Beyond the Classroom : Dr. Don Topliff

ASU Provost predicts more growth for the Ram Fam

By Aubree Bailey
On February 15, 2018

Photo by Brit Raley
Dr. Don Topliff competed in professional rodeo before he received his doctorate.

As provost, Dr. Don Topliff plays a crucial role in ASU’s academic affairs.

"A provost is a word that means lieutenant," Topliff said. "I’m Chief Academic Officer of the university, which means I oversee everything from faculty to curriculum."

Topliff’s journey in higher education started in Kansas. "I started at a community college in western Kansas not far from where I grew up, and I finished my bachelor’s at Kansas State."

He came to Texas for the rest of his education, where he met Dr. Brian May, current president of ASU.

"I finished my PhD at Texas A&M in animal nutrition; Dr. May and I went to grad school together," Topliff said.

After graduating, Topliff headed to Oklahoma, where he was on the faculty for 15 years.

"Then, I went to West Texas A&M as department head, and then associate dean, and then dean of agricultural science and engineering. "

Topliff had been at WTAM for 17 years when he was approached by Dr. May about the Provost position here at ASU.

"He encouraged me to apply for this position. I accepted the job in the fall of 2014 and started January of 2015."

Topliff said that every day in the office is unique, but there are always meetings to attend and emails to answer.

"In general, I deal with faculty, classes and everything related to making sure that the school runs normally as much as we can," Topliff said. "I get to the office about right around seven. Usually Dr. May and I try to visit over coffee every morning, and I then have a stack of things to sign, so I start that next, although my day usually starts before then: first thing in the morning, about 5 o’clock, when I start answering emails. The email traffic we get is quite staggering. Then I have meetings throughout the day."

Topliff praises the Ram Fam culture students and staff have created on campus: "I enjoy everything about the school, but I guess my favorite tradition is our focus on the Ram Fam. I tell every group I talk to it’s not just a slogan: it’s truly a culture. We’re all in this together, no one person or no one thing is more important than the other. We fail and succeed together."

Looking towards the future, Topliff says he foresees even more growth for ASU.

"I think that growth is exciting because obviously when you’re growing it gives us the opportunity to have a much wider influence in the community and the state as well," Topliff said.

Topliff commented on the recent tuition increase.

"We want to keep tuition as affordable as we possibly can, but at the same time as the cost of living goes up to maintain the staff and faculty as well and to do the maintenance so that the campus doesn’t cause disrepair, it takes money. But we’re committed to keeping it affordable."

When Topliff isn’t ensuring the school runs smoothly, he enjoys spending time with his family.

"My wife and I have two children. Our oldest lives in Clod, Texas, and he and his wife have two beautiful young daughters. So I have two grandchildren, and I wished they lived here. And our daughter lives in Abilene and is an ASU graduate."

The Provost encourages students to work hard to finish college and understand the value of an education: "I know that college can be a daunting task, but don’t ever quit because your education is one of the things in this world that can’t be taken away from you. One of my favorite sayings about education is ‘the more I learn the more I realize how little I know.’"

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