Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA honors senator instrumental in creation of Downtown Campus

UTSA honors senator instrumental in creation of Downtown Campus

Texas Senator José Menéndez takes a photo with Senator Luna's daughter Leticia Luna.

OCTOBER 17, 2022 — Late Senator Gregory Luna was key to the passage of the bill that made the UTSA Downtown Campus possible.

On Friday, UTSA celebrated the dedication of the Senator Gregory Luna Welcome Center & Assembly Room at the campus he helped to establish.

Located on the ground floor of the Buena Vista Street Building, the Luna Welcome Center will serve as an information hub for prospective students, families and the community at large wanting to learn more about UTSA’s academic opportunities.

The Luna Assembly Room, located next door to the Welcome Center, will serve as a meeting and event space for the campus community and neighbors of the university.


“Having a place where all can learn about the educational opportunities at UTSA, this is the kind of outreach that was so important to Senator Luna.”



Luna represented San Antonio District 26 in the Texas Senate from 1992 until a few months before his death in 1999. During the 1993 legislative session, Luna was instrumental in passing legislation that ultimately created the long-sought Downtown Campus. He considered the campus the culmination of his vision for UTSA.

“To dream big takes courage and vision,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “Senator Luna and other incredible higher education advocates envisioned a public college campus that would be inextricably interconnected with the city, contributing to the cultural and economic ecosystem of downtown San Antonio. Their tireless work made that vision possible.”

Luna, a New Braunfels native, was the youngest of 12 kids who lived to adulthood and the first in his family to earn a college degree. As a senator, Luna focused his legislative efforts primarily on education finance, with a particular interest in Hispanic Serving Institutions.

UTSA, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and a founding member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities, is committed to generating social mobility and economic prosperity for families and communities in the San Antonio region. Fifty-seven percent of the university’s students identify as Hispanic and nearly 45% will be the first in their families to earn a degree.

Since its debut in 1997, the Downtown Campus has signified UTSA’s commitment to the community with a campus inside Loop 410, in the heart of San Antonio. Since that time, UTSA has grown its programs, bringing access to high-quality college education and career-advancement opportunities to diverse populations in the downtown area. The urban campus is also home to many of the university’s community outreach programs and extended education offerings.

The Luna Welcome Center and the neighboring Assembly Room will build on those outreach programs founded more than 20 years ago. The facilities are representative of UTSA’s, and Luna’s, commitment to increasing access to educational opportunities in the center city, said UTSA Vice President for University Relations Teresa Niño.

“Having a place where all can learn about the educational opportunities at UTSA, this is the kind of outreach that was so important to Senator Luna,” she said. “We are honored to continue that work, to honor his legacy.”

In addition to his work to make the downtown campus a reality, Luna was also one of the founders of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)—the organization that would file suit against then-Commissioner of Education William Kirby in 1984 on behalf of the Edgewood Independent School District. The landmark case would result in reforms to the school finance system.

Today, much of the work to improve educational systems is taking place at the Downtown Campus. Among the centers of research housed there is the university’s Urban Education Institute, which is producing rigorous and actionable analysis that supports policymaking that raises educational attainment and advances economic mobility.

The campus is also home to the College of Education and Human Development, a leading provider of educators for San Antonio and one of the top producers of Hispanic teachers in the U.S.

It wasn’t too long ago that university and city leaders were exploring new, innovative programs for the Downtown Campus. Those discussions gave rise to some of UTSA’s newest investments including San Pedro I, the $91.8 million, 167,000-square-foot facility that will house its new School of Data Science and its National Security Collaboration Center.

San Pedro I is the first of several buildings planned to increase the Downtown Campus’ footprint and spur new economic and community investment downtown.

“UTSA is one of many partners working together to create the downtown renaissance,” Niño said. “We are blessed to have had an advocate like Senator Luna who made it his mission to see our downtown campus come to fruition.”

Tricia Lynn Silva



UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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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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UTSA’s Mission

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.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.