The University of Texas System Chancellor Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa visited The University of Texas-Pan American Friday, March 13 to talk with key members of the University, community leaders and elected officials about the future of higher education.
Cigarroa's visit was the first to the University since he was selected as the 10th chancellor to lead the UT System Feb. 2, but he has been to the campus many times before.
"Reflecting back on the moments that really made a difference in my life, this was the first university I ever stepped foot on," Cigarroa said of UTPA. "I remember leaving junior high on a yellow bus and coming to this wonderful city and campus and being introduced to the observatory and planetarium. What a remarkable experience that was. It was an incredible introduction to the wonders of science. I've never forgotten that moment and I remember going back to school energized to study."
Cigarroa said he enthusiastically looked forward to the opportunity to learn from the administrators, faculty, staff and students at UTPA during his visit.
"I believe that you can't be a great chancellor unless you walk the halls and meet the people who are working so hard every day and listen to them about how we can make The University of Texas System better," he said. "I'm really looking forward to this interaction, to the lessons learned and for allowing me to become a better chancellor."
As the first Hispanic to lead a major public university system in the nation, Cigarroa said universities have an important role to not only the community, but to the state and country as well.
"UTPA is a tremendous asset to the Rio Grande Valley and to the world," Cigarroa said. "My pledge to all of you in my new role of chancellor is that I will continue to do my very best to enhance the opportunities for this area."
During the breakfast meeting hosted in conjunction with the UTPA Foundation Board, Cigarroa talked about his passion for bettering lives through educational opportunities.
"At the end of the day, when we fulfill our whole life's duty, what makes us most proud is not what we have received, but what we have given," he said. "And the greatest gift you can give anyone is an education. No one can take an education away from you and it can allow any childhood dream to come true. I'm a perfect example of that."
Cigarroa was welcomed by Interim President Charles A. Sorber and commended for his courage for assuming his chancellor duties at the start of a difficult economic time for the state of Texas.
"He took on the challenge and I know he will do a great job," Sorber said. "He is a wonderful leader and he is going to do tremendous things on our behalf and for the UT System."
U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) also spoke during the meeting and told the chancellor that his work has already made a difference in South Texas, especially in the area of health care through the Regional Academic Health Center located on the UTPA campus.
"Your election as chancellor of the UT System is a signal of change and a point of pride for deep South Texas and The University of Texas border institutions from El Paso to Edinburg and Brownsville," Hinojosa said.
A Laredo native, Cigarroa most recently served as president of the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio since 2000. He is a third-generation physician and has been director of pediatric surgery and director of abdominal transplant surgery. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University and his medical degree from UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He was the chief resident at Harvard University's teaching hospital and completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The chancellor of the UT System serves at the chief administrative officer of one of the largest public systems of higher education in the nation, overseeing nine universities and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.5 billion (FY 2009) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.