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Dr. Shirley A. Reed’s Commitment to the Greater Good is Demonstrated By Her Success in Overcoming Structural Barriers in Higher Education

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The College has one of the largest dual enrollment programs in the State of Texas.

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Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President, South Texas College.
Dr. Shirley A. Reed, President, South Texas College.

Texas Border Business – 

By Dr. Gilberto de los Santos, Marketing Professor Emeritus The University of Texas—RGV

Edited by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez, Publisher,

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Dr. Reed serves as the founding president of South Texas College. From no students in 1993, South Texas College is now serving 51,706 students; 34,641 credit students, 13,865 continuing education students, and 3,200 Institute for Advanced Manufacturing students.  Among institutions of higher learning, South Texas College serves the third largest number of Hispanic students in the United States, and South Texas College is the largest higher educational institution South of San Antonio. More impressively, South Texas College is highly recognized for quality educational services locally, Texas statewide, and nationally.

Dr. Reed had a mischievous glint in her eyes when she said, “When I was offered the president’s job, the Chairman of the Board called me and asked, ‘What would it take for you to come to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) as the first president of South Texas Community College?’  I was so excited to move to the RGV and serve that I responded, ‘practically nothing’.  The Board of Trustees apparently took my word, and I received a salary of ‘practically nothing’ for the first few years.”

Dr. Reed continues her distinguished 43-year career as a community college administrator with experience in three states.  Her commitment to the greater good is demonstrated by her success in overcoming structural barriers in higher education, and her pledge to serve low-income, first-generation students.  She has devoted her career to facilitating access to quality education for African American, Native American, and Hispanic American students.

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Asked why she had acquired such a passion for serving African American, Native American, and Hispanic American students, Dr. Reed answered. “My family background and upbringing is not un-similar to theirs. My father was a hard-working miner, who provided for the family honestly, but with limited funds. As a youngster I made typical mistakes.  I was a first generation college student, who started my higher education late in years at St. Petersburg Community College in Florida where for the first time I got attention in a positive way.  This transformed my life, and I realized South Texas College could do the same for others who shared similar experiences. The bottom line is, I relate to and love these students!”

As the founding President of South Texas College, she led the successful creation of a taxing district for the operation of the College and three bond issue elections providing $277.7 million in funding for new facilities. South Texas College is a contributor to the RGV economy with an annual economic impact of $539.2 million.  The return on investment for students is 28.0%, for every $1.00 invested in education they receive a $10.30 return.  Taxpayers receive 12.1% return on investment, for every $1.00 invested, they receive a return of $5.60.

One person that has the knowledge and the authority to talk about college matters is Mr. Gary Gurwitz, who has been a trustee since the inception of the college and part of the board that made the decision to hire Dr. Reed. He told Texas Border Business in a few words why Dr. Reed is so exceptional, “It is Shirley Reed’s energy, organizational skills, prescience, and mastery of Community College governance that are the major reasons for the College’s phenomenal growth and outstanding successes.” He continued, “She is respected and admired, not only in the Valley, but around the state and across the nation as one of the premiere Community College presidents.  She was the right person at the right time when the College was created.  She is a treasure and we are fortunate she is here.”

Mr. Gurwitz as a board member represents North McAllen, Northwest Pharr, Palmhurst, Northeast Mission, and Southwest Edinburg. He was first appointed in 1993. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Facilities Committee and as a Member of the Education and Workforce Development Committee. He formerly served as Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary of the Board.

 

Since the creation of South Texas College in 1993, the unemployment rate in its two-county district has dropped significantly from 24.1% to 7.9% for Hidalgo County, and from 40.3% to 13.0% for Starr County, as of August 2015.

 

Dr. Reed gives much credit to her Board of Trustees for their leadership, and the City of McAllen leaders and community for the success of South Texas College.  The City of McAllen donated choice land and buildings and much more to start South Texas College.

In this regard, Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr., Vice Chair, Board of Trustees, South Texas College told Texas Border Business, “Dr. Reed personifies extreme energy converted into positive, progressive undertakings, and accomplishments!”

Since its creation in 1993, the College has expanded to five campuses, including a sixth virtual on-line campus, and offers 118 degree and certificate program options, 29 on-line Associate degrees and certificates, and four applied baccalaureate degree programs.

South Texas College students are guaranteed admission to UT-RGV via an agreement that provides a seamless transfer for students without roadblocks.  In the Fall Semester of 2014, UT-PA had a total undergraduate enrollment of 17,868 out of which 72% had previously attended South Texas College, and 55% participated in dual enrollment through South Texas College.  Seventy-one (71%) of the 3,549 UT-PA graduates who earned degrees in 2014 previously attended South Texas College.

South Texas College is a model of collaboration with RGV public schools.  The College has one of the largest dual enrollment programs in the State of Texas.  It has instituted a variety of dual enrollment programs, including five academies, drop-out recovery programs, and other unique initiatives with 23 school districts, and 74 high school sites throughout Hidalgo and Starr counties. The programs allow eligible students to take college courses while attending high school with Tuition and Fees waived by South Texas College. Combined, over 15,000 students are currently enrolled in these programs. Since 2003, the college has provided tuition-free dual enrollment to over 100,000 students in 74 school sites, saving families over $120 million just in South Texas College tuition, which is approximately one-half the rate for university tuition, so the savings could be much higher than $120 million.

The Interim Vice-President for Information Services, Planning & Strategic Initiatives Dr. David Plummer, said, “Dr. Reed constantly keeps moving the college forward, overcoming challenges, knowing what it takes to provide meaningful opportunities for our students to transform their lives, and the lives of their families.”

Dr. Reed’s leadership has led to state and national recognitions for South Texas College including:  Ranked first in the State of Texas and second in the nation in enrolling Hispanic undergraduates (Excelencia in Education, April 2014); Ranked 4th in the nation in awarding Associate degrees to Hispanics, one of 150 nominees for the highly competitive Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Achieving the Dream Leader College designation, the McGraw Hill Prize in Education, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Star Award for the Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy, MetLife Foundation Community College Excellence Award, and the Leah Meyer Austin Award.

Dr. Reed’s focus on the importance of community colleges reaches far beyond South Texas. She has served on numerous advisory committees for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.   She was elected to serve on the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Board of Directors.  She has also served as Chair, AACC Presidents Academy Executive Committee; served as a member of the AACC Commission on Academic, Student and Community Development; Texas Comptroller’s Advisory Board for Jobs and Education for Texans, Hispanic Association for Colleges and Universities, Member of the University of Texas System Medical School Advisory Committee for the new medical school in South Texas, Rotary International, Local Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Development Boards.

Some of Dr. Reed’s awards and distinctions include the Border Texan of the Year; Woman of the Year by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Zonta International’s “Shining Star Award” for her leadership in Education; Honoree for the Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s “A Night at the Oscars”; Recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s “Americanism Medal;” Recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Rio Grande Council Boy Scouts of America; Pacesetter of the Year Award by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations; “Texas Women’s Hall of Fame” nominee; Alfredo G. de los Santos, Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award, 2011 from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, Inc.; and most recently the McGraw Hill Prize in Education.

Dr. Reed has a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Illinois State University, a Master’s in Business Administration from Western International University and a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Hawaii.  She completed her undergraduate work at the University of South Florida in English Education.  Dr. Reed earned an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. Petersburg Junior College.  TBB

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