One West University Boulevard, Brownsville, Texas 78520 | 956-882-8200

Friday, January 15, 2010
Presented at The Arts Center,
The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College

Good morning, what a pleasure it is to gather together as we begin a new decade. And making it even more special is the privilege of inaugurating our new Arts Center with this combined convocation.

This morning we have some colleagues in new positions to introduce:

Esiquiel Avila, better known as Zeke. Will you please stand? After serving as interim director of Environmental Health and Safety for UTB/TSC for almost two years now, Zeke was officially promoted to the position of director last semester. Zeke holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from UTPA and is a Certified Hazardous Material Manager. Thank you, Zeke, for your dedicated service and congratulations.

This fall, Dr. Rafael Otero was appointed interim dean of the School of Business. Dr. Otero is one of our alumni; he earned an associate’s degree from Texas Southmost College, a bachelor’s from UT Pan American, a master’s from UT San Antonio, and a doctorate in business administration from UT Pan American. His research has focused on border trade. He has been a part of our campus community for 13 years, and has previously served as a department chair and interim co-dean of the School of Business. Thank you, Dr. Otero, for providing leadership for the school once again.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. James Frost, associate professor in the Department of English, to his new responsibilities as Director of our “Power of Two” program and Faculty Coordinator of the Writing Lab. Dr. Prior to joining our University, he was the Director of the Programs in Professional Writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has also served in administrative and teaching positions at the University of Minnesota, Boise State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas Pan American. His research interests include environmental rhetoric, the rhetoric of entrepreneurship and composition pedagogy.

It is also my pleasure to introduce Betsy Price in her new position as the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Betsy has worked in faculty development at the University of Utah teaching faculty, scientists and graduate students how to teach science to majors. At Westminster College, Betsy created a national model for fostering high-quality contingent faculty. She will continue her work here as the coordinator of the support office for part time faculty and will continue to provide support to our adjunct faculty. Betsy is the author of “Managing Technology in our Schools,” a book for administrators on how to manage technology for teaching. She brings more than 20 years experience as a grant project manager, an evaluator for formative and summative evaluation, and a teacher educator for high school teachers, graduate students and higher education faculty. Please join me in welcoming Betsy Price to her new responsibility.

It’s my honor to introduce Dr. Luis Colom as our first Vice President for Research. Dr. Colom came to us from Baylor College of Medicine prepared with medical and doctoral degrees from his native country, Uruguay. Dr. Colom’s extensive research training in Spain, Canada and Baylor College of Medicine serves as testament to his lifelong dedication to the pursuit of new knowledge through high-quality research. His research interests in Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy have attracted more than $12 million in grants to our university.

Since joining the Biology Department as a member of the faculty almost 10 years ago, and through discipline, diplomacy, talent, and most of all, hard work, he has helped his colleagues create one of the most vibrant departments on campus. Not surprisingly, enrollment of both majors and students in biology courses has risen impressively as more and more students are given research lab experiences enticing them to consider science as a career.

Dr. Colom also has led the research faculty in biology to establish the newest Center of Excellence at our university: the Center for Biomedical Studies. And because research is relatively new to our university, Dr. Colom also played a key role in developing the institutional infrastructure needed to support external grants and insure strict compliance.

Thank you Dr. Colom for your remarkable leadership and congratulations on your new position.

And finally, it is my sincere pleasure to introduce the only new face in today’s introductions: Dr. Alan Artibise. Dr. Artibise officially joined us as provost last October. And while many of you have already experienced the high energy leadership style of Dr. Artibise, today represents his first convocation at our university.

Dr. Artibise comes to us from Arizona State University where he served as executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the director of the Institute for Social Science Research. As executive dean, Dr. Artibise oversaw 30 academic schools and departments, 32 research centers and institutes, more than 800 tenured or tenure track faculty and a college budget of more than $200 million.

During his tenure, he aggressively pursued community engagement and transdisciplinarity through the creation of more than a dozen new schools such as the School of Global Studies and Human Evolution and Social Change. These new configurations fostered collaboration among otherwise distinct disciplines and have served to create the dynamic environment at ASU.

Dr. Artibise’s experience in using higher education as a catalyst in the development of a region will ensure that the momentum that began with the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Jose Martín, continues. He holds bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from the University of Manitoba and a doctorate degree in urban history from the University of British Columbia and is a certified planner and a recognized expert in North American urban development.

