|AUSTIN, May 20 - The inaugural president of UT-Rio Grande Valley says he has no preference on where the new university’s administration offices should go.
“There are lots of great locations in the Valley all across. It is a wonderful place,” Bailey told the Guardian, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, soon after being officially appointed UTRGV president.
“As I have gone across the Valley the people have been wonderful. I am going to be back and forth across the Valley all the time. The entire Valley is where I will live, literally. I will be back and forth, from one place to another. I like it all.”
Bailey saw the need to make his position clear following a Guardian story on Sunday which quoted him as saying a good place for the UTRGV headquarters would be on the Cameron-Hidalgo county line. Bailey had made the comment in an open forum held with staff at UT-Brownsville on Friday.
“Rather than try to inject a little humor I probably have been just straight forward,” Bailey said of his comments at UTB. “I was just trying to inject a little humor.”
Fifteen proposals have been sent to the UT System for where the UTRGV admin headquarters should go. Eight have come from cities in the Valley, six from land developers, and one from an economic development corporation.
Bailey said a UT System committee with board members review the proposals and make a recommendation to the board of regents. “Then, the board will make a decision on where that is. From my personal point of view, I will be happy with that,” he said.
In the same interview, Pedro Reyes, a UT System vice president, pointed out that Bailey has a new pickup truck. “The new truck will to go back and forth. I am hoping it will last three years,” Bailey joked.
Regarding his appointment as inaugural president of UTRGV, Bailey told the Guardian: “This is really, truly an honor for me. This is the most important thing I will do in my life. There is nothing else I have done in my career that is this important. I have done what I think are some very good things but in my career nothing will be as important as this. This is truly an honor for me.”
In a new release, the UT System said Bailey’s first day on the job will be June 15.
The news release quotes Bailey as viewing his new post as “the single most exciting educational opportunity in America today.” He said he looks forward to “working with everyone as we launch the nation’s first major public university of the 21st century.”
UTRGV opens its doors to students in fall 2015. It is being created by combining the talent, assets and resources of UTB, UT-Pan American and the Regional Academic Health Center A medical school will open 2016.
“We are extremely grateful to have found such a charismatic, inspiring leader as Guy Bailey for this historic position,” said UT System Board of Regents Chair Paul Foster. “He truly understands that this opportunity is the job of a lifetime and he is already committed to the people of South Texas and laying the foundation for a future research university with an international reputation.”
During his visit to the Valley last week, colleagues described Bailey as “seasoned.” He has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, president of Texas Tech University, president of the University of Alabama, and provost of The University of Texas at San Antonio. A sociolinguist, Bailey has also held positions at Emory University, Texas A&M University and Oklahoma State University and served as dean of liberal arts at the University of Nevada at Reno.
According to his biography, while at UMKC, which is home to schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law, Bailey developed an action plan designed to make the institution a model research university. It also says he developed an innovative construction plan that allowed the institution to build numerous new facilities with minimal state resources. He led Texas Tech University, a comprehensive research university with an enrollment of more than 32,000 students, for four years, and was instrumental in leading the university on its successful quest to become eligible for the state’s National Research University Fund.
Bailey received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in English linguistics from the University of Tennessee and is the author of more than 100 books and articles.
UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa predicted Bailey stands to have a monumental impact regionally, nationally and even internationally for generations to come. He described Bailey as “a proven, progressive leader to be a part of this transformational mission in South Texas.”
The UT System news release said UTRGV’s goals and guiding principles have been set by the Board of Regents. It said the long-term goal will be to become a “global leader in higher education,” producing graduates who are “bicultural, bi-lingual and bi-literate.” When it opens, UTRGV is expected to become the second-largest Hispanic-serving institution in the nation.
“UTRGV is the fulfillment of a new model whose goal it is to transform the quality of life, health and economic prosperity in South Texas and beyond,” Foster said. “UTRGV will uphold a mission of global excellence that will transform South Texas into an epicenter for research, world-class education and healthcare.”
Editor's Note: Reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story from Brownsville.