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Houston: Big city, big hearts

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Monday was a cold and dreary day for a road trip, but Georgeann and I already had plans to go to Houston for visits with generous and dedicated supporters of The University of Texas System and we are so glad we did!

The friendship and encouragement we were met with warmed our hearts and opened our eyes to the fact that Houston is not only a city that benefits from the great work of institutions like UTHealth Houston, UT MD Anderson and UT Medical Branch in Galveston, but also a place committed to UT’s mission and enabling the success of UT institutions across the state.

We met with some of Houston’s business and civic leaders at a luncheon hosted by Les Allison, David Grimes, Hannah and Cal McNair, Dee Osborne and Beth Robertson, along with Randi and Johnny Carrabba who held the lunch at their restaurant. I love Carrabba’s, and eating at Carrabba’s with the Carrabbas was quite a treat!

I was able to share my commitment to advancing the boldest ideas – ones that will make national and international impact – and my goal that, together, we will make Texas the destination for all things great in higher education, health care and research.

The UT System has a substantial footprint in Houston – something those outside the city might not realize. We have three world-renowned institutions in the Texas Medical Center that treat thousands of patients each year and are conducting research that changes and saves lives. And now, we are planting the seed for academic programs to flourish in this great city with our new UT Energy Research, Engineering and Education Institute in Houston. It will be a public-private partnership that will provide opportunities for students and faculty across Texas to collaborate with industry engineers and scientists.

The institute is also part of a broader initiative to dramatically increase the number of engineers and computer scientists in our state. And a critical part of that plan includes increasing collaboration with industry and planting a larger UT flag in Houston.

I also had the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with several individuals who care deeply about Texas, higher education and The University of Texas System. Georgann was able to take a tour of TIRR Memorial Hermann, an amazing facility that is recognized as a national leader in medical rehabilitation and research and is part of UT Health’s primary teaching hospital.

We also visited the Texas Heart Institute and, while there, I signed a renewal to UT System’s decade-plus affiliation with THI that allows UT institutions and the Texas Heart Institute to collaborate on many fronts. The agreement has allowed UT System and THI to work together to recruit world-class scientists and cardiac specialists; provide internships and training for students; and engage in many cooperative efforts.

Our action-packed day culminated in a reception where I joined more than 175 friends of the UT System to talk about our vision for the future.

As I travel around the state visiting campuses and meeting with UT supporters, I’m struck by the breadth and depth of Texas, the reach of the UT System across this immense landscape, and the immeasurable dedication of our loyal UT advocates. There is a UT universe out there made up of students, faculty, and alumni, patients who have benefitted from UT health care and community leaders supporting our mission.  It is inspiring to see and it motivates me very day.