(Lander, Wyo.) – Wyoming Catholic College’s new President, Dr. Kevin Roberts, arrived in Lander about three weeks ago, and he says he’s here for the long haul.
Seven years ago Roberts co-founded and was the first President and Headmaster of John Paul the Great Academy, a coeducational, PK-12, Catholic liberal arts school in Lafayette, La. The Academy is ranked by the Cardinal Newman Society as one on the top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States.
Roberts points back to that moment seven years ago, which was also WCC’s first year. He recalled hearing about the college at that time. “I said it was pretty neat there were these courageous people in Lander, Wyoming,” he said in an interview.
Roberts received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Texas at Austin, his M.A. from Virginia Tech University, and his B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He has taught at universities, colleges, and a catechetical institute, including New Mexico State University, Austin Community College, Kaplan University, and the University of Louisiana.
He said when he heard about Father Robert Cook’s resignation and subsequent opening at WCC, he was ready to get back to his first love of higher education. “I was flabbergasted at the possibility,” he said.
Having grown up in Louisiana, Roberts calls himself a “cradle catholic.” For years Roberts said he wasn’t a fully involved member of the faith, noting that through college he at times was simply attending mass and not much more. But several years ago he said himself and his wife had a “strong reversion back into the faith.”
“We went back to it,” he said, adding that he’s been rewarded for doing so.
Having spent so many years in the private grade-school realm, Roberts wasn’t expecting to be a finalist for the position, but when he got the call, “I accepted immediately.” He was officially hired in March.
Now that he’s been in the office and in Lander for several weeks, he said he can feel the “firehose effect” of the new job beginning to subside. He plans on using the rest of the summer vacation for students to continue to get himself up to speed.
A historian by eduction, Roberts will be co-teaching a course. This way he’ll have true hands-on experience with the students to take with him as he travels to promote WCC.
“I’m not being Captain Sunshine when I say … this college will always have a presence in Lander and with the people of Lander,” Roberts said when asked about the future.
When Cook announced his resignation, he said he wanted to turn his position over to someone who could see the college all the way through the transition to the Broken Anvil Ranch outside of Lander. The donated land is located near Red Canyon. Roberts’s statement above was in addressing concerns that once the college does move, the students’ presence in town would not be felt as heavily.
Roberts said he understands the town has come to expect the students’ to be around not only as patrons of businesses but also as employees. He added that he does not expect the move to occur for the better part of a decade. At this time, WCC is investing in improvements to the many buildings it occupies around Lander.
Once the move does come, Roberts expects the students to still be a fixture in town. “That friendship will never go away,” he said.
Roberts wants to be involved with the college, leading the charge toward a new campus and adapting to the new location for at least the next 30 years. He said he couldn’t imagine leaving at any point during the transition.
Looking forward, he said any enhancements or changes to WCC should not be seen as critical of the former president.
“We need to be first and foremost for the population of Wyoming,” he said, later adding, “People should see a lot more outreach from the college to the community. It’s the next step.”
Roberts called himself and his wife, Michelle, “just normal average people” who “want to immerse ourselves” in the community. They have four children, ages 3 to 11.
He urged anyone with any questions or concerns about the college to visit him in his office. “I have a totally open door policy,” he said.