Dr. Artibise has chaired a multidisciplinary social and behavioral sciences department, taught in a traditional history department, worked as a professional historian at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. He has also served as executive director of a variety of research and public policy centers and institutes.

Dr. Artibise is a scholar and a seasoned administrator with strengths that perfectly align with the mission and the needs of our community university. I am proud to welcome him to our work where he is already playing a very key role in designing our destiny.

For the last several convocation meetings, I have given you updates on – our policy on Satisfactory Academic Progress.

As a quick review, in the fall of 2007, we installed a more rigorous policy because we believed it was in the best interest of our students. A faculty committee had noticed a troublesome trend of about 20 percent of our students who were not performing well academically but who were allowed to continue to enroll semester after semester.

Linked to this was the concern of indebtedness. Brownsville was recently ranked as the most impoverished city of its size in the nation. Therefore, not surprisingly, almost 60 percent of our students are eligible to receive the Pell financial grants. However, because Pell grants have failed to keep up with the actual costs of attending college, our financially needy students were borrowing more each year to make ends meet. In fact, in 2008, students borrowed 1½ times the amount of money distributed through the Pell program. So we knew that we had a portion of our students who were borrowing money, yet not making academic progress, therefore having nothing to show for their time at the university and no way to pay back their debt. We sought a solution that would guide our students toward graduation more rapidly and away from excessive loan indebtedness.

We made our new SAP requirements very easy to remember. All students have to earn a 2.0 GPA and a 70 percent completion rate to be considered in good academic standing.

Our entire campus community worked together to get the word out to students about the new SAP policy and to point them towards the many support programs we designed for them.

We now have five long semesters behind us, and the data shows that our students are headed in the right direction, but much too slowly. At the end of the first term under our new SAP criteria, 2,154 (20 percent) students were placed on probation. Since then we’ve averaged about 1,800 students placed on probation every semester. And in the five semesters since SAP was implemented, we have lost 3,795 students to suspension; students who came to our door seeking a college degree, students who were registered, went through orientation, sat in our classrooms and then after a couple of semesters, went from probationary status to suspension. Most have not returned.

We must do better than that. Our students must do better than that.

Of course, they must come to our doors better prepared, but since we’re preparing the teachers for the schools in our region, we must take our share of the responsibility in continuing to prepare better teachers. And as we all know, it’s not solely about pass rate on ExCET exams. Our teacher graduates are passing their state boards at higher rates than ever. In music education, we have a 100 percent pass rate continuously and more than a 90 percent pass rate in math and science.

As we completed the first decade of the new year, there was an article in the Washington Post that described just how important students’ achievement is. In a benchmark study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment, U.S. high schoolers ranked 25th out of 30 industrialized nations in math and 24th in science.

The Washington Post article further stated that “McKinsey and Co monetized the cost of our nation’s international achievement gap. Our education system’s poor results cost the country $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion a year – as much as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the stimulus package combined. They concluded that America cannot afford this kind of failure.”

What is the antidote to this gap that some think is caused by factors beyond our control, such as funding for education and family circumstances – poverty? The Washington Post article used as a beacon of hope to other educational programs our own Rio Grande Valley IDEA Academy. What started out 10 years ago as an after-school tutoring program run by two 23-year-old Teach for America teachers has now became a public charter school that last month U.S. News and World Report ranked 13th among America’s public high schools.  

From its first graduating class in 2007, 100 percent of the IDEA graduates went on to college. I suspect many of them are here with us on this campus. We owe them the opportunity to continue that culture of success and learning that they found at their high school right here in the Rio Grande Valley.

You and I know that students don’t need to be rich or come from a long line of Ph.D.s to succeed in college. They just need an opportunity. They need professors who believe in them, and they need support programs – whether it be mentoring or tutoring or a chance to work on campus – that help fill in gaps that they have when they come to our campus. They need each one of us.

For some, it is the bridge programs that make a difference; for others it’s dual enrollment, but for every one of them, it is finally what happens that first semester when they walk onto our campus. Do they connect with someone, do they transition into more rigorous study habits, and do they get inspired like each of us did?

Our focus on the freshman student through the Foundations of Excellence program is helping us quantify the answers to these questions, but we mustn’t delay taking action on what we already knows works well. We must focus our efforts and eliminate those processes or programs in your areas that we know aren’t bringing us a solid return on our investment. We must become more innovative until every student that comes to our door succeeds.

