From space shuttles to scholarships to interplanetary missions and interdisciplinary research, Lesa Roe is an accomplished, results-oriented leader with a rich history of breaking barriers and blazing trails. Named Chancellor of the University of North Texas System in 2017 following 33 years of service and leadership at NASA, Chancellor Roe is the first woman to lead the UNT System. Recently she announced plans to retire from her position, effective March 31, 2022.
As the system’s Chief Executive Officer, she is responsible for all operational aspects of the multi-location system, including general oversight of a $1.3 billion budget, more than 14,000 employees and the UNT System’s member institutions. – the University of North Texas in Denton, the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth and the University of North Texas at Dallas.
Impactful growth has been the story of the UNT System under Chancellor Roe’s leadership since arriving in October 2017. The system achieved record combined enrollment of more than 47,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year between its three member institutions – the University of North Texas in Denton, UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth and UNT Dallas. In addition, the UNT System set new records for degrees awarded, philanthropic fundraising, endowments for scholarships and research expenditures under Chancellor Roe. That growth means more lives are transformed, more talented graduates are meeting workforce needs and more discoveries are being made to solve problems and move DFW and Texas forward as a modern center of commerce.
The UNT System and its member institutions have elevated their impact on the region and state under Chancellor Roe. Listed below are several key accomplishments and milestones reached since her arrival in October 2017:
- The UNT System and its member institutions remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with its member institutions converting thousands of in-person courses to a virtual environment for safety.
- UNT Health Science Center established multiple drive-through COVID-19 testing centers and supported the Tarrant County Public Health Department on contact tracing and epidemiological issues during the pandemic. Later, UNT HSC led Tarrant County's vaccination efforts, overseeing a program that set up multiple vaccination sites, including several in underserved neighborhoods.
- Increased system-wide degrees awarded by 15% to a record total of 11,901 degrees by the 2020-2021 academic year.
- Grew endowments 91% to a record $401 million in 2021.
- Increased research expenditures 69% to a record $128 million across the UNT System by the 2020-2021 academic year.
- UNT, the system’s flagship institution, achieved record enrollment of more than 40,000 students for the 2020-2021 academic year.
- UNT Dallas became the fastest-growing public university in Texas, eclipsing 4,000 students for the first time in 2019-2020.
- Opened four new, or significantly renovated, facilities totaling more than $300 million in construction, including UNT's College of Visual Arts & Design, HSC's Interdisciplinary Research Building, UNT Dallas' Student Center and the UNT Dallas Law Center (formerly Old City Hall in downtown Dallas).
- Launched a new UNT branch campus in Frisco, with plans to expand the university’s presence to more than 100 acres in Collin County.
- UNT joined UNT Dallas as a federally designated Minority Serving/Hispanic Serving Institution.
- Created and deployed new system-wide strategies focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, including the appointment of the UNT System’s first Chief Diversity Officer.
- Strengthened ties with UNT System university presidents and increased collaboration across the system at both the campus and system level.
- Built a strong, inclusive and engaged leadership team, while moving the entire UNT System toward being a “Best Place to Work.”
Chancellor Roe was named to the Dallas 500, a list of the most influential business leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth compiled by D CEO Magazine, in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. As a board member for the Dallas Regional Chamber, Chancellor Roe has chaired the chamber’s University CEO Council. She also serves as Chair for the Texas Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC), and as a board member for the Dallas Citizens Council, Downtown Dallas Inc., and Space Dynamics Laboratory, as well as a trustee for the Southwest Research Institute.
Prior to her arrival in North Texas, Chancellor Roe served as NASA’s second-in-command and as Chief Operating Officer – capping her 33-year career in aerospace. In this role as Acting Deputy Administrator, she was responsible for general oversight of 17,000 NASA employees, a $19.6 billion budget, $31 billion in assets, and the operation of 10 field centers across the nation. She also directed program and project teams on product/mission delivery, acquisition strategy, partnership and international strategy, and risk management.
During her tenure at NASA, Chancellor Roe became the first woman to serve as Director of NASA Langley Research Center. She also served as Manager of the International Space Station (ISS) Research Program at the Johnson Space Center and worked on 38 Space Shuttle and ISS missions in various leadership roles. Chancellor Roe’s leadership at NASA helped lead to numerous science, space and aeronautics breakthrough innovations that advanced our nation’s leadership and international knowledge of aeronautics and space.
Chancellor Roe was the first member of her family to graduate from college and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida and a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. She is married to Ralph Roe, NASA's Chief Engineer, and has two sons and a daughter.
Chancellor Roe’s many honors include:
- NASA Administrator Distinguished Service Medal (2017)
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics AIAA Fellow (2017)
- Senior Executive Service Presidential Distinguished Rank Award (2015)
- University of Central Florida Distinguished Alumni Award (2014)
- University of Florida’s Outstanding Leadership in Engineering Award (2012)
- Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Bridge Builder Award (2012)
- YWCA Women of Distinction in Science and Technology (2010)
- Women in Aerospace Leadership Award (2010)
- Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award (2006)
- University of Florida’s Distinguished Career Achievement Award (2006)
- NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2000)