Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by thanking Guy Bailey for that kind introduction – and even more so, I want to thank and congratulate him and his team for taking on the herculean task of launching a new university, and for completing an absolutely phenomenal first year.
It is always great to be here in the Rio Grande Valley, one of my favorite places in the world.
I’ve been here more times than I can count over the last year and a half, and I always seem to leave with a bunch more friends than I had when I arrived.
That’s certainly the case today, as I already have two new friends, Bob and Janet Vackar.
Bob’s incredible generosity is, of course, the reason we are here today.
I think everyone would agree that there are times in life when the words “thank you” seem insufficient – and yet, as much as we’d like to come up with something more original, those two words are really the only ones that fit.
So thank you, Bob, on behalf of myself, the UT System Board of Regents, UTRGV and the entire state of Texas, for this gift.
On a more personal note, as a fellow veteran, let me also thank you for all that you and your company have done on behalf of the men and women of our country’s armed forces.
I know you are as passionate in your support of veterans as you are about UTRGV and the entire Valley, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate it.
At the University of Texas System, we are blessed – with our universities and health institutions – with the capacity to change millions of Texan lives for the better.
To unleash the potential of individuals, communities and indeed our entire state.
But for far too many years, there was one region, right here in the Rio Grande Valley, where we didn’t do enough.
As some of you know, I grew up in San Antonio. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Valley, so I’ve long known what a special place this is.
So when the Regents of the UT System approached me two years ago about becoming Chancellor, the single biggest thing that attracted me to the job was their excitement about UTRGV, their passion for the Valley, and the role they saw the System playing in its future.
The Regents explained to me how, by combining the strengths of UT Pan American, UT Brownsville and the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen into a comprehensive new university, complete with a medical school, we could help transform the economy, health, and overall well-being of the place I had come to know and love in my youth.
Their passion was infectious, and irresistible. I was sold. And since becoming Chancellor, I have made it my business to visit the Valley as often as possible.
I keep coming back, in part, because the folks down here are so welcoming, so spirited, so gracious, and so excited about the healthy and prosperous future they see on the horizon for their community.
I share all those sentiments.
And I know that in many ways, the story of this Valley’s future is going to be written by generation after generation of smart and ambitious young women and men who will pass through UTRGV on their way to meaningful and rewarding careers.
These will include, of course, graduates of the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship, who will no doubt create and lead the enterprises that will supercharge the Valley economy.
As they do that, I hope they will also emulate the man for whom their school is now named, and contribute selflessly to the wonderful community they call home.
Bob, your confidence and your faith in us is both humbling and inspiring.
And you have my word – from an old sailor to an old soldier – that we won’t let you or the people of this Valley down. Together, we are going to make you as proud of us as we are of you.
Thank you so very much.
And thank you all for being here today.