I had a long chat with one of our seniors a couple of weeks ago who will graduate this May. He has been preparing to go to medical school the entire time he has been at UTB/TSC. He was interviewed and accepted by the medical school that was his first choice.

I asked him what we could have done better to prepare him. He said nothing more, and he sang the praises of his professors, especially those in the biology department. He talked of the experience he had enjoyed doing research and he said that that had made all the difference in the interviews.

His mother died of diabetes last year; it seems to run rampant in his family. He wants to change that. This university gave him that opportunity. We must make that same difference in the lives of every student that comes our way, because each one has the same dream. It’s the same dream that you had and I had, and each deserves no less, just because they live in South Texas or because they are first generation.

We know that an important part of a successful university experience is being involved with activities outside of the classroom. This fall, every one of our athletic teams won their conference championship. Both our men and women’s soccer teams advanced to the opening round of the national tournament. We hosted the opening round for both teams right here for the first time. It was a glorious weekend for our teams and for the many students that attended to cheer them on. I had no idea how exciting it could be to watch and cheer for soccer. Eight flags were flown representing the many countries of origin of our teams and chats could be heard by the fans in Spanish and in English.

But it was our women’s volleyball team that advanced not only to nationals, but also to quarterfinals and ended the season tied for fifth in the nation. Once again, it is an international team built on the foundation of local women and sprinkled generously with many others from Brazil to Canada.

This spring our baseball team kicks off their season next weekend with two doubleheaders against Wayland Baptist University. Our men and women’s golf teams will host a tournament at the South Padre Island Gold Club in Laguna Vista February 21 and 22nd.

Our student athletes have made us very proud and have given all of our students the opportunity to become more engaged in campus life. Congratulations to all of our coaches, our trainers and to the many fans that each contributes to the success of these student athletes.

And then of course there was chess.

While most of us were relaxing during the holiday season, chess players from across the nation were playing four- to five-hour chess matches at the annual Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship, or as some refer to them, the World Series of Chess. This year, our campus hosted the Pan Am Games at South Padre Island. Twenty-eight teams from Canada, the United States and Barbados came to compete.

While the Pan Am Games are more than 60 years old, this is only UT Brownsville’s fourth time to play in the tournament. This is the qualifier to get into the President’s Cup tournament, which is the Final Four of chess.

As it turned out, we had won the privilege of hosting the Final Four tournament on our campus this April. So you can imagine that our teams were experiencing a little bit of pressure not wanting to be sitting on the sidelines if we didn’t make it to the Final Four.

Complicating the story a bit was the fact that our chess coach resigned last summer to return to his home and his family in South America. So this fall, our students had been on their own coaching each other, but in spite of this, we sent three teams to the competition: an A, B and C team.

After three long days of play, the results were:

  • 1st place: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
  • 2nd place: UT Dallas A team
  • 3rd place: Texas Tech
  • 4th place: UT Dallas B team
  • 5th place: UTB/TSC A team

Since each school can send only one team to the President’s Cup, our chess team made it into the Final Four!

Incidentally, our own B team ranked seventh in the Pan Am Games, higher than Stanford, Princeton, UT Austin, Yale, NYU and the team from the University of Chicago. And, our B team had three women on it, making the three women players the highest ranked in the entire tournament. These young men and women have proven once again that they can compete and win at chess and in life.

The tournament was extremely well run and so there were many winners. My special thanks to Rusty Harwood, our program director, and all those in the Student Affairs Division and the News and Information Office who attended to the many details of running a tournament, of getting the word out about their success and especially of hosting the many teams.

We are a community university, and this distinction in our mission has always been important to us, given the great needs of our region. One of the ways we impact the community is through our research. You’ve heard me say that since the establishment of the partnership, we went from something like $20,000 in research expenditures to now more than $5 million in external research grants a year.

This fall our Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, led by Dr. Mario Diaz, was awarded another $5 million grant from NASA. The grant will be used to support laser and optics research. It includes $1 million for much needed equipment and $1.3 million in support of both undergraduate and graduate research.

And this is the key: We know from experience in our biomedical research program, for example, that when you involve undergraduates in research, all of a sudden the number of majors in that program increases. Students are more engaged, and their successes are wins for all of us.

Our faculty are also partnering with industry to bring grants and new industry into our community. If you’ve had a chance to look at the morning newspaper, you saw the front page story in The Brownsville Herald about the Photon8 project. Just last week Gov. Rick Perry announced the award of a $1 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund for a collaborative project between Photon8, Inc and our university.

