EDINBURG, Texas – Keith Patridge, the president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation, wants to see a Tier One research institution established in the Rio Grande Valley.
Patridge spoke about his vision when receiving the Dean’s Medallion Award from Dr. Ala Qubbaj, UT-Rio Grande Valley’s dean of engineering and computer science.
Here is what Patridge said:
“I want to congratulate you and everyone that’s here on the success of the engineering program. I mean, we got something started and it wasn’t just me. It was literally hundreds of people that were involved with the creation of this. I happen to be one of five that helped settle a lawsuit that got the engineering program here.
“But what is, I think, most important to me is what everyone here has done. The students, faculty, the staff, all of you here have really made the engineering program what it is today. I’m extremely proud of all of you.
“And I think this is just the beginning for where we can go. My vision is to have a Tier One research institution here (applause) that is known worldwide. And I think we can do that. It’s been too long in coming. The Valley seems like it’s always been a stepchild, not only in Texas but in other places. And it’s time that we now take our rightly place. And I see all the people that are here today are going to help you do that. You’re all going to play a major role. So, thank you for the recognition and just keep up the great work.”
The lawsuit Patridge helped settle, LULAC v. Richards, was brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in the early 1990s. The lawsuit was filed against the State of Texas, with MALDEF, representing the League of United Latin American Citizens, claiming that higher education leaders discriminated against Mexican Americans living along the South Texas border by not offering them the same access to higher education opportunities that were offered to residents in other parts of the state.
In an out-of court-settlement that became known as the South Texas Border Initiative, higher education institutions in South Texas and along the Texas-Mexico border were each awarded two new degree programs, with the State of Texas funding them. The then-Hidalgo County judge, Edgar Ruiz asked Patridge to choose one of the programs for UT-Pan American. He chose engineering. The late educator, physician, civil rights and community leader, Ramiro Casso chose the other, healthcare.
In explaining why Patridge deserved the Dean’s Medallion Award, Dr. Qubbaj said the MEDC leader and his team had brought hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of jobs to the region.
“He has a vision bigger than McAllen. His vision is for the Rio Grande Valley. He has a mission and a vision,” Qubbaj said of Patridge.
“What I love the most about Keith is that he not only helped bring educational opportunities to the Rio Grande Valley. He helps bring high paying jobs. So think about it. He helps us bring the engineering programs and he helps us find jobs for our graduates and finding jobs right here in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Qubbaj said Patridge’s legacy is most likely found on a billboard promoting Zoho, a tech company MEDC recently helped bring to the Valley. The billboard says, Zoho: Tech jobs in Silicon Valley. But the word Silicon has a line struck through it and the word is replaced with Rio Grande.
Another tribute came via a video message from the founder of the engineering program at UTPA, Dr. Edwin LeMaster. He said:
“Keith Patridge, congratulations on receiving the engineering dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award. When Keith first joined the McAllen Economic Development Corporation under the leadership of Mike Allen, he was the young whippersnapper that was always asking hard questions, like how can we make things better for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Keith has been a great friend of the engineering program at UTPA that resulted in many successes. Congratulations on receiving the engineering Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award.”
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