Diana Natalicio, the 10th and longest-serving president of the University of Texas at El Paso, died on Friday at the age of 82.
Natalicio helped shape UTEP’s presence and growth in the border region and southwest over a 31-year career and fought for disadvantaged students to have expanded access to education. superior.
When Natalico took over as head of UTEP in 1988, about half of the university’s 14,000 students were Hispanic. Today, 83% of students are Hispanic, and about 49% are the first in their family to attend college.
Natalicio remarked to the Texas Monthly in a 1998 article: “You attract 84% of your students to El Paso County, you should look like the county. “
Natalicio, who also served as the university’s first female president, retired in 2019. Her tenure was the sixth longest of all public doctoral / research university presidents in history at the time of her retirement. .
Bill Siedhoff, Natalicio’s brother, said on Friday his sister loved El Paso and UTEP students.
“She loved the weather, the mountains, the food and the wonderful people,” he said in a statement. “She had a great and fulfilled life. She loved UTEP and most of all, she loved the students of UTEP. They are what motivated her life’s work and what gave her the greatest satisfaction.”
Natalicio was named President Emeritus by the University of Texas System Board of Trustees in August 2019 after announcing her retirement.
She was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 2011, the highest honor bestowed by the Mexican government on a non-national, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2016, and was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 Global Leaders in 2017..
Diana Natalicio dies at 82:Here’s What El Paso Executives Said About Former UTEP President
UTEP President Heather Wilson, who took over from Natalicio in 2019, said in a statement that Natalicio defied critics who said it was impossible to increase access to higher education for all at all times. by providing a high level educational experience.
“The Miner family has lost a great advocate and leader who has dedicated his life to making a difference in the lives of others,” Wilson said. “Our hearts go out to all whose lives she touched. We mourn the loss of an inspiring leader and celebrate her legacy of access and excellence that endures.”
During Natalicio’s tenure, the university awarded more than 91,000 degrees and just months before his retirement, UTEP was named the R1 research university, placing it among the top 5% of the nation’s top universities for research.
It has increased the Latino population by 16% in a decade. During his tenure, UTEP’s annual budget grew from $ 65 million to nearly $ 450 million, and the number of doctoral programs increased from one to 22.
Just before retiring in 2019, Natalicio told the El Paso Times that it was difficult to gain support for the idea that UTEP should reach out to the El Paso community to seek talent.
“Our former students were mostly English speaking. They were concerned that we were becoming, I don’t know, an exclusively Hispanic institution, ”Natalicio said in an April 2019 interview with the El Paso Times. “I don’t know what they were worried about, but I kept telling them that we were going to be a better university because of this. And that’s how it happened. “
The UTEP student body is now 83% Hispanic.
Prior to being President, Natalicio served at UTEP as Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean of Liberal Arts, Chairman of the Department of Modern Languages, and Professor of Linguistics.
A look back:Diana Natalicio Takes Head of University of Texas at El Paso: 1988
A native of Missouri, Natalicio attended public schools in the city and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Saint Louis. She started out as a secretary who did typing and dictation while studying at university.
Natalicio studied Portuguese in Brazil on a Fulbright scholarship and was recruited at the University of Texas at Austin as a teaching assistant, later earning her MA in Portuguese in 1964 and a PhD in Linguistics from UT Austin. in 1969.
She was the first person in her family to attend college and when she arrived in El Paso in 1971 as a visiting associate professor, she might not have guessed that she would become president of a small university with nearly 15,000 students 17 years later.
UTEP’s staff grew to over 25,000 students during his tenure.
On the 100th anniversary of the university in 2014, Natalicio reflected on the previous 26 years she had spent at the university and looked to the future of UTEP.
She made an obvious point throughout her career; its commitment to uplifting students who would face more challenges than their peers in seeking higher education.
“We would prefer that, especially for the first generation students in this community, they had college experience, come to campus and develop leadership skills,” Natalicio said.
“Providing students with the kind of experience their more privileged peers in more affluent backgrounds have, studying abroad and doing civic engagement and internships. We have to work hard to provide our students with a personalized format so that they can actually participate. “
Memories, wishes shared by the leaders of El Paso
Memories and wishes for happiness poured in from El Paso leaders after news of Natalicio’s death broke.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said in a statement that Natalicio was more than the president of UTEP, she was someone who made a difference in many lives.
“It’s a sad day for El Paso. Dr Natalicio was an incredible human being who dedicated her life to UTEP and the thousands of students whose lives she changed for the better. I will always be grateful for his friendship and advice.
“She made UTEP the premier university it is today, and she made El Paso shine around the world. She will be sadly missed and always remembered. Thank you, Dr Natalicio: I can imagine you in paradise now: go Minors.
United States Representative Veronica Escobar tweeted that El Paso was eternally indebted to Natalicio and called the longtime educator a mentor.
“Dr Natalicio was fearless in his pursuit of excellence and his vision transformed my UTEP alma mater and our Borderland,” said Escobar. “We are eternally indebted to him.”
Texas Senator César Blanco, also a UTEP graduate, tweeted a statement, saying that generations of UTEP students have benefited from Natalicio’s vision and leadership.
“… I can say with confidence that she was a pillar of our community and she will be sadly missed,” Blanco said.
To honor Natalicio for his services, UTEP tweeted that the university’s Mining Minds sculpture would be illuminated in blue and orange to honor him for the next 31 days – one day for every year Natalicio would dedicate to his university well- loved.
In her pre-retirement interview, Natalicio said a health scare in 2016 convinced her that she should start planning for the future of UTEP so that it continues to function without her.
“None of us will live forever. It’s not just about that, ”Natalicio said in 2019.“ It’s your responsibility to hand over the baton with the certainty that the baton will be passed and that the next leg of the race will run successfully. .