Photon8 is a startup company housed in the International Technology, Education and Commerce Center that is leading the development of algae bio-fuel technology. In collaboration with our students and faculty, the company is developing technology to create renewable energy from algae.

They will use resources that we have in abundance, such as seawater, and combine it with resources that aren’t so desirable in their current state, such as non-arable land and feedstock waste. Then they will mix it together with a lot of sunshine to create an alternative energy source.

Our students are already involved in this research, gaining hands-on experience in the laboratories at Photon8 in the areas of chemistry, environmental science, molecular biology and electro-magnetics. Business and engineering students are also learning firsthand about the inner workings of a high-tech start-up company.

This project represents the next stage in our efforts to promote regional economic development through research collaborations with private companies, particularly in the renewable energy area. We had hoped for so long that somehow the synergies at ITECC would become a catalyst for just this kind of event to occur. A place to have a startup company with experts from our labs to help them, and students involved in not only the business side of it, but the science side of it. This will become the first such startup of its kind in Brownsville, but it will not be the last.

I want to congratulate the professors that have been involved in this process: Tamera Pease and Danny Provenzano, and also Irv Downing and John Sossi, who together worked with BEDC and other community partners to help launch this new business and this new research opportunity in our region.

Another investment our university has made in the community is taking part in the development of the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan. Fred Rusteberg, Irv Downing and I served as tri-chairs for the Imagine Brownsville Committee. Many of you served on subcommittees providing expert information and helping people envision the future for our city.

This summer, the Brownsville City Commission adopted the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan. The plan provides a foundation for actually guiding the future growth and development of the Brownsville Borderplex consistent with the goals and visions of the community. The plan consists of measurable implementation strategies to meet the challenges facing our region. One of the key recommendations was the creation of a formal board, which would move the plan forward over time.

Why do we need another board at the city level? The capacity required to implement the Comprehensive Plan is beyond that of any one public institution. Only by leveraging the institutional and financial resources of all the different public and private sectors in Brownsville can we efficiently address the plan’s scope.

For example, one of the measurable strategies in the plan is to create a group to address and track educational attainment and workforce skills development to develop a just-in-time workforce program to respond to changing workforce skills demands. This is a great idea. We look at the skills our workforce currently has, we determine the employment needs of potential companies we want to entice to our area, and then we come up with a plan to fill in any workforce skills gaps.

This strategy, though, is beyond the scope of any one entity, however. In fact, the group assigned to implement just this one project includes our university, the school district, the Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce. So now, Imagine Brownville morphs into United Brownsville to help move a good idea like that one and many, many others to implementation. Thanks to all of you who helped create this grand opportunity for our city and to those of you who will continue to play a very important role as the plan beings to turn into realities.

Civic engagement has long been a goal of our university, supporting the belief that a college education is more than merely checking off classes sequentially on a degree plan. We want to teach our students to be active, engaged citizens. We want to teach them to analyze the needs of the community and determine how their own talents can help improve the region’s quality of life.

We began the Center for Civic Engagement in 2001 with Father Armand Matthew as the founding director. Last semester we welcomed Kathy Bussert-Webb as the newest director of the Center. Under this umbrella, we launched the Kids Voting program. We’ve worked to develop many programs for the members of the Buena Vida community, including the compassion kitchen and a counseling clinic; we employ at the Center for Civic Engagement Scholars; and we support faculty in their service learning curricula. We know that in addition to the work that grows out of the Center for Civic Engagement we have examples of many other wonderful programs throughout campus that give students an opportunity to experiment with civic engagement, such as the Bahia Grande Restoration Project and the income tax assistance program.

When we developed our strategic plan, we pledged to apply for the Community Engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Fortunately for us, Ethel Cantu and Kathy Bussert-Webb are leading the effort to apply for the Carnegie classification. This will be a campus-wide effort, as we will need to pull in people to help us examine each of those elements therein.

We are all here at a very pivotal time in our university’s evolution. We are still at a point where we can make a conscious decision about what we want to be known for, and I can think of no better label, than to be known as the university to go to if your passion is social justice and community engagement. That no matter what your major, whether it be fine arts, science or business, the underlying theme of your education will be to learn all you can so that you can make your community a better place.

