As A&M chancellor plans retirement, RGV leaders highlight impact

Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, left, and AgriLife Dean Patrick Stover speak during the Advancing Texas Roadshow on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, at the Texas A&M Higher Education Center in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])
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Texas A&M Chancellor, John Sharp speaks at the McAllen Convention Center on Friday, April 13, 2018. Sharp was named 2018 Border Texan of The Year. (Monitor Photo)

Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, a longtime advocate for higher education in the Rio Grande Valley, announced plans to retire in one year, prompting local officials to recall his impact on the region and efforts to grow higher education opportunities.

Becoming chancellor in September 2011, Sharp’s achievements during this tenure include a building boom with $11.4 billion for 306 projects that improved facilities at all 11 system universities and eight state agencies. A five-fold increase in research initiatives with faculty who are national leaders in their respective field, and the acquisition and growth of the Texas A&M School of Law.

Sharp on June 30 announced his retirement and thanked past and present regents, system employees and elected officials for their years of support.

“Texas A&M, in particular, has grown to become the school of choice, with one of the biggest enrollments in the nation,” he said in his letter. “While our culture, our traditions, and the patriotic fervor of our students remain intact. We reflect the great traditions and culture of the state of Texas.”

Named 2018 Border Texan of the Year, Sharp said, “There’s not an award anywhere that could mean more to me than this one.”

“This is the place that I almost wish I were from. We say Victoria’s in South Texas, the Valley, but you know it’s a long way from here. But we claim it anyway because we wanna be a part of it. There is no place in Texas I love more than the Rio Grande Valley. I just love the place.”

Sharp was instrumental in creating Texas A&M’s Higher Education Center in McAllen, with the addition of a Health Nursing Education and Research Building. The new $49.9 facility is around 61,00 square feet and is scheduled to open in 2026.

“We at the Texas A&M System are dedicated to the people of South Texas and Rio Grande Valley,” Sharp said in a news release. “And that is why we are investing in the region — and its health — with a new facility for nursing and health-related research.”

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, one of Sharp’s best men at his wedding, said Sharp is the greatest chancellor that Texas A&M has ever had.

Knowing Sharp since the days of when he was also on the Texas Senate, Hinojosa said he loves the Valley and was focused on education and serving the people of the Valley.

John Sharp, former Democratic Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, campaigns for a seat on the United States Senate at Fiesta Tex Mex in Weslaco on Monday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2009. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Recounting a story of a meeting that took place years ago, Hinojosa said, “It was a small meeting. We had a discussion about how we needed an A&M campus here in the Valley and a larger presence which we knew he also wanted. After a short discussion he said, ‘Consider it done’ and it became a reality and we have the A&M McAllen Education Center.”

The most recent investment in higher education in the Valley is a $30 million Texas A&M RGV Advanced Manufacturing Hub at the Port of Brownsville. The new facility is about 30,000 square feet and will include indoor classrooms, lab space and outdoor learning space.

“The Rio Grande Valley has the fastest growing population in Texas,” Sharp said. “It is critical for the success of the region and the state that practical and affordable training is available, and that’s just what this project will provide.”

Texas A&M also has the AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, where breakthrough discoveries have been made in the agricultural world.

For colleague Guy Bailey, president of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Sharp’s retirement signals the end of an era.

“Chancellor John Sharp has been a tremendous advocate for the Rio Grande Valley, and his collaborative efforts with UTRGV have significantly impacted our community, and we are grateful for his dedicated service,” Bailey said. “We congratulate him on his retirement and wish him all the best.”