MCALLEN, RGV – Governor Greg Abbott has appointed McAllen optometrist Fred Farias, III, as vice chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Farias, who chairs the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s governmental affairs committee, was first appointed to THECB by Abbott in February, 2015.

“I am honored that Governor Abbott has placed confidence in me to be the vice chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Farias told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Texas has entered a new era in higher education. From 2000 to 2015, many of the initiatives undertaken by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and colleges and universities were intended to achieve one or more of the four goals of Closing the Gaps.

“Texas has now launched 60X30TX, the new higher education strategic plan which aims to position Texas among the highest achieving states in the country and maintain its global competitiveness.”

Farias gave more details about the 60X30TX plan.

“60X30TX is entirely student-centered. Its overachieving goal is that 60 percent of young adults (25-34) in Texas will hold some type of postsecondary credential by 2030,” Farias said.

“It also proposes that these graduates will have marketable skills regardless of major and that, statewide students will not graduate with debt exceeding 60 percent of their first year wage.”

TCHEB provides leadership and coordination for the Texas higher education system. In addition to Farias’ appointment as vice chair of THECB, Abbott appointed newcomers Michael J. Plank, Donna N. Williams, and Welcome Wilson, Jr. to board for terms set to expire on August 31, 2023. Additionally, the Governor has named Stuart W. Stedman as chairman.

Here are the biographies of those appointed to the THECB, as provided by the Governor’s Office:

Michael J. Plank of Houston is chairman and CEO of The Plank Companies, Inc. and three affiliated companies; National Property Holdings, Rail Logix and Speed Shore Corporation. He is a member and past chairman of the Young Presidents’ Organization and past president of the Trench Shoring & Shielding Association of America and the Houston Equipment Distributors. Additionally, he is a member of the Governor’s University Research Initiative Advisory Board, board member and past president of the Children’s Museum of Houston, and a board member of the YMCA of Greater Houston. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Council of Houston Methodist Hospital. Plank received a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University, where he was named a Distinguished Graduate of the Mechanical Engineering department in 2000.

Donna N. Williams of Arlington is vice president and program manager for Parsons Transportation Group, Inc. She was a member of the Texas State University System Board of Regents and served as chair. Additionally, she is a member of the Laura Bush Institute for Women’s Health National Advisory Board and serves on the boards of directors for Parsons Federal Credit Union, Justin F. Kimball High School Academy of Hospitality & Tourism, and the Dallas African American Museum. Her former member affiliations include the National Association of Professional Women, Project Management Institute and a board of director for the Society of American Military Engineers and Corporation for National Community Service. Williams received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Prairie View A&M University.

Welcome Wilson, Jr. of Houston is president and CEO of Welcome Group, LLC and the Joint Venture Partner in Kingham ∙ Dalton ∙ Wilson Ltd. He is a member of the National Association of Industrial Office Properties, vice chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents, and chairman of the Alamo Complex Management and the Southwest Houston Redevelopment Authority. He is a board member of the Alamo Endowment Board of Directors, Texas Business Hall of Fame, Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, Trellis Foundation, and Friends of the Texas Historical Commission. Additionally, he is the immediate past chair of the Houston Realty Business Coalition, former board member of the Houston Food Bank, and former president of Kinkaid School Alumni Association. Wilson attended the University of Denver.

Stuart W. Stedman of Houston is president of Stedman West Interest, Inc. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute Advisory Board and a former board member of the Methodist Hospital Research Institute. Additionally, he is chairman of the Liberal Arts Advisory Council and member of the Development Board and Blanton Museum National Leadership Board at The University of Texas at Austin. Stedman received a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctor degree from The University of Texas School of Law.

Fred Farias III, O.D. of McAllen is CEO of 20/20 Vision Care in McAllen. He is a member of the American Optometric Association Board of Trustees and a charter member of the American Optometric Association Optometry Cares Foundation, and is the only Rio Grande Valley optometrist who is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. He is the former president of the Texas Optometric Association and the Rio Grande Valley Optometric Association. Additionally, he is a member of The University of Texas (UT) Development Board, UT System Chancellor’s Executive Committee, and the UT Longhorn Athletic Advisory Council, and is a former member of the UT College of Communication Advisory Council and the co-founder of the UT Hispanic Alumni Committee of the Texas Exes. He is chair of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Council, and previously served on several boards, including those of the Vannie E. Cook Cancer Center and the Rio Grande Valley Arthritis Foundation. Farias received a Bachelor of Science from UT Austin and a Doctor of Optometry from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.


  1. The purpose of education is also to teach our children HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Most important part is to give them CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS, NOT to brainwash them. Students ARE NOT market or money making machines. They are human beings. Teach them the facts, not pretty lies about our country. Teach them the truth about ‘The Alamo’, not the fiction Texas peddles all the time. Teach them the truth about the ‘Texas Rangers’, not the pretty lies Texas wants everyone to believe.