Celebrating 50 Years of Service: Dean Strecher Ushers in College of Criminal Justice

A portrait of Dean Victor Strecher
Dean Victor Strecher, 1978-1985

Upon his appointment in 1978, Dean Victor Strecher persuaded SHSU’s administration to elevate Criminal Justice to become the institution’s seventh college.

During his seven years as Dean, from 1978-1985, Dr. Strecher focused on getting sufficient funding to create a world-class doctoral program, increase research and publications, and attract the brightest students for graduate programs.

“It was exhilarating to be appointed Dean and Director of the College and Center,” said Dr. Strecher. “Sam Houston State’s program was clearly within the top five in the country, and I was flattered to become a part of it. On a purely personal level, the program’s scope and focus were exactly the kind I had always wanted to be associated with.”

Part of the collection from Dr. Strecher's office.
Part of the collection from Dr. Strecher's office.
Dr. Strecher inherited the largest criminal justice program in the nation, and its new status as a College increased his ability to attract more funding as well as faculty and students. He also expanded the international dimension of the program.

To expand scholarship opportunities, the College teamed up with the 100 Club of Houston to offer tuition to law enforcement officers from a 12 county region who wanted to get a college education. Concurrently, the College introduced the weekend master’s program for criminal justice professionals, which allowed students to fit classes around their work schedules.

One of the most successful programs during his tenure was the Saudi Arabian Traffic Training Program, which instructed officers from that country for its new highway patrol program. “It is not exaggerating to say the project transformed the Huntsville community into a more cosmopolitan, if sometimes edgy place,” observed Dr. Strecher. “Edgy, because the local community had never before experienced the injection of so large a contingency of young Muslim men, who knew little about the American lifestyle and often behaved in ways that seemed at odds to the conventions of this East Texas town.”

The program for the Saudi Arabian Traffic Program.
The program for the Saudi Arabian Traffic Program.
Criminal justice officials from other countries, including police, corrections, jurists and criminologists, also visited the campus. One of the largest contingencies came from Britain.

Dr. Strecher also introduced the Beto Chair Lecture Series, where leading criminal justice scholars from around the country were invited to campus to interact with faculty and students. The program, funded by the Houston Endowment, initially had scholars spend a semester at the College; later, it would include shorter term visits from prominent researchers in the field a few times each semester.

To help bolster research, Dr. Strecher promoted new series, such as the Texas Crime Poll, which surveyed state residents about their perceptions on crime in the state. Unlike many other criminal justice programs, the College conducted research that could be used in academia and in practice, ranging from criminology and legal foundations to criminal justice administration.

Dr. Strecher led the Criminal Justice Center for seven years.
Dr. Strecher led the Criminal Justice Center for seven years.
Dr. Strecher also built a strong program by allowing faculty to experience not only scholarly studies and teaching, but also the administrative end of criminal justice education. Faculty were frequently cycled through administrative posts to provide an evolving model of the knowledge based in their field and how it applies to the top of the organization. Dr. Strecher also is credited with changing the way that faculty are evaluated not only at the College but as SHSU as well. Teaming up with Dean Bobby Marks at the College of Business, the two proposed a new advancement system that was based on merit – such as teaching, research, and publications –instead of the incremental pay and promotion system that was used. Dr. Larry Hoover noted that the change was not greeted warmly in segments of the campus, but Strecher’s commitment to achieving world-class status for Criminal Justice prevailed.

“My role as Dean and Director was to define the team’s roles and relations and to guide their effort into productive channels, not to personally accomplish the important things that were done,” said Dr. Strecher. “As the College faculty and Center staff grew to meet new program needs, the team worked together to harness and direct all of this energy and effort toward a set of goals that were agreed upon. The result was an organization with mutually supportive parts – quite complex in some ways, because there was so much creative energy suffusing the whole enterprise.”

Dr. Strecher changed how faculty were evaluated at SHSU.
Dr. Strecher changed how faculty were evaluated at SHSU.
During his academic career, Dr. Strecher evaluated 33 criminal justice programs across the country and found a wide variety of offerings – from theoretical institutes to “cop shops.” For him, the College of Criminal Justice had it all.

“The program at SHSU differs in that it meets all the criteria which define a university professional discipline – building the knowledge base of its field through research, publishing its findings for peer review and analysis, instructing students in its knowledge base, and devising applications of its knowledge base for the benefit of society,” said Dr. Strecher. “There are few CJ programs having as wide a scope.”

Member of The Texas State University System