Julio León, former president of Missouri Southern State University (MSSU), has been hired to serve as special advisor to The University of Texas System’s Office of Academic Affairs. León will lead and coordinate campus teams that will assist UT System leadership with planning the new university and medical school in the Rio Grande Valley. Historic legislation passed by the Texas Legislature this year paves the way to establish a new UT university in South Texas, combining the resources and assets of The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas-Pan American.
León will office at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen and will serve as special advisor over the next six to nine months until the president of the new university is named. A search committee for the new university will be named in the near future, and a president is expected to be selected by the spring of 2014.
León served as president of Missouri Southern State University for 25 years and at the time of his retirement in 2007 was one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation. After retiring from MSSU, León served as interim president at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He has been actively involved in national higher education organizations and served as president of the board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and vice president representing the U.S. for the Inter-American Organization of Higher Education. He has also served on the board of the American Council on Education and on the President’s Council of the American Association of Governing Boards.
With an M.B.A. from North Texas State University and a doctorate in business administration from the University of Arkansas, León first came to MSSU as an assistant professor before being promoted to the dean of the school of business administration. He was named president in 1982 after a national search.
“An opportunity to create a new university that will have transformative impacts on South Texas comes only once in a lifetime,” UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said in a letter to leaders at UT Brownsville and UT Pan American. “We are confident you will give your full support and cooperation to Dr. León, the South Texas leadership transition team, members of the various work groups, as well as UT System staff, who will all work collectively to reshape the future of education, health care and the economy of the Rio Grande valley for future generations.”
President Juliet Garcia of UT Brownsville and President Robert Nelsen of UT Pan American will join León on the Project South Texas transition team. Working groups made up of faculty, staff, students and community members will be formed this month and will help conceptualize and plan the new university and develop a blueprint for implementation. The first class of the new university will enroll in the fall of 2015.
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.