The University of Texas System Board of Regents has named a sole finalist in its search for a new president to lead the University of Texas at San Antonio. Taylor Eighmy is currently the vice chancellor for research and engagement and a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The regents interviewed several candidates during executive session of a special board meeting Friday. They then voted unanimously to select Eighmy to lead the 29,000-student institution.
Regents reported that the “exceptional” quality of those interested in the UTSA position signals great things for the university growing in stature in the research community.
“The selection of Taylor Eighmy proves that UT San Antonio is a destination for our nation’s top leaders in higher education,” Regent Ernest Aliseda said. “Eighmy will be unrelenting in his efforts to increase student success, faculty engagement, and the national stature of UTSA. And his leadership style will be an ideal fit for a national leading city like San Antonio.”
Regents also touted Eighmy’s experience cultivating students success, a top priority for Interim President Pedro Reyes, the UT System’s former executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. Reyes has been serving as interim president since Ricardo Romo, the university’s longest-serving president, stepped down in March following an investigation into inappropriate conduct with female subordinates.
The governing board must wait 21 days before making the appointment official. During that time, the UTSA community will have the chance to meet with Eighmy.
With numerous fellowships and board positions, Eighmy has research and industry credentials that align with UTSA’s growing emphasis on the sciences. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Tufts University, a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from University of New Hampshire, and his doctorate in civil (environmental) engineering from UNH. In 2014, Eighmy stepped down from the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where he served for 10 years. Eighmy holds the patent for reactive barrier technology for contaminated sediments.
Prior to his position at the University of Tennessee, Eighmy served as vice president for research and a professor at Texas Tech University and assistant vice president for research at the University of New Hampshire.
During his time in Lubbock, Texas Tech met the criteria for becoming eligible for the National Research University Fund, meaning an $8 million to $10 million infusion from the fund. That process usually takes five years, but Texas Tech completed it in two years.
“Not only did he exceed our expectations, he placed an unparalleled emphasis on Texas Tech’s research initiatives and brought the university to the forefront of higher education research institutions,” former Texas Tech President Guy Bailey told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in 2012 when Bailey was hired at University of Tennessee.
Eighmy's time at Texas Tech was somewhat sullied by a lab explosion in 2010 that seriously injured a graduate student. A case study by the US Chemical Safety Board cited "systemic deficiencies in safety accountability and oversight by the principal investigators, the chemistry department, and the university administration at Texas Tech."
In response to that incident, Eighmy told Chemical and Engineering News that “the culture around safety was just not as prevalent as it should have been." The university subsequently pursued changes to university lab safety protocol and culture.
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce released a statement congratulating UTSA on the selection of a president who will further the university’s commitment to research and innovation.
“The Chamber focuses on leading the business community and educators in partnerships that impact education and develop a 21st century workforce to successfully compete in the global economy, and UTSA has been an integral part of our work,” the statement read.