Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Founders and supporters gather to celebrate UTSA’s 50th

(June 6, 2019) -- Two original founders and the families of three others gathered with community and elected leaders in front of the Alamo yesterday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The event, which drew more than 250 supporters, commemorated the day that Texas Gov. Preston Smith signed legislation on the back of Rep. Frank Lombardino in 1969 creating UTSA and launching a community partnership that has thrived for 50 years.

The Hon. James Thomas Lombardino, former District Court Judge and son of Frank Lombardino, attended the commemoration with his granddaughter to honor his father’s legacy. The elder Lombardino was known as “the father of UTSA,” after authoring the House bill that established UTSA.

“My father was a great example of how one man can make a difference, and I so wish he was here,” Lombardino said.

The elder Lombardino was from New York but like so many he came to San Antonio and fell in love with the people and the town. As a State Representative, Frank Lombardino was passionate about bringing public higher education to San Antonio to generate opportunity for families in the community.

Within that community is the family of A.J. Rodriguez, the Commemoration’s Master of Ceremonies. One month ago, his family became the first UTSA family to include four generations of Roadrunners.

“UTSA has been a game changer for the working-class families of San Antonio,” said Rodriguez, who noted that the university’s path from a commuter school to a premiere research institution has been impressive and a key part of the city’s growth.

The key to that success lies in the strong partnership between UTSA and San Antonio. To generate prosperity and social mobility for San Antonio, elected, community and industry leaders have worked closely with the university for the last 50 years.

Today, as a result of that hard work, UTSA is now a top Hispanic Serving Institution, the top university in the nation for its academic and research programs in cybersecurity, a destination for first-generation college students and those with military ties, and an anchor for a growing tech corridor in city’s urban core.

As UTSA President Taylor Eighmy walked from the stage party’s gathering spot at the Menger Hotel to the Alamo Commemoration, he smiled and said, “It’s a great day to be 50.” He also paid homage to the UTSA presidents and leaders who came before him, noting how impressive it is for UTSA to be such a young university with so many accomplishments.

“I cannot wait to go forward into the next 50 years and see what it holds for all of us,” said Eighmy.

As an emerging research powerhouse, UTSA is focused on the needs of San Antonio, one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and is answering the call for a highly trained workforce and new educational opportunities to assist in solving the grand challenges of a high growth area.

The Hon. John T. Steen, a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and son of John Steen, Sr., who served as the president of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in 1969, said, “UTSA and its investment into future generations has had an incalculable effect on the economic growth of San Antonio. I am honored to play a small role and honored that my dad saw how important UTSA would be. He was right.”

The importance of building community on and off campus was always the intention of UTSA’s original founders. It is seen in the heart of the letter written by Peter T. Flawn, the university’s second president, after the first year of classes in 1974. He wrote that UTSA’s greatest accomplishment was “the strengthening of the essential sense of community that separates a good university from an academic factory.”

UTSA’s growth over the past 50 years reflects a spirit of cooperation both at the university and within the community. In 1969, 671 students were enrolled at UTSA. Today, there are more than 32,000. The faculty has increased from 50 in 1969 to 1,322 today. Likewise, UTSA has grown to four campuses, nine colleges and a research portfolio of $69.7 million annually.

Hope Andrade, a member of the Alamo Endowment Board of Directors, said, “UTSA has set the gold standard for academics and community outreach. They have proven that the road from dreams to success does exist.”

Walking hand in hand for 50 years was the essence of Wednesday’s celebration. The community came together yet again to make a statement about its partnership to bring economic potential, social mobility and a knowledge-based economy to San Antonio, the nation and the world.

Check out this slideshow of this memorable day in UTSA history.

- Pamela Lutrell


Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

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