Dr. John Edwards, vice president of the Division of Enrollment and Student Services at The University of Texas-Pan American, was honored Nov. 5 with the President's Award at the annual conference of the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (TACRAO) held Nov. 4-8 in Austin.
Edwards was given the award by TACRAO's current president Fred Rodriguez, registrar at Trinity University in San Antonio. The President's Award is not presented every year, but when it is, it is bestowed during the annual conference to someone for either their outstanding service or significant contributions to the organization.
In his capacity at UTPA, Edwards oversees numerous areas to facilitate access and participation in higher education as well as to encourage full student engagement and success at the University. His areas of responsibility include the Dean of Students, GEAR UP, Admissions and New Student Services, College Access and Support programs, Office of the Registrar, Student Union and residence halls, Student Financial Services and Scholarships, Student Health Services, Student Support Services/Learning Assistance Center, University Testing Services, and High School to University programs. During his tenure at UTPA, he has initiated or collaborated in numerous successful retention and recruitment strategies. Initiatives such as the Student Leadership Academy and the Valley Outreach Center are the direct results of his efforts to produce educational opportunities and success for South Texas students.
Edwards earned his bachelor's degree in social studies at the University of North Texas in Denton and his master's in American history from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce). He started his career as an instructor at Murray State College in Oklahoma, and then later returned to Texas as an instructor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he earned his doctorate in American history and American literature. While at Texas Tech, Edwards became the founding director of their recruitment office. He subsequently became the founding director, then dean of Enrollment Management at Texas A&M University-Commerce before coming to UTPA in 2000.
In bestowing the TACRAO honor, Rodriguez called Edwards not only a leader and a mentor in the organization but also in higher education both statewide and nationally, citing his instrumental role in developing such projects as the Texas Common Course Numbering System (TCCNS) and the Uniform Admissions Application as well as his service on the ACT National Board.
Called by friends and colleagues as "ahead of his time," "a motivator," and "a person that thinks outside of the box," Edwards, said Rodriguez, is an innovative thinker who was at the forefront of concepts that are now considered the foundation of recruiting at colleges and universities countrywide.
"You've heard the lyrics 'country, when country wasn't cool' - well our recipient (Edwards) was on the cutting edge of the profession back when it was unheard of to speak in terms of 'student recruitment,' 'marketing,' and 'enrollment management,'" he said. "Those were foreign concepts when he first starting using them at Texas Tech University some 25 years ago."
Edwards' impact on students over the years has also been significant said Rodriguez.
"What's probably more important than what he has done for TACRAO is what he has done to touch the lives of countless students by giving them opportunities they would not have otherwise had, and by opening doors to higher education, because this man has truly dedicated his life to that mission," Rodriguez said, referring especially to Edwards' involvement in creating Phi Theta Kappa alumni chapters at Texas Tech and Texas A&M-Commerce. Through his establishment of chapters and scholarships to support this national honor society that recognizes academic achievement of two-year college students, Edwards has promoted the smooth transition to the successful completion of four-year degrees for many students.
UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas said she has known few educators more committed to access and opportunity for all students than Edwards.
"When we write the story of UTPA's immense progress in creating meaningful access to success for traditionally underserved students, John's contribution will be defined as truly heroic. UTPA and the entire state are most fortunate to count on his leadership," she said.
TACRAO, which has more than 1,000 members, is a professional educational association with a purpose of contributing to the advancement of higher education and to promoting and supporting the professional development and exchange of ideas and information among those who work in the offices of admissions, records, registration and other closely related functions among institutions of higher learning.