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20130719 Gov-Perry-Signing-UTPA featureEDINBURG—Governor Rick Perry joined the University of Texas System Regents Chairman Gene Powell, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, several key Texas legislators and UTPA and UTB presidents to celebrate the creation of a new UT university and medical school in the Valley. The officials gathered at the University of Texas-Pan American Tuesday as Perry ceremoniously signed copies of Senate Bill 24, the legislation that authorizes the creation of the new university.

In introducing Perry, UTPA president Robert Nelson said Perry fought the fight for the bill and is ready to get this done.

For too many years the Border Region of the state was kind of a thought that came and went, said Perry.

“Today is a culmination, or a milestone, of this journey the Valley is taking,” he said.

“It was all the people that came before.…They believed with all their heart that this place, the Rio Grande Valley, could reach the potential a lot of people couldn’t see.”

“It’s one thing to have the vision,” said Perry. “It’s also another thing to help that vision along with the money.”

What has happened in this region of the state has been nothing short of phenomenal, said Perry. The growth, the economy and physicians now finding this Valley a very friendly place to practice their medicine, to do what they love, he added.

Perry recalled a time he was the guest speaker at a Texas Scholars event. He sat down with 12 students, the top of the class, and talked about their future and opportunities. He was disappointed to learn only two were staying in Texas for their future education.

“It was that moment,” said Perry. “When I made the real commitment. We’re going to give young men and young women in the Rio Grande Valley some other options.”

We want them to be able to stay here, because we know the potential. We knew the future meant the creation of an institution where “they could not just dream the dreams, but where every dream could become a reality.”

This will be the epicenter of economic growth of America that I suggest will change the northern hemisphere forever, said Perry.

“This new university will forever transform the lives of our children and grandchildren,” said Powell. It will fulfill the dreams of those that came before us and wanted the best for this part of Texas, he added.

Cigarroa said this would save our children. From here to there, where we need to be, is a work in progress, he said. We want to open doors in Fall 2015 in the new institution.

Town halls will begin next month to share the timeline and guiding principles and listen to ideas, said Cigarroa.

“What’s in a name,” asked Cigarroa. A name for the new university has not been decided, but for right now it is being dubbed Project South Texas. A name will be chosen by the end of the year.

For now, the current two campuses will grow, currently enrolled students will automatically be admitted to the new institution and existing facilities will be used until the medical school is built, he said.

During the next 18 months, administration and others will help determine what programs will be available.

A lot of work lies ahead, said Cigarroa. “This has been the easy part.”

The transition is something UTPA is familiar with, said Nelson. UTPA has gone from a two-year junior college to what it is now.

“The evolution has been deliberate and brought greater resources to the Valley,” he said. “We’re the final chapter for UTPA, an institution that I love.”

We want to “hear your voices,” said Cigarroa. “This is your university, your school of medicine.”

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said, this will transform the face of the Valley. It will increase access to healthcare and will bring more healthcare and medical-related businesses to the Valley, creating more jobs.

How This Came To Be

In December 2012 the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the transformational plan to create a new university in South Texas, including the allocation of $100 million to the formation of a new medical school.

By May 2013, the senate passed Senate Bill 24 authorizing the creation of a new university in South Texas that would also include a previously authorized new medical school. Just this month, the Board of Regents approved guiding principles for the new university. A national search for a new university president is currently underway and will be announced by February of 2014. Accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has also been initiated.

The new university will have access to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), a public endowment established in 1876 by the Texas Constitution. The PUF receives revenues from land in West Texas and earnings on investments to support institutions in the UT and Texas A&M systems. UTB and UTPA have not previously had access to those funds.

More information can be found online at

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