It was a Friday afternoon in 1974, while Stephen A. Monti was attending a departmental seminar, that a secretary entered the room and handed him a piece of paper with a message saying, "The president wants to see you right now" and he noticed that the "now" was underlined.
Monti, who had never met the president, promptly walked into his chairman's office and said, "I have two questions. Who is the president and secondly, where is the president's office?"
When he reached the office of Dr. Lorene Rogers, the interim president, she introduced herself and opened the door to his administrative career -- she offered him the job of being the assistant to the president.
Monti said he initially declined the offer, but Rogers asked him to think about it over the weekend. Some senior faculty members convinced him to try it and he has never regretted taking their advice.
Monti now serves as the executive vice provost, advising the provost in the areas of academic program administration, institutional policy and procedures, and resource management.
He announced plans to retire Aug. 31 after having worked at the institution 43 years.
Joining the university in 1967 as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, Monti said he enjoyed teaching and working with his research group during his early years on campus. He had been honored in 1972 by a committee of students and faculty as the first College of Natural Sciences recipient of the prestigious Jean Holloway Award, which recognizes teaching excellence by tenured or tenure-track faculty in Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences.
His administrative roles over the years have included various positions as an associate vice president and vice provost. He also has held titles of provost ad interim and interim executive vice president and provost.
"I just feel fortunate to have been a part of a lot of things that have happened to move the institution forward," Monti said. He appreciates the importance of "the day-to-day operations of creating an environment where the faculty and the students can do their best."
"It is hard to put into words the importance of Steve Monti's leadership at The University of Texas at Austin over the course of his distinguished career spanning eight university presidents," said Dr. Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost of the university. "His persistent focus on maximizing use of campus resources, such as space and institutional budget, has had a very large impact on our march toward excellence.
"On a personal note, working with Steve during my more than three years now as provost has been a privilege and I will miss having his thorough institutional analysis and insightful advice in the provost's office. We will miss Steve Monti greatly when he departs into retirement."
Monti said one memorable project that has had a positive impact on the institution was the establishment of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, which recognizes excellence in teaching at the university.
Monti said university administrators need as much information as possible to make their decisions so they can anticipate the many consequences of their actions, and that's why he has never been shy about telling people when not all the facts are present. He said he appreciates having been allowed to "be the devil's advocate" so an informed decision can be made.
"All I hope for," he said, "is that people will listen and make the decision they feel is the best decision. But at least it's made in the context of having as much information as possible."
After he retires, Monti expects to stay busy with other kinds of projects, primarily in his garden, which is a favorite hobby in addition to cooking and stamp collecting. He also plans to return to campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays to continue a tradition of playing basketball with a group of friends and colleagues, some of whom have been playing together 35 to 40 years.
"I started playing in 1968 and that game is still going on," Monti said.