Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – For eight years Veronica Gonzales has represented the Rio Grande Valley in the Texas State Legislature. Now, she will represent the Valley’s largest university, The University of Texas-Pan American as its vice president for university advancement.
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said he is thrilled and excited to have someone of Gonzales’ caliber joining the University.
“Veronica Gonzales has been a major ‘mover and shaker’ in the Rio Grande Valley and the State of Texas for years,” Nelsen said. “She is committed to UT Pan American’s mission of reaching out to the Valley and transforming the Valley through higher education. Veronica is a proven fundraiser with a brilliant mind and will make a difference at the University, just as UT Pan American is making a difference in the Valley.”
Gonzales, who will join UTPA July 1, said she is excited to serve her community in this new role and to tell the impressive story of this University, which is among the top five public universities in this state (Forbes, 2011) and one of the most affordable in the country.
As vice president of University Advancement, Gonzales will oversee the Office of Development, which is responsible for fund raising for the University, as well as the Department of Marketing and Communications, which comprises the Offices of Alumni Relations, Public Affairs and Studio Twelve01, the University’s marketing office.
Gonzales said she is looking forward to working with the advancement team to further the University’s current fundraising efforts and its renown.
“The same skills I developed in elected office – networking and fostering relationships to garnish support – will be instrumental in working for the University. The story I want others in our state and nation to know is that we are doing great things here in South Texas, that we are a growing University, one with extremely high rankings and that an investment in this University is a sound one that will reap benefits for generations to come.”
Gonzales graduated cum laude from her hometown university — Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos — in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish. She earned her law degree from The University of Texas School of Law in 1991.
Upon graduating from law school, Gonzales moved to McAllen, where she began practicing law at Jarvis & Kittleman, P.C., now Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzales, LLP. She became a partner in four years and is currently a name partner.
As a first-generation college graduate, Gonzales said she feels a connection with many UTPA students and alumni.
“I went to my hometown university, in large part because it was convenient, because we did not have the money for me to attend elsewhere and not knowing much about college — being the first in my family to go — it seemed like the right choice, ” Gonzales said. “I know I have that in common with many students in the Rio Grande Valley, so we want local students to know they do not have to go away to get an affordable and quality education. We also want to appeal to students from all over Texas and the nation. When they learn of the University’s accomplishments and how welcoming the Valley’s residents are, I know they will love it as much as I have.”
Since moving to the Valley, Gonzales has served her community and the legal profession as a member of numerous professional, civic and charitable organizations, including the Children’s Defense Fund and Texas Rural Legal Aid.
She was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2004, becoming the first female to represent District 41, and has gone on to serve four terms in the House, where she authored or co-authored 82 bills, several of which have benefitted higher education, including ones to help curb dropout rates and allow students to pay for their tuition in installments.
During her tenure in the House, Gonzales distinguished herself by passing the highest percentage of bills by any Democratic legislator in the House and was recognized as Freshman of the Year by the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.
Currently, Gonzales serves as chair of the Border and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and is a member of the Public Health Committee.
Over the years, Gonzales has shown her support for UT Pan American, speaking at HESTEC and other events.
Gonzales has received numerous awards for her work as a public servant. In 2010, she received the Ultimate Latina Award from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her legislative accomplishments. Earlier this year, Gonzales was awarded the Texas State University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce Women of Distinction Award.
The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) in Edinburg is the 10th largest university in the state and the fifth largest in The University of Texas System. The four-year public university is located in South Texas, and serves more than 19,000 students. UTPA’s student population is more than 88 percent Hispanic, one of the largest enrollments of Hispanic students in the United States, and is second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics, according to The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine. UTPA offers 56 bachelor’s degree programs, 57 master’s, 3 doctoral and 2 cooperative doctoral programs.