At a press conference on Wednesday, University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) President Ricardo Romo announced his plans to retire in August 2017. Over the past 17 years, Romo has been celebrated for increasing the depth and breadth of the university, leading the quest for Tier One status. When he steps down after the 2016-17 school year, he will be the longest serving president in UTSA’s 47-year history.
Romo will begin the next phase of his career with UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures.
“It’s been an incredible time to be on this campus,” Romo said. “I came at the right time.”
Romo spent his tenure investing in diverse aspects of the university’s performance through ambitious hiring practices like the Goldstar Initiative, expanded course offerings, and the addition of the school’s entry in NCAA football. He has pursued partnerships to make the university’s cybersecurity program one of the best in the country. One of these partners, the Open Cloud Institute, utilizes one of the largest open cloud systems in academia.
With $130 million in endowments and $66 million in new external research/sponsored projects, UTSA is well on its way to Tier One status.
Upon hearing of the president’s decision to retire, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) released the following statement: “Ricardo Romo transformed UTSA into an emerging research university that graduates more students and offers more degrees and more opportunities than it did the day he walked into the President’s office. He has made a profound difference.”
Under Romo, UTSA’s enrollment has grown by 68%. In 1999, when Romo became president, the university had 400 faculty members across 91 academic programs and three doctoral programs. The university now has 1,400 faculty members, 162 academic programs, and 24 doctoral programs.
“Adding 1,000 new faculty means that students get the best education possible,” Romo said.
In addition to the institutional programming, Romo took an interest in the campus culture. The Association of College Unions International named him “President of the Year” this spring for his commitment to building campus culture at the commuter school.
Romo’s personal interest in art has left the university with a vibrant collection of Mexican-American prints – a gift from the president and his wife Harriett. The Romos also have an extensive private collection of Chicano Art.
Romo’s passion for history and art will carry him into his work at UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures. During a part-time sabbatical, he plans to delve into the City’s Tricentennial preparations and San Antonio’s Spanish-colonial Missions, a UNESCO World Heritage site, looking for stories to tell and histories to highlight.
The decision to step down is not one Romo took lightly. While it came as a surprise to many, he had been considering it for months, he said.
“I only have one regret and that’s that I couldn’t share what the thinking was over the last few months,” Romo said.
The 73-year-old president used several sports analogies to explain his decision.
“I want to go out while I’m still pitching fastballs,” he said.
The decision was about timing and doing what was best for the university, Romo added. He said the university has stable leadership and increasing momentum, and insisted that leading the university was not stressful, but in fact the “best job in Texas.”
“Am I sad? Yeah, I’m sad,” Romo said. “But I’m happy about the things we’ve been able to do.”
Romo added that he was tempted to keep going, but felt it was the right time to “pass the baton to the next fast guy.”
“This is not a mile race. It’s a relay race,” he said.
UT System Chancellor Adm. William H. McRaven praised Romo’s accomplishments.
“Nobody has done more to make high quality education available to the people of San Antonio than Ricardo Romo,” McRaven said.
In 2015, UTSA received the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an acknowledgement of the institution’s outreach efforts.
San Antonio has rallied around the university in response to its efforts. A sizable portion of the school’s $202 million capital campaign came from individuals and organizations with no direct connection to UTSA, Romo said. The UT system will now begin a national search for next president of UTSA.
“Whoever we choose to replace Dr. Romo will have to be an ‘A++’ person,” McRaven said.
Top image: UTSA President Ricardo Romo announces his retirement following 18 years of service. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.