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TTU System Employees Honored for Longstanding Service

Length of Service Honorees

15 Years

Craig Finlayson, Institutional Advancement

20 Years

Emily Knopp, Office of Audit Services

Eric Fisher, Treasury & Cash Management

Joanna Harkey, General Counsel

Julian Hooker, Information Systems

Victor Mellinger, General Counsel

John Russell, Facilities Planning & Construction

25 Years

Jamie McCann, Facilities Planning & Construction

Marilyn McMillian, Information Systems

Lonnie Pierce, Facilities Planning & Construction

45 Years

John "Mike" Sanders, Governmental Relations

Annual Length of Service Awards ceremony recognizes Texas Tech University and Texas Tech University System employees.

May 8, 2015 | Written by Dailey Fuller

Eleven members of the Texas Tech University System were honored at the 2015 Length of Service Awards ceremony on Wednesday (April 29). Presented annually, the awards recognize staff and faculty members for their employment longevity with Texas Tech University and the TTU System. 

The event is a way to show appreciation for the hard work and dedication of many employees, said Robert L. Duncan, chancellor of the TTU System.

“The Texas Tech University System is thriving and a great place to work because of the dedicated and loyal people on our team who share their talents every day,” Duncan said. “Thank you for the difference each of you has made, and congratulations on this important recognition.”

Approximately 315 employees were honored at the ceremony, ranging from 15 to 50 years of service. See the complete list here

No Politics, Just Mike

Among the TTU System employees honored was John "Mike" Sanders, who reached 45 years of service at Texas Tech University and the TTU System. Sanders, a native of Seminole, first came to Lubbock and Texas Tech University in 1968 as a law student after graduating from Abilene Christian.

“The law school had just been established, and even back then, Texas Tech was the epicenter for education in the region,” Sanders said. “As you can imagine, the campus looked a little different, and at the time our classes were held in Army barracks where the Frazier Alumni Pavilion is now.”

Taking courses in the summer, Sanders finished law school a year early and was one of 51 students in the first graduating class of the Texas Tech University School of Law in 1970. It was then that he began his career at Texas Tech University as an assistant professor teaching business, real estate and accounting law classes in the College of Business. He also established a private law practice a year later.

In 1975, Sanders took his first staff position with the university as a director under Vice President Bill Parsley, which started his longstanding work in governmental relations for higher education. At the time, it was the 64th Texas Legislature when Dolph Briscoe was Governor of Texas, Grover Murray was president of Texas Tech University and the Lady Raider basketball team was officially formed with Susie Lynch as head coach.

"I first knew of Mike when I was Student Body President at Texas Tech University, but it wasn’t until I was serving in the Texas House of Representatives that I really got to know him," Duncan said. "He was a great asset for our universities back then and still is today. We salute Mike for his dedicated service over the past four decades." 

During his tenure, Sanders has been through 20 regular legislative sessions and says he has seen a lot of change and growth at Texas Tech University and the TTU System. Not only are classes in the law school now taught in a state-of-the-art facility, but there also has been a lot of history made.

In 1979, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center was formally created by the Texas Legislature, adding the Schools of Nursing, Allied Health Sciences and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences with the medical school under the separate institution.

Sanders was named vice president for governmental relations in 1988, where he served as the primary liaison between elected officials and both Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He became the first vice chancellor for governmental relations when the TTU System was formed in 1996 under former Chancellor John T. Montford.

In his role, he was instrumental in the formal establishment of the TTU System by the state of Texas in 1999, which brought both Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center under its umbrella as its first two components.

Since then, Sanders has seen two more components added—Angelo State University in 2007 and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso in 2013—and has worked with all four of the TTU System's chancellors. He also has worked with nine presidents at Texas Tech University and eight presidents at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

“The leaders and administration are the real champions of change for us,” Sanders said. “Even though we’ve increased our research activity and academic programs, they have never lost sight of our main mission, which is serving our students—not only in the classroom but the entire student development experience. And it’s the quality of our students and faculty that allow our leadership to get things accomplished.”

While he’s quick to give credit to others around him, Sanders has helped increase the profile of each component university with the Texas Legislature, bringing more support for each’s research and academic programs. Serving as vice chancellor for governmental relations until 2013, he also has helped garner public and governmental support in Austin and West Texas necessary to the operations of the TTU System.

Today, Sanders serves as the senior adviser to the chancellor for governmental relations and is still involved in the TTU System’s efforts at the state capital. In the midst of the 84th Texas Legislature, Sanders and another longtime employee and counterpart, Martha Brown, current vice chancellor for governmental relations, travel to Austin on a weekly basis and work usually four days out of the week there.  

And even though Sanders says it was not always his plan to be in Lubbock and work at the TTU System for so long, he says it’s the quality of people and life that have kept him here.

“It’s pleasant to go to school here, but also to work here. I’ve lived in New York, spent a lot of time in Austin, but Lubbock and Texas Tech is really a good place to be.”

About the Texas Tech University System 
The Texas Tech University System is one of the top public university systems in the nation, consisting of four component institutions —Texas Tech UniversityTexas Tech University Health Sciences CenterAngelo State University and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso—and operating at 12 academic sites and centers.  Headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, the Texas Tech University System has an annual operating budget of $1.7 billion and approximately 17,000 employees focused on advancing higher education, health care, research and outreach around the globe. 

In 2014, the Texas Tech University System endowment exceeded $1 billion, total research expenditures were approximately $200 million and total enrollment approached 47,000 students. Whether it’s contributing billions of dollars annually in economic impact or being the only system in Texas to house an academic institution, law school and medical school at the same location, the Texas Tech University System continues to prove that anything is possible.