McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Guy Bailey, founding president of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley — which formed in 2014 by merging higher education institutions in the Rio Grande Valley — today was named as 2019 Border Texan of the Year. This is an honor that has previously gone to Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.
Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, who was the 2018 reigning honoree, made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in McAllen.
“Congratulations to President Guy Bailey on the award. I appreciate his dedication to the community and to higher education,” Sharp said in a news release.
Annual selection of the Border Texan of the Year goes to someone who demonstrates advocacy and improves issues that are of importance to South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, such as education, funding, transportation, business, security and healthcare, a news release said.
A dinner banquet to honor Bailey will be held on Nov. 21 at the McAllen Convention Center, and the proceeds will typically go to scholarships for students in the RGV, Sharp announced on Wednesday.
Taking the helm
In May 2014, Bailey moved to McAllen to take the helm of UTRGV, which was formed by merging the former University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas-Pan American.
UTRGV now has multiple campus locations spanning the Upper, Middle and Lower Rio Grande Valley regions, from Edinburg to Brownsville. And Bailey can often be seen traveling in his well-worn pickup to and from all campus locations on any given day to address staff, student and community issues.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected,” Bailey said. “This is easily the highest honor I have ever received, and I am particularly pleased because it comes from my colleagues of the Rio Grande Valley, my adopted home and a place I dearly love.”
Prior to UTRGV, Bailey was both the president of the University of Alabama and Texas Tech University. He also was chancellor of the University of Missouri Kansas City, and provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas-San Antonio.
During Bailey’s four years at UTRGV, the school has added 17 new undergraduate and graduate academic programs, and South Texas’ first-ever a school of medicine, which has 155 medical students, 168 residents and several hundred scientists and faculty.
UTRGV currently ranks first among all Texas universities for awarding the most undergraduate and graduate degrees to Hispanics, according to the release. The institution also is home to hundreds of DREAMER students and DACA recipients and is located an hour south of the Falfurrias, Texas, border checkpoint.
“I can’t think of a more deserving individual. He has transformed the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley into a first-class institution. The opportunity for Valley students to access quality higher education at a very reasonable cost is resulting in more and more college degrees being earned. We all know that when it comes to our youth, higher education at UTRGV is a goal worth pursuing and a degree from UTRGV will pay tremendous dividends,” said Border Texan of the Year Chairman of the Board John David Franz.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.