WESLACO, RGV – A change in leadership at Texas A&M University-Kingsville will not change plans to build a new off-site campus in Weslaco.

That’s the message to the Rio Grande Valley by retiring TAMUK President Steven H. Tallant.

“We currently have the Citrus Center in Weslaco and we would like to have what we call an off-site campus. We have plans at the Citrus Center to build more facilities,” Tallant told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM in his last interview in the Valley before retirement.

Dr. Steven H. Tallant

“The first thing we did is lay out the groundwork for a little campus here, a real campus down here. We have that designed and ready to go. We are also developing the programs that we feel can really flourish down here,” Tallant said.

“You have to get permission and be accredited in order to have new programs. We have the groundwork in place to be able to teach engineering, agriculture, English, whatever we want and students car receive it 100 percent right on the campus here. They won’t have to drive to Kingsville or go someplace else for the courses. We have got that in place, ready to go.”

Tallant made his comments at a reception held in his honor by Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. At the event, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., claimed Tallant was the best university president in Texas. 

Last week, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents confirmed Dr. Mark Hussey as Tallant’s replacement. Hussey, who launched his career in South Texas in 1983 as an assistant professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco, will become at the 20th president of TAMUK when he starts his new role on Jan. 2, 2019.

Dr. Mark Hussey

In his interview, Tallant said that under Hussey’s leadership, TAMUK would remain committed to improving education opportunities in the Valley.

“So now the new president, Mark Hussey is coming in. He knows about the Valley, he loves Weslaco, he started his career here, he knows the agricultural industry, he has great vision and energy. He knows the possibility of what we can do with the Valley students. Early on his career at TAMUK he will announce, I am sure, what he wants to do here, going forward.”

Tallant has served as TAMUK president for the last ten years. “During the last ten years we have built the relationships and laid the groundwork for bigger and better things in the Valley,” Tallant said. 

As TAMUK develops new degree courses for its off-site campus in Weslaco, care will be taken not to duplicate what UT-Rio Grande Valley is doing, Tallant promised.

“We should not be duplicating what UT-Rio Grande Valley is doing. With their cooperation and the (Texas Higher Education) Coordinating Board’s cooperation we will be able to offer many, many degrees down here,” Tallant said.

Asked how the new TAMUK off-campus in Weslaco will fit in with the new education center Texas A&M University just opened in north McAllen, Tallant said:

“The engineering degree that A&M College Station is offering down here is a remarkably good, quality, degree. But it is what they call a generic degree. And this is happening around the country now, to where you won’t get a degree in civil engineering or mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. You will get a degree that encompasses all of that. That is the newest thing. You then go on to get your Master’s and you go on into industry. That degree does not compete with what we have. We will still offer the basics, the civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical engineering degrees. It opens up more opportunities for students to choose from.”

Asked about the Valley, Tallant said he loved the region.

“Let me tell you about the kids that come from the Valley. They don’t feel entitled. They have a great work ethic. They work hard and they appreciate everything they get. When they get that degree they stay in Texas and become great citizens. They make good livings and they are productive. We have always had a great student population from the Valley,” Tallant said.

“The RGV is a remarkable place and a special place in this country. The people have great hearts, they are great citizens and I have been honored to know them and be part of it. I will always be coming back to the Valley in my retirement to visit friends and be part of this. This is a special place and I want to thank the citizens for having me and making me feel part of this community.”

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., and retiring Texas A&M University-Kingsville President Steven H. Tallant.

Last week, Texas A&M University System’s board of regents named Tallant a President Emeritus. This is from the news release:

“I am honored and humbled to be named President Emeritus,” said Tallant. “I want to thank the Board of Regents, Chancellor John Sharp for the opportunity to serve as president of Texas A&M-Kingsville for these past 10 years.”

Tallant became the 19th president of Texas A&M University-Kingsville in October 2008. Under his leadership, the campus experienced a 58 percent increase in enrollment over a six-year period.

The university has completed more than $200 million in campus construction, including the Citrus Center Education/Research Building, two residence halls, a dining hall, student recreation and athletic facilities, and construction of the new music education complex that is well underway.

Just as the student body and physical presence has increased, the university has expanded academic programs to meet the evolving needs of the region and state.

Under Tallant’s leadership, A&M-Kingsville became the 13th public university in Texas to reach more than $100 million in endowment funds, which will produce more than $4.5 million for the university to spend in the 2018-2019 academic year. He also pioneered an educational alliance with the Premont Independent School District, in which the university helped the district meet academic standards and improve its financial health through securing grants, professional development for district employees, and raising college awareness among Premont students.

Dr. Mark Hussey

Texas A&M University System Board of Regents issued this news release about Dr. Hussey taking over as the 20th president of Texas A&M University-Kingsville:

“Texas A&M University-Kingsville is a special institution with a reputation for making a positive impact on the economic development of South Texas and beyond,” Dr. Hussey said. “It is an honor for me to be able to return to South Texas where my career began and to help build on this institution’s foundation of past success. I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, alumni and community as we continue to develop future leaders for Texas and the nation. The feeling of community is strong at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and I am thrilled to join the Javelina Family.”

“Mark’s breadth of experience spans the most prolific agriculture research in the country, the best agricultural academics in the country and 15 months running Texas A&M University,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “He did a great job in each of these and I predict he will oversee the rise of Texas A&M-Kingsville to a whole new level.”

Dr. Hussey has dedicated his career to research, service and leadership. He launched his career in South Texas in 1983 as an assistant professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco. He joined the faculty in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University in 1985 and became chair of the department in 2001.

Dr. Hussey’s passion for research propelled him to lead the Texas A&M AgriLife Research agency—the state’s premier research agency in agriculture, natural resources and the life sciences. In 2008, Hussey became vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University. He later led Texas A&M University as interim president in 2014.

A native of Southern Illinois, Dr. Hussey earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Illinois and completed graduate work at Texas A&M with a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding.

Regents announced Dr. Hussey as the sole finalist for the presidency October 16.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Weslaco Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Marie McDermott and retiring Texas A&M University-Kingsville President Dr. Steven H. Tallant.