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University of Texas at El Paso remembers President Emerita Diana Natalicio, 1939-2021

The University of Texas at El Paso will pay tribute to the life of UTEP President Emerita Diana Natalicio at a Celebration of Life at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, in UTEP’s Centennial Plaza.

The celebration will be open to the public. It also will be livestreamed at utep.edu/natalicio.

Legendary University of Texas at El Paso president Diana Natalicio died Friday at the age of 82. President Natalicio led UTEP for 31 years from 1988 until her retirement in 2019. While she was president, UTEP’s enrollment grew from 15,000 to more than 25,000 students reflecting the Paso del Norte border region. Students on both sides of the border earned degrees and many were the first in their families to graduate from a Univeristy. Under her leadership, UTEP was designated as a Carnegie R1 university, recognized nationally for both the excellence of its academic and research programs. The University of Texas System Board of Regents named her President Emerita in 2019.

Natalicio served on numerous boards including the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC), and the American Council of Education (ACE). She was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. Initially appointed to the National Science Board by President Bill Clinton, she served two six-year terms as a Board member and three two-year terms as the NSB’s vice chair. TIME Magazine named her to their 2016 TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world, and in 2017 she was named to Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 World Leaders. The President of Mexico presented her the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca, the highest recognition bestowed by Mexico on foreign citizens.  

Natalicio's brother Bill Siedhoff annouced her death Friday but did not give a cause. Siedhoff said his sister loved El Paso. "She had a great and accomplished life. She loved UTEP and most of all, she loved UTEP’s students. They are what drove her life’s work, and what provided her greatest satisfaction. She always said, 'Talent is everywhere,' and Commencement brought her the greatest joy, recognizing the achievement of those walking across the stage, as she proudly shook each of their hands. She was very happy here, and I thank the El Paso community for embracing her all these years, and for all the love she always received” Siedhoff said. 

UTEP President Heather Wilson called Natalicio's death a great loss for the Miner family. "Dr. Natalicio will be remembered by many as a pioneer in higher education. She defied the critics who said it wasn’t possible to open access to higher education to everyone and still offer a top tier educational experience. Her sustained commitment to provide all residents of the Paso del Norte region access to outstanding higher education opportunities has helped make UTEP a national success story. 

READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO, HERE

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