|EDINBURG, October 14 - Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia has announced his city will donate 93 acres of land to the new university the UT System is establishing in the Rio Grande Valley.
The 93 acres comprises several tracts, one of which measures 40 acres. All the tracts are adjacent to the University of Texas-Pan American. The land is in addition to the ten million dollars Edinburg is providing to the new university over the next decade.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian and KMBH 88 FM, Garcia said he and other Valley leaders have been holding private meetings with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.
“I think Chancellor Cigarroa is pleased because in our meetings not only has the promise of support from the Valley cities been there but the wherewithal to complete the promise has been there,” Garcia said.
“There was talk of some property. The City of Edinburg owns and has identified 93 acres that are immediately adjacent to the Pan American campus that the City of Edinburg is willing to provide and furnish. I think that is going to pretty much ensure that the new construction is going to happen on that campus.”
The 93 acres of land to be donated to the new university are to the north of UTPA. Asked for specifics about the land, Garcia said: “Most of what we have designated, set aside and looked at is contiguous to the university property. It's all pretty much north of FM 107, touching and surrounding the university. There are several tracts. We have over 40 acres in that area that are currently being used as a drain pond. We are looking at the ballpark, and at another tract that we are negotiating on. In total, we have over 93 acres. The good news is it is all in Edinburg and it is all contiguous to the university and the university loves that because we won’t have any disjointed construction.”
Asked if the donation of the land was part of the ten million dollars the City of Edinburg promised the UT System as its commitment to the new university project, Garcia said: “We made an original commitment of ten million dollars. We stand by that and the property is in addition. We have not yet put a value on the property. I imagine that is going to be substantial.”
Asked if the 93 acres would be for the new university or a planned four-year medical school that the new university will develop, Garcia said: “It would be for the expansion of the university. The university will use it however they choose.”
Garcia said the City of Edinburg has double reason to help the new university. One because it helps the long term viability of the Valley by producing a more enlightened citizenry and skilled workforce, and two because the largest part of the new university campus will be in Edinburg. “I look at this as an investment in our grandchildren and I am happy to do it for the benefit of our community,” Garcia said.
Garcia was quick to point out that Edinburg is not the only city contributing to the new university in Hidalgo County. He praised the leadership of McAllen, Pharr and Mission as well as Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court for its active participation. The City of McAllen is slated to contribute two million dollars a year, Edinburg and Hidalgo County one million dollars per year each, and Pharr and Mission half a million a dollars per year each. “We are part of a group. That is why we are able to make an impact. One city contributing on its own does not come close to what the needs are but together we can meet the needs and exceed the needs and get the attention of the folks in Austin and in Washington.”
Asked if he wished to make any other comment about the new university, Garcia said he was keen to learn more about the selection process for finding a president of the new university. “The good news is the Chancellor is being proactive and inclusive and including all of us in the process to the degree that he can and we are happy about that. We have had great leadership at UTPA in Dr. Robert Nelsen and we hope that the caliber will be the same.”
Coincidentally, the UT System announced Friday a search advisory committee to assist in selecting the founding president for the new university. Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the UT System, will chair the 24-member search committee. The panel will begin its work immediately and will have the help of Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm. Witt/Kieffer will advertise nationally for the position of president. Chancellor Cigarroa said he hopes a new president will be announced in the spring of 2014.
UT System Chair Paul L. Foster said the advisory committee will be tasked with presenting qualified candidates to the UT System Board of Regents, which will then make the final decision. “Establishing this new University of Texas is among the most historical and transformational efforts undertaken by the Board of Regents for generations,” Foster said. “This new university, approved by the Texas Legislature, will forever change the educational and economic landscape of South Texas and we need an exceptional leader to take on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
According to a UT System press release, the new panel will meet within the next two weeks to discuss the process for recruiting and interviewing applicants, legal issues related to the committee and a timetable for bringing candidates to interview with the Board of Regents.
The panel consists of:
Chairman Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the UT System.
Gene Powell, UT System regent
Ernest Aliseda UT System regent
Robert Stillwell, UT System regent
William Henrich, M.D., president of UT Health Science Center -San Antonio
Diana Natalicio, president of UT-El Paso
Elizabeth Heise, immediate past-president of the Faculty Senate at UT-Brownsville
Marie Mora, professor at UT-Pan American
Bobette Morgan, Faculty Senate president at UT-Brownsville
Thomas White, Faculty Senate chairman at UT-Pan American
Carmelita A. Teeter, M.D., associate professor, UTHSC-SA Regional Academic Health Center
Dahlia Guerra, Dean of the UT Pan American College of Arts and Humanities
Danny O. Jacobs, M.D., Dean of Medicine at UT Medical Branch – Galveston
Javier Martinez, Dean of UT Brownsville’s College of Liberal Arts
Aaron Barreiro, president of the UT-Pan American Student Government Association
Stephanie Mendez, president of the UT-Brownsville Student Government Association
Arnoldo Mata, president of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association
Jason Moody, president of the UT-Brownsville Alumni Association
Liana Ryan, chair of the UT-Pan American Staff Senate
Jaime Villanueva, president of the UT-Brownsville Staff Senate
Cullen Looney, community member, Edinburg
Ricardo D. Martinez, M.D., community member, Edinburg
David Oliveira, community member, McAllen
Anne Shepard, community member, Harlingen