|BROWNSVILLE, May 13 - UT-Pan American President Robert Nelsen is leaving his post early.
It had been thought that the popular administrator would remain in charge of UTPA until UT-Rio Grande Valley begins in September 2015. Nelsen wrote to students, faculty and staff on Monday to say that would not be the case.
UTRGV is being formed through the merger of UTPA and UT-Brownsville.
Nelsen has served as president of UTPA for four and a half years. Earlier this year he applied to the UT System to become the founding president of UTRGV and was on a shortlist of five for the post. However, System regents chose Guy Bailey as sole finalist for the role. Bailey has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the president of Texas Tech University and the University of Alabama, and provost of The University of Texas at San Antonio.
The UT System will now have to appoint an interim president of UTPA.
Here is the email Nelsen sent out on Monday:
TO: Faculty, Staff and Students
FROM: Robert S. Nelsen, President
SUBJECT: What’s Next For This Cowboy?
I have immensely enjoyed the opportunity presented to me to serve as the president of UT Pan American. I love the students, the faculty, and the staff of this great University, and I especially love the Rio Grande Valley. That’s what makes this email so difficult to write.
I will be stepping down from the presidency effective August 31 of this year at which time an ad interim president will take my place until the new university—UTRGV—is officially sanctioned into being in August of 2015. I know this additional step was not part of the original plan, but sometimes plans have to change for the better of the whole.
There are big things ahead for everyone, dreams to be fulfilled, mountains to be climbed, and battles yet to be won. And I know you will give Dr. Guy Bailey your support, as you have given it to me. There is much work yet to be done for the sake of the Valley, for our students, and to maintain the excellence that we have achieved.
What is next for this cowboy? I’m not sure yet—maybe Jody and I really will join the rodeo. But no ride will ever be as satisfying and fulfilling as my time here at Pan Am has been.
Gracias por todo. Somos familia. Siempre serán mi familia.
Nelsen told the McAllen Monitor he flew to Austin last Friday to meet with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. He said he issued the email to quell some of the rumors that were circulating on campus. One of these rumors, a faculty member at UTPA told the Guardian, was that Nelsen had been fired.
Another faculty member, Gary Mounce, a professor at UTPA and a regular columnist for the Guardian, said: “I and many colleagues are disappointed by these turn of events. Dr. Nelsen was thoroughly committed not only to UTPA but to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.”
Mounce said Nelsen’s Commencement address on Saturday was probably the highlight of the event. “In it, Dr. Nelsen extolled the university and urged support of the new President. All realized the extent of the personal sacrifice he made, in reality giving up his job, a job well done, for the ‘greater good,’ as he put it.”
Mounce said it was most poignant that Nelsen made sure a recently deceased student, Eddie Arguelles, received a posthumous degree. Arguelles was close to earning a bachelor’s degree in general studies, majoring in philosophy and computer science. He was killed while cycling in Edinburg. Mounce said Nelsen greeted Arguelles’ widow, Monette, her 11-year-old daughter Skyler, and four-year-old son Santiago, as they walked across the stage with Eddie’s diploma.
“Dr. Nelsen received a standing ovation,” Mounce said.