Chancellor leaves mark on UT System

02/15/2014 12:00 AM

02/14/2014 6:28 PM

When Dr. Francisco Cigarroa arrived as chancellor of the University of Texas System in 2009, he brought with him a remarkable resume as a nationally pediatric transplant surgeon and a university president.

We served on the UT Board of Regents that selected Cigarroa as chancellor after an exhaustive national search for the absolute best candidate to lead our state’s most precious resource.

We met with business executives, healthcare leaders, university presidents, elected officials and more, searching for the skill sets and personalities that were essential to lead one of the nation’s largest and most respected university systems.

After traveling throughout the country, we ended up right back home with the clearest and best choice in Cigarroa.

As a university president for nine years, professor and physician, Cigarroa had the perfect set of experiences to lead a university system of 215,000 students and 90,000 employees.

Maybe it was foresight on our part, maybe it was fate, but choosing a proven leader in medicine, academia and administration turned out to be the best selection we could possibly have made.

Thanks in large part to Cigarroa, the UT System is now establishing not one, but two new medical schools and a new university in South Texas. He pushed for resources to promote excellent teaching and research across all 15 UT institutions.

We agree with Regents Chairman Paul Foster, who said it would take most people a lifetime to accomplish what Cigarroa has accomplished in five years as chancellor.

We applaud Cigarroa for his visionary leadership; unflagging work ethic; commitment to the students, parents and patients of Texas; and strong determination to always do the right thing, even under challenging circumstances.

Cigarroa is no grandstander. He is no politician.

But he is a diplomat who has found common ground among opinions at times so fractured and volatile they threatened to split the UT community.

Through the distractions that have surrounded the Board of Regents for the last few years, Cigarroa remained focused on the important goal of improving affordability and accessibility for all Texans.

He has protected the UT System and pushed it to even higher levels of excellence.

The people of Texas deserve nothing less than a remarkable leader in the next chancellor.

Cigarroa is irreplaceable, but we trust that Foster and the regents will search for a similarly remarkable individual.

Cigarroa has always understood the responsibilities of working closely with the Texas Legislature, but that alone is not the primary role of the leader of a university system that is national and global in its responsibility and impact.

He is a leader who was sought after and served admirably on several national commissions to chart the course of America’s future in research and in the humanities.

We need another leader who understands academia and medicine and can appreciate the UT System’s vast role in not one, but both arenas.

This is a watershed moment for UT. Cigarroa will be greatly missed as chancellor, but we respect and applaud his decision to, as he puts it, go back to saving lives “one individual at a time.”

We know that education saves lives. We know that the UT System deserves another Francisco Cigarroa, another spectacular leader with national respect for his accomplishments, vision and integrity.

We must get this right. The University of Texas System is too precious to make the wrong decision.

Scott Caven is managing director of Atlantic Trust. James Huffines is president and COO of PlainsCapital Corp. Both are past chairmen of the UT Board of Regents. Robert Rowling is CEO of TRT Holdings and past vice chairman of the UT Board of Regents.

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