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First South Texas PUF Funding to Create New Construction for Unified University

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 20, 2013Chayse Sundt wants to do his part to convince younger students to consider staying close to home for higher education a serious look.                                                                                                                       

Sundt, 20, of Brownsville and a junior English education major at The University of Texas at Brownsville, is a University Scholar scheduled to graduate in late 2014 or early 2015. Afterwards, he wants to pursue a master’s degree at what will be one of the largest Hispanic-serving institutions in the nation starting in summer 2015. That university will be a unified UTB and University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg and a new four-year medical school.

 Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Chancellor of The University of Texas System, speaks at a ceremony on Wednesday formally announcing the allocation of $196 million in PUF funding to UTB and UTPA 

“There will be new procedures and an expansion to academics. Students can look forward to coming here. It can challenge who you are,” said Sundt.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents Vice Chairman Gene Powell and Regent Ernesto Aliseda ceremonially presented a $196 million Permanent University Fund check to the presidents of The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg at an afternoon ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen.

“I think with us being here, this is a great opportunity seeing how history is being made. This check will open the door for future students,” said Sundt.

UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Texas legislators and community leaders from throughout the Rio Grande Valley also took part in the event.

“It is because of the leadership of Gene Powell and the understanding that The University of Texas System needed to plant a larger flag in South Texas and to understand this great region of the state needs to have a research university,” said Cigarroa about the work that went into making south Texas PUF money a reality. 

The money approved by the Board of Regents on Thursday, Nov. 14 is the first ever to be awarded to south Texas institutions and the first for the new university. The first freshman class will begin at the yet to be named university in fall 2015.

Students from UTB and UTPA with Vice Chairman Eugene Powell, Chancellor Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Regent Ernest Aliseda and a ceremonial check for $196 million in PUF funding

PUF is a public permanent endowment established in 1876 by the Texas Constitution and draws revenues from gas, oil, and land leases from state land to support members of The University of Texas System and Texas A&M University System. But up until this year, state law did not allow UTB and UTPA to access PUF funds.

The financial allocation will bear a $54 million, 140,000-square-foot academic building at UTB and $18 million for the UT System to pay for purchased buildings owned by Texas Southmost College.

“For too long, the people of the Rio Grande Valley have been heavily laden with the unfulfilled dreams of our parents,” said Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, UTB President. “Today brings that era to an end. Today the promise to fulfill those dreams has been kept.”

Powell, a native of Weslaco, said the idea for the unified university came up during a late night telephone conversation with Cigarroa in October 2012. He said all of the work that went into creating the university and securing funding was a strong team effort.

“I was fortunate to be chairman when it happened,” said Powell.

The UT Board of Regents announced their idea in December 2012 to merge the universities and create four-year medical school. The new university and medical school will combine the talents, assets of UTB, UTPA and the RAHC.

Gov. Rick Perry used part of his State of the State address to call for the 83rd Texas Legislature to pass legislation creating the new university and granting access to this important funding. The Legislature successfully passed a merger bill this spring.

“Today, the students of south Texas are able to stay closer to home to earn their college degrees,” Perry told legislators in January. “This area of the state is crucial to our state’s future, and our investment in the children of south Texas will be returned a thousand-fold.”

A campaign is underway to seek community input on the new name of the institution until Friday, Dec. 6. The Board of Regents is expected to decide the new university’s new name by the end of the year. Also, a search advisory committee is recruiting and reviewing candidates to serve as president of the new university.

The new university is expected to offer expanded learning and research opportunities, boost the quality of life, attract new businesses and fill critical needs in the health care field.

“It’s not just going to be a regional university, but it’s going to be a national university, an international university. It will be one that we can be proud of,” said Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.

For more information, visit the Project South Texas website​​

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