Time really flies when you’re doing what you love. At least it has for me during the 30 years I’ve been president of Incarnate Word College/University of the Incarnate Word.
So on the eve of the 30th anniversary of my inauguration as president – March 25, the feast of the Annunciation – I’d like to offer the following reflection.
When I began working at Incarnate Word College in August of 1985, I was privileged to follow Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery as the College’s eighth president. But as a 34-year-old, I couldn’t have foreseen that I would still be president of Incarnate Word in 2016.
Like my native Brooklyn, San Antonio offers rich cultural and ethnic diversity. I relate with many of its residents due to our shared values and immigrant experiences; for me, it’s that both of my parents are from Italy. From an early age they, just like countless parents in San Antonio, provided me with an understanding of the importance of faith and family, as well as demonstrating the value of work and personal ethics.
San Antonio is full of people eager to reach for the American dream, but often lacking the educational and financial means to do so. This is what makes Catholic institutions such as UIW so important. We are the educational and spiritual conduits for that dream.
Not surprisingly, one of the proudest moments of my career occurred in 1996 when I was chosen as the national Hispanic Educator of the Year, even though I’m Italian-American.
In 1985, Incarnate Word offered 56 majors and no doctoral programs. We were limited to the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand. Our enrollment was under 1,300 and Incarnate Word was the 19th largest private university in Texas.
Today, UIW offers over 80 academic programs from the undergraduate through the Ph.D. levels. We also offer doctoral programs in pharmacy, optometry, physical therapy, nursing practice and business administration.
Next year we’re opening a School of Osteopathic Medicine at Brooks City Base that in the not-too-distant future will help address a shortage of primary care and family physicians in Texas. Plus, it will provide opportunities for minorities to enter the medical field, particularly Hispanics, who are severely underrepresented nationally as physicians.
Being at Brooks also has great symbolic meaning to us because we’ll be at the same site that once housed the U.S. Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine. If you want to listen to something inspiring for its uncanny and extraordinary ability to see into the future of medicine, search online for President John Kennedy’s speech at the school’s dedication in 1963, which sadly turned out to be the last major public event of his short life.
With nearly 11,000 students, UIW is now the third-largest private university in Texas based on global enrollment. We have nine locations in San Antonio; academic sites in Killeen and Corpus Christi; a study center in Heidelberg, Germany; and two campuses in Mexico where students earn UIW degrees that are recognized by the accrediting agencies of both countries.
Our most notable achievement, though, aligns with our historical mission of offering access, opportunities and choices to populations historically underserved by higher education. UIW is top in the nation among private universities in conferring the most bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics.
A great many people have accompanied me on this incredible 30-year journey, including UIW employees and trustees who’ve shared our vision and carried it forward. While there isn’t space here to name them all, they have my eternal gratitude for having had a positive impact on my life.
I do want to single out three very special people – my wonderful wife, Mickey, and our children, Louis III and Nancy. I’m blessed to be where I am because of their love, patience and support.
Finally, let me express my appreciation to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word for their trust and encouragement during the last three decades.
Let me close with the following: I’m often asked, “What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as president?” Whether I’m speaking with students, faculty or CEOs, my answer is always the same – that the greatest gift we have from God is time, so use it wisely.
Special blessings on you and your loved ones for the remainder of 2016.
Louis J. Agnese, Jr., Ph.D.