#RegentGate: Amarillo power players moving to get Tech dental school

A Texas Tech dental school planned for El Paso could end up in Amarillo instead.

Former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge says, “there are several of us discussing this and we are very serious. I’ll donate the land, and we’ll give Tech whatever else they need.”

Through a grin and a drawl on the other end of the line he says, “Francis has stepped in it. Big time.” 

Last week, Hodge withdrew a proposed $10 million gift to Tech, then he publicly called on Board of Regents Chairman Rick Francis to “do the honorable thing” and resign immediately. All of this was in response to Francis leading four other regents to oust Chancellor Robert Duncan.

Now, he and a few Amarilloans are now hitting Francis where it hurts— perhaps hurting the board chairman financially— in a potential attempt to swipe the dental school from Francis.

However, upheaving dental school plans from the Border to the Panhandle would be no small effort. Particularly when it comes to money. Industry magnate Woody Hunt (who happens to be an advisor to Francis’ WestStar bank board) has already given $25 million to plans that would put the school in or near downtown El Paso.

When I asked Hodge about Hunt’s donation, he quickly shot back, “hell, we’ll double that up in a minute.”

Hodge contends that a dental school would be a good fit for Amarillo, noting how it would compliment the Texas Tech’s Health Sciences Center, pharmacy school and a (proposed) large-animal veterinarian school.

The city, which is noted for its large multi-national refugee communities, could very well provide population necessary for dental students to learn while providing free dental care.

He says the school would aid existing efforts within Amarillo.

“Just look up Heal the City,” he says. “We have lots of volunteers in this system of non-profits who help provide for those without healthcare or means to care.” 

“We’d love to have a dental school up here. It just makes sense.”

The school may we’ll make sense in Amarillo. But what makes more sense is the power play to get the school. Hodge and other Amarillo brass have sniffed Francis and his school out. Which wasn’t particularly difficult.

Because Francis has stepped in it. Big time.

[Note: What originally was published as the second half of this piece has been turned into the stand-alone piece below.]

#RegentGate: Inside Rick Francis’ decision to oust Robert Duncan

 

Jay Leeson is the founder of Other Side of Texas. You can hear the radio program by the same name each weekday 5-6pm CST on AM 580 Lubbock, streaming at OtherSideofTexas.com. Each episode is posted as a podcast, subscribe at Apple podcasts.

RELATED:

Click here to read and hear extended interview with Jerry Hodge

Click here to read about Gov. Greg Abbott’s apparent involvement with Tech’s Board of Regents from late 2016 until today

Click here to read about Tech Board Chairman Rick Francis’ financial interests in Tech’s proposed downtown El Paso

Click here to read about how documents prove Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan was forced to retire

Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 1

Click here to read Texas Tech’s #RegentGate and the Questions that Linger: Part 2

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