Of course one of the best indicators of civic engagement in a region is voting behavior. Unfortunately, voting numbers are embarrassing low in South Texas. We have an opportunity to help change that. We have primaries in March this year and major elections in May and in November.

Remember the old adage that asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” Well that is the same way our students learn how to become good citizens: practice. Practicing voting behavior should begin right here on campus with a voting precinct convenient for everyone, but we must practice also. We must practice using our own voice.

There are many important positions up for election this year including those in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representative, as well as many state races, including governor, judges at all levels. We also have many county positions to be determined, such as county treasurer and county commissioners, and our Board of Trustees.

The Center for Civic Engagement has launched an ambitious effort to achieve 100 percent eligible voter turnout on campus for the November elections. This means that every person on campus, who is registered to vote, would do so. As you know, we have never been afraid of ambitions goals, nor apparently are they. What we are afraid of, is losing our designation as a voting site. Voters have not turned out at our campus polls as we had hoped. We need your help in making sure we remain a place where people can vote - not only to make it easy for our students, our faculty and our staff to be active voters, but to continue to send the message that our university is a leader in civic engagement.

To make it even more convenient, we have moved the polling place to Mary Rose Cardenas South Hall No. 117. That is the seminar room right off the lobby. This will give voters a bit more privacy as they make their selections.

What will make the biggest difference, though, is when each of us decides that this is the year that our voice will be heard. That we will study and think about the issues. We know that there is no right answer or wrong answer, no right candidate or wrong candidate, but there are many compelling issues that our students need to know about and in which we need to be engaged.

You will hear more about the 100 percent goal in the coming months, including two opportunities you will have to be deputized to help register voters. In the meantime, let’s begin by practicing: Vote in the primaries in March, vote in the May election and then vote again in November. Each time, you may vote here on campus and also invite someone to come with you. Let’s make sure that this community understands that our voice is very powerful.

Now, I’d like to talk about several major initiatives that we have coming up as we move forward in this new decade.

First, to each of you on a personal level: Last semester I challenged each of you to “Get Moving” as part of a joint wellness program sponsored by REK Center staff, the faculty of the Health and Human Performance Department and the Human Resources Department. We talked about the goal to incorporate 150 minutes of exercise in your week.

We’re half way through the year. How are you doing? According to our campus REK staff, we had 152 employees register for the Get Moving program.

I’ve been taking advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment at the REK Center, and I can personally confirm that the elliptical machine will get your heart pumping, as advertised! I don’t know who put all of those mirrors in the REK Center, but take it from me, you don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror. Or if you do, just imagine yourself when you were 18. It’s a wonderful place; you just have to break that ice. The students are very helpful and very accommodating. I’m having a great time, and I know that all of you will, too. Just remember: Focus, get moving and take your ID card.

To provide even more motivation, the Campus REK staff is challenging all campus employees to join them at the REK for “Fit Fridays.” Beginning today through April 30th, all faculty and staff members can use the REK for free each Friday when they present their current UTB/TSC STING employee ID card. Yes, you have to take your ID card. All they do is swipe it, and you’re in. This is a great way to try out the REK Center.

It’s a new decade, and it’s a great time to get moving and stay healthy.

Along with our resolutions to exercise more and eat better, many of us also make resolutions at this time of year to spend less and save more money. Just as we are financially responsible at home and start to spend more conservatively when the economy is tough, we must also continue to be responsible stewards here at work.

While it’s still true that Texas is a good place to weather out the economy, we are still not in the clear. During this first quarter of Texas’ budget year, which began September 1st, the comptroller confirmed that our sales tax revenues were down 13.3 percent as compared to the same time last year. Each month since September 2009, the gap in sales tax revenues has widened: September was down 12.5 percent percent, October was down 12.8 percent, and November was down 14.4 percent.

Earlier this week, we have learned that we may face a budget reduction of between 2.5 and 5 percent this current fiscal year. It is also expected that the prospects for next fiscal year will continue to decline.

Fortunately, UTB/TSC is a bit ahead of the curve because one of the first things our new Provost did when he arrived in the fall was to anticipate this problem and create a Resource and Cost Containment Task Force to address these issues. Since then, more than 100 of you have been hard at work preparing recommendations that are due February 15th.

I want to thank each of you who are serving on the different Task Force groups for your hard work. Developing new resources, streamlining and reducing costs are realities that we must address in a serious way in the months ahead. But these challenges – like many others we have faced – will be met in the innovative and positive spirit that has characterized our unique institution for the past two decades.

