AUSTIN, Texas - University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa says he will resign after five years leading the 15-campus system in order to return full time to the practice of medicine.
In an email to system staff Sunday night, Cigarroa said he was leaving to be the head of pediatric surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. A Monday news conference has been scheduled for Cigarroa to make the announcement with Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster.
"I knew the day would come when I would return to transplant surgery," Cigarroa wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "The time has come for me to return to my lifelong love and passion - saving lives one individual at a time."
Cigarroa, the system's first Hispanic leader, had maintained his job as a surgeon while overseeing nine academic campuses and six health science centers.
Among the highlights of his tenure was regents' recent approval of a new university in South Texas with a medical school and a new medical school at the flagship campus in Austin. But it also has been marked by tensions between the board and University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers. The power struggle has reached the state Capitol, where lawmakers are considering whether to impeach regent Wallace Hall Jr. over attempts to force Powers out.
The planned university in South Texas will be the result of merging the Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg and Brownsville campuses, and creating a new medical school that supporters say is critically needed to meet education and health care needs in the region along the Texas-Mexico border. The university is projected to enroll about 28,000 students, employ 7,000 people and generate $11 million in research expenditures.
Residents have lobbied for years to get a medical school in the region, and plans were already in place to use UT System health facilities in Cameron and Hidalgo counties. University officials and local politicians who pushed the issue believe it will result in more doctors practicing on the border and have a positive impact on overall health in one of the most impoverished and medically underserved parts of the country.
In his dealings with Powers, Cigarroa was publicly critical of the University of Texas at Austin president at the regents' December meeting. He said Powers had to improve trust and communication when dealing with regents and system staff, though Cigarroa also said he wanted to keep Powers on the job.
Despite the disputes with Powers, who remains popular with students, faculty and influential alumni, Cigarroa has generally maintained the support of the board. One person with direct knowledge of Cigarroa's decision, who spoke to the AP anonymously before the email was sent, said the chancellor is not being forced out by the board. The person was not authorized to speak publicly before the official announcement and therefore requested anonymity
Cigarroa, 56, is expected to stay on the job until his replacement is found. In his Sunday email, he noted that his father and three of his brothers are all doctors - and that his father, at age 89, still practices medicine.
"It is time to honor what my parents did for me by returning to my father's and my first love, the practice of medicine," Cigarroa said.
Cigarroa did not make many friends in El Paso when he initially cancelled the planned Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight scheduled for the Sun Bowl stadium in summer 2012. Cigarroa later allowed the fight to take place at the Sun Bowl with some restrictions.
Below is the timeline of Cigarroa's decision to cancel the fight.
imeline of communication between UT System officials and others regarding the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Andy Lee boxing match at the Sun Bowl.
April 17, Tuesday
8 p.m., UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa to UTEP President Diana Natalicio- "Dear Diana: Can you call me about this. Highest Regards, Francisco"
April 18, Wednesday
11:12 p.m., Cigarroa and Natalicio schedule a meeting during his next visit (Monday, April 23) to discuss matter in person.
April 23, Monday
9:48 a.m., Cigarroa, not in El Paso, receives email from UT System Director of Police Michael Heidingsfield about the threat assessment being updated: "Sir -- We worked this document through the weekend and it is current as of this morning."
2:23 p.m., Cigarrioa sends email to himself about conference call with Natalicio about fight. Notes contract for boxing match at Sun Bowl "has not been signed."
6-9 p.m., Cigarroa and Natalicio coordinate a time to talk. She advises him of press conference scheduled for the next day. He asks her to call him on his cell phone at about 9 p.m.
April 24, Tuesday
Fight cancellation is announced
3:40 p.m., Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Anthony Paul De Bruyn emails Chris Lopez (UTEP Communications) an El Paso Times article about fight. "Some fallout on Chavez fight."
4:18 p.m., De Bruyn is alerted by staff. "We are now getting angry elected officials. Sen Rodriguez left a message for FGC (Cigarroa). I was trying to transfer the call to Steve Collins but he hung up before I could get anyone downstairs."
4:31 p.m., more emails from UT staff about Rodriguez trying to talk to Chancellor.
4:08 p.m., City Rep. Steve Ortega to Richard Adauto, UTEP Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs and Oversight, CC'd to Natalicio and City Manager Joyce Wilson: "Is there any way for the Board to reconsider their decision? The decision places the university and the city in a terrible light and contravenes the work that we are doing to promote El Paso. Two council members have already asked me why we should invest in a UT asset if the UT board of Regents is going to denigrate use of that asset."
5:34 p.m., Paul Foster forwards Ortega's email to Cigarroa and staff and writes "Guys... as you probably know, the city has graciously agreed to include up to $50 million on a city bond issue for improvement to the Sun Bowl at no cost to UTEP or the UT system... Additionally, I have received calls from the mayor, the city manager, and from numerous city councilmen, as well as a number of reporters. They are all asking, 'why did the board of regents make this decision, can we get in front of them to ask them to reconsider, and do they realize this will impact the city's relationship with UTEP?"
6:11 p.m., Cigarroa to Foster: Writes he just got off the phone with City Manager Joyce Wilson and State Rep. Dee Margo and says he's planning to put out statement.
April 25, Wednesday
8:47 a.m., UT System officials alert Cigarroa's office: "Apparently Congressman Reyes wants to call the Chacellor today about an apparent Board decision regarding a Chavez prize fight in El Paso. What would be the best way for the Congressman to reach the Chancellor while he is traveling?"
9:23 a.m., Cigarroa's staff alerts him State Rep. Joe Pickett wants to talk to him.
2:11 p.m., Cigarroa's office receives letter from El Paso delegation. Email subject line is "El Paso Delegation Demands Answers from Cigarroa"... Letter in part reads: "we write to you today to express our strong opposition to your decision...This decision is ill-informed, baseless and destructive .. It is shameful."
2:41 p.m., Snapper Carr (Focused Advocacy Group --(hired by UT)) tells Cigarroa's office that he spoke with Joyce Wilson and that city is willing to "commit to enhanced security measures if the issue is revisited."
6:25 p.m., Hunt Family Foundation President Josh Hunt emails Cigarroa. Letter, in part, reads: "...We are safer than your hometown of Laredo...I find it extremely troubling and disappointing that UT System Administration officials are making decisions not based on honest facts... Frustrating how the decision was handled...UT System failed in every basic rule of good, transparent communication and public relations... concerns should have been brought up weeks ago and done in a respectful manner with local and regional authorities. The UT System owes El paso a full explanation... And apology.... I for one will advocate strongly that as a City, we no longer allow people from Austin, or Washington, or New York to define us. It is completely unfair for others to tell us how "unsafe" it is in what is truthfully the safest place to live in this country."
April 26, Thursday
11:32 a.m., Businessman and Chairman of the UTEP Development Board Tripper Goodman emails Cigarroa about cancellation. Letter, in part, reads: "...We were extremely disappointed and frankly shocked at your decision...was irresponsible...receiving news like this was offensive... You have not shown understanding of how a border community operates... We are dismayed at your decision."
5:27 p.m., Bill Shute, Vice Chancellor for Federal Relations gets word from his staff about a petition to keep fight in El Paso and is forwarded a Facebook post by Congressman Reyes about meeting with the Southwest Border delegation to discuss fight cancellation. "This is not about a boxing match anymore, this about ensuring that border communities are treated with respect," Reyes writes in Facebook post.
8:04 p.m., Cigarroa to Natalicio: Asked UT System Director Of Police to coordinate video conference with UTEP's chief of police, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, chief deputy of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, FBI, DEA, ICE and Border Patrol.