklahoma.
“Leadership OK takes 50 people per year from across the state,” Blais said. “We meet once a month for nine months, each time in a different part of the state to discuss a different aspect of the state’s affairs. The meetings last Thursday through Saturday. It truly bonds the participants and helps create a statewide network of leaders.”
When asked what he’s most proud of at TU, Blais exclaimed that “it’s the fact that we continue to improve, year after year. We have the teamwork as a faculty and staff that brings the university continued success. I’m very pleased with that.”
His advice for students going into the world is that a university education “gives students the tools for lifelong learning. You must ask yourself if what you are doing truly matters to you. If you can take pride in what you do and make a positive difference in others’ lives, you’re set.
“The things that endure are relationships with other people. People who help you and people you help,” Blais asserted.
Blais has witnessed more than 25,000 students turn their tassels during his time at TU. When asked about his plans after retiring, he said he was not exactly sure yet, but “I know spending time with my grandkids is high on the priority list.”