There is some good news on the Resource side: as of this morning we have an additional 672 students registered, and our student credit hour count is up by more than 5,700 hours.

The key, then, is reduce our expenditures, streamline our processes, get even more creative and innovative, and generate some new revenues. We need to hold onto these students and help them succeed.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa celebrated his first anniversary as chancellor of the UT System. Prior to being appointed Chancellor, Dr. Cigarroa, as many of you know, served as president of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, where he also practiced as a brilliant pediatric transplant surgeon.

Chancellor Cigarroa is a native of Laredo. He knows South Texas. He knows of our challenges and even more significant, he knows our potential.

Last semester the Chancellor delivered his “Vision for the University of Texas System to the regents. He boldly stated that exciting opportunities exist in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and he singled out our University by name four times. Now, that may not sound significant to you, but remember that there are fourteen other universities in the UT System, so to be singled out four times in that vision statement of the Chancellor as UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College was extraordinarily significant. He stated that “Each university throughout the system must establish signature programs, or centers of excellence, consistent with our mandate to be an institution of the first class,” and he made academic planning for South Texas one of his top five priorities.

True to his word, the chancellor has directed senior UT System staff to develop a higher education plan for the Rio Grande Valley. Options are being explored for new programs and new degrees, partnerships with other universities, and innovative programs that we could bring to our region. Our provost, vice president for Academic Affairs and our deans have already begun to develop detailed plans for the expanded role our university can play in the coming years.

This is a critical time for us; as critical as was the time 19 years ago when this university was first formed. You know the saying, “When the planets are aligned ….” We have the right circumstances before us and the right characters are in their place. This is a time of alignment: Our chancellor’s vision is focused on South Texas; the physical infrastructure is now present; and the expert and experienced faculty and staff are practiced and ready to take it to the next level. It is an extraordinarily exciting time to have the privilege to help shape our university’s future

While on one hand we are having to think about generating new revenue and streamlining our processes, that’s okay, we’re good at that. We are simply going to get a little better with these platicas, these discussions. But on the other hand, we join our chancellor, our regents and our trustees in thinking, “What’s next? What’s that next level? And how do we prepare to be a whole part of that discussion?” Please know that it is a great privilege – it continues to be a great privilege for me to be a part of this important work with you.

The year 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the partnership between UTB and TSC. You know how after you do something a few times, you begin to get better at it? Well we’ve celebrated an anniversary or two on campus now, and we know the kind of enthusiasm we can count on from our campus community. So to take advantage of every single good idea we can, we are going to begin planning now. Our 20th anniversary will officially kick off one year from this moment at Spring Convocation in 2011.

Our provost is leading a steering committee to begin a master schedule of activities. We know that each of our colleges and schools will have events, as well as our athletic department, our alumni association and many others. We’ll hold some scholarship fundraisers and we’ll incorporate some very special touches into our commencement ceremonies. It will be a glorious celebration, and there is a place for everyone who wants to be part of the planning. So if you aren’t involved just yet, please send the provost, or Pilar Saldivar in his stead, a note offering your help.

Over the last year we’ve closed out the ITEC Center project, the new REK Center is complete, the University Boulevard Library is complete, the University Boulevard Classroom Building is complete, and as we speak, we are putting finishing touches in the new Center for Early Childhood Studies – those wonderful little cottages, or casitas, that are in the peninsula area. That center will accept its first class of 160, 3 to 5 year olds in the coming weeks. I probably won’t be there, but I would love to watch. It’s going to be a wonderful place. It will triple the amount of capacity that we have to take of the babies that belong to many of our students, faculty and our staff. It will also serve as a clinical site for our own teacher training program.

Now, you have been listening to me talk for the last hour. You’ll notice that we didn’t have any slides this time to distract you from the view of our beautiful, new performance hall.

This Arts Center is the fifth project completed in the series of renovation and construction projects that began with a bond issue five and a half years ago.

The Arts Center was built as a place for our students to first learn, then practice and then perform. It is made up of small classrooms, where one-on-one instruction can take place; three rehearsal halls, where large ensembles can practice; and of course, this beautiful performance venue, where students can perform and learn what it means to “play the hall.” As Professor Michael Quantz so eloquently said, “In this place, we become conservators of human expression.”

