UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa is poised to receive national honors for his leadership in education and medicine.
When the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute was founded in 1978, Francisco Cigarroa was an undergraduate studying biology at Yale University. Now the national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization is giving the transplant surgeon and UT System chancellor one of its highest honors.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus and CHCI chair Ruben Hinjosa, a South Texas Democrat, has selected Cigarroa as the recipient of the group’s Chair’s Award. Hinojosa said that the chancellor’s medical accomplishments and leadership of the UT System were an inspiration.
“As the first Hispanic to be named chancellor of The University of Texas System, overseeing one of the largest public systems of higher education in the nation,” said Hinojosa, “Dr. Cigarroa shares CHCI’s commitment to providing access to higher education not only for Latino youth, but for all of our nation’s young people.”
A third-generation physician, Cigarroa specifically credits the System’s work to improve the lives of South Texans through higher education and health care, alongside achievements in scientific research and teaching across the state. With 75,000 students along the Texas-Mexico border, he says UT’s work is making a “major impact.”
“This award really belongs to the University of Texas [System],” says Cigarroa. He makes special mention of alumni and donors, who he says help UT’s mission to educate all Texans, and points to UT’s unique role along the border compared to public universities in other states.
“It’s only through education that Texas will be able to compete,” he says.
During his administration, Cigarroa has prioritized medical education and UT’s role in South Texas. One of the Laredo native’s biggest accomplishments came this year, when the Texas Legislature approved a plan for a new UT university in South Texas, combining what is currently UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, along with a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.
This isn’t the first time that the UT System head has received national attention. Cigarroa has been appointed by two different presidents—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—to national commissions. His Framework for Achieving Excellence, a System-wide push for accessibility and efficiency, earned him a trip to the White House to meet with Obama in 2011.
Reflecting on the honor, Cigarroa says he’s thankful for his public education, his undergraduate work at Yale, and his medical training at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“I truly believe,” he says, “that education saves lives.”
Cigarroa will receive the award at a gala during National Hispanic Heritage Month in October.
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