UTB Formed Critical Part of Chancellor’s South Texas Plan for Higher Education
The Laredo native spoke at university building openings, met members of the campus community and pledged in Austin that the Rio Grande Valley’s students deserved every opportunity they could be given by the UT System.
Cigarroa announced Monday, Feb. 10 at a press event in Austin that he would step down and become head of pediatric transplant surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio as soon as a new chancellor is selected. He was named by the UT System Board of Regents in February 2009 to lead the 15 academic and health-focused institutions.
Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, President of The University of Texas at Brownsville, said Cigarroa led with courage, honor, respect and sound ethics.
“He taught us all through his own selfless dedication how to use the privilege and responsibility of inspired leadership,” Garcia wrote in a letter to UTB faculty members, staff and students. “His leadership flung open the doors of opportunity to a region of the state that had been disenfranchised. He saw a wrong and then worked tirelessly to right the wrong. He was willing to spend his own personal capital to insure that the people of south Texas would forever have the promise and hope that results from a higher education.”
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
In December 2012, Cigarroa announced his vision for merging UTB and The University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg and creating a new medical school. The new institution, now with the name the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is expected to be the second-largest Hispanic serving institution in the nation when it opens in summer 2015.
Since the Texas Legislature approved legislation in spring 2013 to create UT RGV, Cigarroa has visited Cameron and Willacy counties to meet high school and university students, faculty members, staff and business and community leaders to foster dialogue about the new endeavor.
Cigarroa, along with local and state education and political leaders, marked the creation of UT RGV at a bill signing ceremony held in July 2013. The festive event was marked with the promise of new opportunities for student and faculty achievement, high tech research and economic growth.
“A new University of Texas institution is under way here in the Rio Grande Valley and we are taking bold and decisive steps toward that special day, only two years from now, when the doors open to a brighter future for the students and families of this great region of Texas.”
Cigarroa also helped marked the first Permanent University Fund money being allocated for UTB at a ceremony in November 2013 held at The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen. UTB received more than $70 million for a 140,000-square-foot academic building and for the UT System to pay for purchased buildings owned by Texas Southmost College.
“It is because of the leadership of Gene Powell and the understanding that The University of Texas System needed to plant a larger flag in south Texas and to understand this great region of the state needs to have a research university,” Cigarroa said at the event.
Cigarroa helped mark the 20th anniversary of UTB at a late afternoon celebration held in September 2011 in the courtyard of Main, formerly the Education and Business Complex.
“You have a great university and it is an honor to join you in this historic moment,” the chancellor said. “You are poised for significant accomplishments over the next 20 years. History, culture and language: We have the best of both worlds here on the border and a remarkable opportunity to pass our heritage on to the next generation.”
The chancellor was one of the keynote speakers at UTB’s 21st Spring Commencement on Friday, May 10, 2013 on the Cardenas South Hall Lawn. This was the final graduation ceremony for the UTB and Texas Southmost College partnership.
“Class of 2013, you are the future of Texas, and indeed, of the United States,” said Cigarroa. “You have so many doors open to you – to fields of study, and to careers that did not even exist a few years ago, let alone 22 years ago when UTB was created. In this 21st Century, change is most definitely a constant. Embrace change; you are prepared for it. As you leave this beautiful campus, as you bring to an end your daily interactions with cherished friends, faculty members and your extraordinary president, please know that what you accomplished here will not end.”
At the Night of Strings event in February 2010 to commemorate the opening of the Arts Center, Cigarroa wowed the packed house with his classical guitar skills as he performed with UTB guitar students. He later invited the student guitarists to perform at a ceremony honoring longtime UT System Regent and former Chairman of the Board James R. Huffines.
“I am honored to take part in an event that promotes a heightened awareness of the arts – particularly when it involves and benefits our students,” said Cigarroa.
Cigarroa also spoke in February 2012 at the dedication of the Biomedical Research and Health Professions Building. The ceremony featured students in white laboratory coats, tours of the building and the ringing of the University Bell.
“I look forward to the day when I shake hands with a Nobel laureate or the president of a health science center who was educated in this building,” Cigarroa said at the event. “The future chancellor of a university system may be standing among us this morning, waiting for that special professor and that special course that will transform his or her own life.”
Cigarroa will visit UTB at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26 at Salon Cassia in Main (formerly the Education and Business Complex) as part of continuing information meetings regarding UT RGV.
“His announcement is bittersweet for all of us in South Texas and for me personally,” said Garcia. “We wish him the best as he returns to a calling that is deeply rooted by his ties to family.”