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New UT regent to bring Valley perspective to merger

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Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 5:05 am

McALLEN — As a University of Texas System regent, McAllen municipal Judge Ernest Aliseda has a front row seat to the transformation the Rio Grande Valley is expected to embrace with a new merged university and medical school.

On Friday, the state Senate confirmed 46-year-old Aliseda along with two others: Jeff Hildebrand and current regent Paul Foster, who are businessmen from Houston and El Paso, respectively. Gov. Rick Perry appointed the men to the Board of Regents in February. Aliseda said details of his swearing-in ceremony are still being determined, but he expects it to take place sometime next week.

On the board, he will ensure the needs of the entire UT System come first, the Army Reserve major and managing attorney at Loya Insurance Group said.

“The regent position does have a representative capacity but, obviously, primary is the UT System Board and the students that attend UT System schools,” he said.

He vowed to evaluate UT System business before the board without regard to campus location. But, he said he’ll bring knowledge of the Valley to the table as the University of Texas—Pan American and the University of Texas at Brownsville are merged and a medical school is developed.

Aliseda was born and raised in McAllen.

“Being from the Valley I think I can bring to table the Valley’s unique perspective,” he said, adding that he’ll strongly support UT System’s ambitions to expand its footprint in the area. “I think it’s important to have a regent from the Valley during this critical time.”

UT System board Chairman Gene Powell was born in Weslaco and grew up in the area, but a Valley resident hasn’t served on the board since Mario Ramirez, of Rio Grande City, in 1995, according to Monitor archives.

Aliseda said the more than 1 million people living here, from Starr County to South Padre Island, will benefit as the new university accesses more funding and a medical school eventually boosts the number of doctors here.

He said he expects committees of knowledgeable community leaders will assist regents and give them input as the merger continues.

“I think the nuts-and-bolts aspect still needs to be worked out,” Aliseda said. “The whole merger concept and what’s going to happen is something that’s incredible for the Valley.”

Given his background, in some form, the new regent is connected to education, medical care, municipal government and the law.

He is a former state district court judge and his father is a retired doctor. His wife, Debbie Crane Aliseda, is the McAllen school board president and they have five children. Two of them attend UTPA, another is enrolled within the University of Houston system and his two young children attend McAllen public schools, he said.

Aliseda’s brother, Jose, is district attorney for Live Oak and McMullen counties and a former Republican state representative from Beeville. His brother-in-law, Scott Crane, is a McAllen city commissioner, and his other brother-in-law, Randy Crane, is a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas.

Aliseda graduated from McAllen Memorial High School in 1984 and earned his law degree from the University of Houston Law School in 1991. For a time, he also attended classes at Pan American University before the school became part of the UT System.

The terms of the newly confirmed regents extend through February 2019, a year after the new university is expected to graduate its first class of medical school students in the Valley. UT System leaders want an emerging research institution here, the first step in achieving a national level research university known as Tier One.

“A lot of the UT System schools right now are trying to seek that Tier One status,” Aliseda said. “It’s definitely a goal that I think is attainable. It’s going to take some time, but I’m whole-heartedly supportive of that.”

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Jacqueline Armendariz covers education and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at jarmendariz@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4434 or on Twitter, @jarmendariz.

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