Today, you are the first audience to sit in the performance hall. Professors Sue Zanne Urbis and Terry Tomlin remind me that it was 15 years ago that the first group of faculty got into a new van that Terry had just bought. He left the old van, the one with no air conditioning, at home for his wife to drive, while he took the new van and filled it with faculty members. They toured the state of Texas in search of arts centers, in search of what someday might be a reality for our campus. Sometimes, it takes a while to fulfill a dream.

Today, we fulfill that dream for the music faculty. We fulfill it for folks who have excelled despite their environments. They were first housed in a tin building that rattled whenever the jazz band got too excited, then to Eidman Hall, a retrofitted science, biology and chemistry building, where the students commandeered any available space, including storage closets, when they wanted to hear themselves in isolation from others.

Our students and faculty have excelled and received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music, an accreditation that is saved for only the very best music programs. It is the same agency that accredits the Julliard School of Music. Our program has launched students from here to Carnegie Hall, our second such student debuts this year. They have done that without the benefit of adequate facilities, classrooms, and performing halls. Can you imagine doing science without laboratories? They’ve done it with a lot of innovation, a lot of creativity, and an awful lot of hard work.

Today, our community gifts to the Fine Arts Department this beautiful facility, and we celebrate it with you as our first audience.

Be sure to take a look at the vast walls of this beautiful lobby area. The Lobby, by the way, is known as the Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt Lobby Gallery. Charles Butt, who has become a good friend of ours, gave us a million dollars to name the lobby after his mother. We think that was a really good idea. The hallways and lobbies were designed specifically to display artwork. We have so many gifted artists on our campus who show their work around the world. Our own Carlos Gomez, for example, is part of a show at the China National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, next month. If you can show in China, Carlos, you can show here in our own Fine Arts venue.

So 2010 marks our Inaugural Year of The Arts Center. This whole year is claimed as an inaugural year, so encourage people to come to one of the many events during the inaugural year. It will count. We will hold events of all kinds this year to ensure that everyone in our community who wants to attend a performance will have the opportunity. We hope to have school orchestras, choirs and bands of all kinds perform here so that their families can see and hear them on this stage. UIL competitions will be scheduled here later this spring.

We also have performers who have made us promise to invite them to be a part of the year-long celebration, but most importantly, our own students and faculty that have been patiently waiting to savor the moment of performing in their own magnificent Arts Center, will also get to test drive our new place.

It was almost 15 years ago when the faculty of the Music Department first climbed into Terry’s van and went on a tour around to look for what we might have here. Now, he tells me, one of those schools that they visited long ago has returned to our campus to see what our Arts Center looks like so they might build their new facility.

The performance hall, each of the three rehearsal halls and each of the many teaching studios found in this Arts Center are acoustically designed to provide a transformational experience for our students and their audiences. What you will notice when you go into one of the rehearsal halls is that you only silence. It almost feels like you’re getting shut into a room without air because it is so tightly constructed.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce the very first performance in The Arts Center. Because we are literally learning how to turn on the lights we have two distinguished professors working lights for our inaugural performance today.

Please help me thank Dr. Michael Quantz and Professor Terry Tomlin who have been here day and night for the last few weeks practicing for this debut themselves.

Also help me thank Sue Zanne Urbis and her faculty and the members of the TSC Board of Trustees, especially Dr. Roberto Robles, who led the charge to make this beautiful Arts Center a dream come true for our campus community. Finally, thanks to the many staff who helped orchestrate the sound and the staging for your meeting. Please know how much we appreciate your dedication to our work together.

In our community we hold family very dear. We take great delight in honoring each generation – those that have come before us, and those that follow. Now, as a special treat for each of you who continue to dedicate your own careers to our work together, we have invited three accomplished musicians to represent the kind of cross generational lines that bring us closer, to convey understanding and to launch our dreams of the future.

We close today with a performance from our faculty who represent three generations of performers.

Jesus Guillermo Morales is a recent graduate of our university and as of last fall, is a new Instructor. He will begin our short program with: sonata “Pathetique,” Op. 13, 3rd movement by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Dr. Juan Pablo Andrade who is also relatively new to our university, not as student, but as a member of the faculty. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Andrade, who recently joined our faculty and brings with a wealth of teaching experience from Costa Rica. He will play “Fantasie-Impromptu,” Op. 66 by Frederic Chopin.

Finally, Richard Urbis, professor of fine arts, who has been a pillar on our faculty for 25 years. For our finale he will play “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 11” by Franz Liszt.

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