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Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson selected to be UTEP’s new president

The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously voted to select Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson to serve as the new president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Wilson, a former university president and U.S. congresswoman from New Mexico, is the sole finalist for the position. If eventually appointed after a state-required 21-day waiting period, Wilson would succeed Dr. Diana Natalicio, who announced in May she would retire after serving as UTEP’s president for 30 years.

In her resignation letter to President Trump, Wilson said the University of Texas Board of Regents announced on Friday she is the sole finalist to become the university’s next president, effective Sept. 1. “Under Texas law, my name will be public for three weeks before the regents take a final vote on my appointment,” she wrote.

“Upon a favorable vote by the regents, I will resign my position as secretary of the Air Force effective May 31, 2019,” Wilson wrote. “This should allow sufficient time for a smooth transition and ensure advocacy during upcoming congressional hearings.”

Trump on Twitter praised Wilson for her decision, saying “Congratulations to Heather Wilson, who is the sole finalist to become the next President of the University of Texas at El Paso effective September 1, 2019. Heather has done an absolutely fantastic job as Secretary of the Air Force, and I know she will be equally great in the very important world of higher education. A strong thank you to Heather for her service.”

Wilson was the first woman selected to serve as president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, an engineering and science research university.

In 1998, Wilson became the first female military veteran elected to a full term in Congress, representing New Mexico’s First District until 2009. The former House Republican member graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy. Wilson has headed the Air Force since May 2017 and had been mentioned as a potential successor to Jim Mattis as defense secretary.

As Secretary of the Air Force, Wilson oversees 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces, and an annual budget of more than $138 billion.

“Dr. Wilson’s broad experience in the highest levels of university leadership, and state and national government- whether securing federal grant awards, advising our nation’s most important national research laboratories, raising philanthropic dollars or running large, dynamic organizations – will help ensure that UTEP continues its remarkable trajectory as a nationally recognized public research institution,” Regents’ chairman Kevin Eltife said. “Most importantly, she is deeply committed to student success and has dedicated her life to enhancing upward mobility opportunities for individuals.”

“Secretary Wilson has had a remarkable career of firsts in education and national service, and it’s easy to understand why the search advisory committee and the board have been so impressed. She has the experience, talent and leadership to build on UTEP’s exceptional momentum,” said UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken.

UTEP has an enrollment of around 25,000 students. About 80 percent are Latino.


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