Gov. Perry, UT System and RGV celebrate birth of new university
Posted: 07/16/2013
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From a young age, Anju Abraham knew she was going to be in the medical field. Today, she is a junior at South Texas High School for Health Professions in Mercedes, Texas, who is looking forward to attending school at the new UT University in South Texas, expected to open its doors in August 2015.

Governor Rick Perry poses with the key leaders in the Project South Texas initiative before he ceremonially signed the copies of Senate Bill 24 authorizing the creation of the new university in South Texas.

For Abraham this new university that will combine the assets and resources of the University of Texas-Pan American and UT Brownsville and establish a new medical school could not have come at a better time for the Middle Eastern-born student. She was not looking forward to leaving her loved ones behind to pursue her dream of becoming an anesthesiologist.

"All students in the Rio Grande Valley will have options - (because of this university) - options to stay with family and friends and options to better serve the community," Abraham said. "Thanks for giving me something exciting to look forward to."

Abraham addressed a crowd of more than 500, which included Governor Rick Perry, during a celebration at The University of Texas-Pan American on Tuesday, July 16, marking the landmark legislation that authorized the creation of the new university in the Rio Grande Valley.

Joining Perry for this once-in-a-lifetime moment were UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell, UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, UT Pan American President Robert S. Nelsen, UT Brownsville President Juliet V. Garcia, along with numerous Texas legislators, community leaders, UTPA alumni, students, staff and faculty who witnessed one of the university's most historic events in the campus' 85-year history.

UT Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell addresses the crowd at the UTPA Student Union Theater during the ceremonial bill signing to create a new university in the Rio Grande Valley.

Perry ceremonially signed copies of Senate Bill 24 that combines the two South Texas institutions and a new medical school into a single institution for the region. Also applauded was the $40 million allotted to the new university from the Permanent University Fund (PUF), bringing this important resource to the area for the first time. UTPA and UTB were the only UT System institutions that, by law, had no access to PUF.

"I've had some wonderful moments as governor and, in 30 seconds, one of the greatest moments in my governorship will be to put pen to paper to this piece of legislation," Perry said before he signed the bill.

Perry thanked all the individuals, from legislators to the UT System officials, who believed in the vision of this new university that will be a "game-changer for South Texas." Perry said the new university, temporarily dubbed "Project South Texas," will improve job quality and the quality of lives for everyone in the Valley.

"It will mean new doctors to treat South Texas patients, new startups utilizing discoveries made in the Valley and new opportunities for all Texans across the state," Perry said.

During the event, founders for the new vision for South Texas higher education, Powell, a Valley native, and Cigarroa, shared with the public the timeline and guidelines for the new university.

"Next month we will hold town hall meetings for people across the Rio Grande Valley... for stakeholders to take an active role in the institution we will build together," Cigarroa said.

Timeline highlights include the following:

- Name for new university to be finalized in November-December 2013.

- President of the new university to be announced in January-February 2014.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen celebrates the ceremonial signing for the landmark legislation for the creation of the new university with UTPA and high school students.

- Recruitment of inaugural first class through January-December 2014.

- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) approves new university in June 2015.

- Inaugural class enrolls in new university in August 2015.

For Nelsen, July 16, 2013 marked the final chapter for his beloved UT Pan American, which he has led for the past three years.

"Today we lift the name (The University of Texas-Pan American) up into the rafters. Pan Am we will always love you and keep you in our hearts," Nelsen said.

Nelsen called the new university a rebirth for UTPA and the region he calls the "Magic Valley."

"Today is an amazing day for this university... We celebrate the literal birth of the new university that will transform the Valley and the entire state...What a baby it is," Nelsen said.

Perry, joined by UT System officials and the Valley legislative delegation, traveled to UT Brownsville to have another ceremonial signing that afternoon.

To stay up to date with the happenings for Project South Texas, visit

See more of the festivites in this photo gallery.