Discover Your Island

Island University Celebrates Inauguration of Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, 11th President of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

March 02, 2018

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – On a sunny South Texas afternoon, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi added another successful milestone to its young but growing history by inaugurating Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla as its 11th president.

The inauguration festivities for Quintanilla began with a picnic on the University’s East Lawn. The event, which invited Islander students, faculty and staff to come together in fellowship over a meal and outdoor games, was a casual affair highlighted by a performance from the University’s mariachi group, Mariachi del Isla. Those in attendance were all smiles as they shared well-wishes with Quintanilla for a successful tenure as leader of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“Dr. Quintanilla is a great person and mentor and I appreciate her open-door policy with Islander students,” said Justin Bustos, president of the Student Government Association at A&M-Corpus Christi. “She is a student advocate, leader and inspiration on this campus.”

After a national search, Quintanilla assumed the role of president and CEO of A&M-Corpus Christi in August 2017, but she is a long-time member of the Islander family. She joined the A&M-Corpus Christi faculty in 1994, after earning her Ph.D. in Communication from Pennsylvania State University.

“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Dr. Quintanilla over the past 25 years go ‘up and up’ in her career, and it’s been outstanding,” said Dr. Diana Ivy, professor of communication at A&M-Corpus Christi. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone doing what Dr. Quintanilla has done – start off at an entry-level faculty position and become president, all at the same university. I think it’s a testament to how extraordinary she is. She is one of the most brilliant people I know.”

The second half of the day took on a regal, yet joyous, tone. The investiture ceremony, held at the world-class Performing Arts Center, began with a procession of the platform party, which included representatives from the Texas A&M University System, elected officials, community dignitaries and leaders from across campus.

During one portion of the ceremony, President Quintanilla was given gifts in recognition of this historic day. Gifts included an official Island University class ring, a Waterford paperweight, a framed resolution by the Student Government Association, a box filled with congratulatory messages from Islander students and a photograph of the University signed by hundreds of Islander faculty members.

Billy Hamilton, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer for the Texas A&M University System, was given the honor of placing the University’s presidential medallion around Quintanilla’s neck – a symbol representing her formal acceptance of the immense task and responsibility associated with managing a complex academic organization.

“I can’t tell you what an honor it’s been working with Dr. Quintanilla during her interim presidency, and now, her presidency,” said Hamilton. “You all are blessed to have her as your president. She is bright, energetic and forward-thinking and I can’t imagine there would be anything but the best for this University going forward.”

President Quintanilla began her speech by thanking everyone for their attendance, and then she turned her appreciation to her family, including her daughter, husband and mother.

“Everyone who knows me knows I am proud to be president of A&M-Corpus Christi, but there is one title to which president is a distant second, and that is, of course, being Logan’s mom,” said Quintanilla. “Logan, you have filled my world with joy, laughter and song. Thank you for teaching me about life and for making me a better person in every way.”

Quintanilla then focused on her unique career path from assistant professor to president – all at one university.

“And not just at ‘one’ university,” she said. “It was here, at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a place I love so dearly.”

She then addressed her selection as the first female president of the institution.

“I didn’t break the glass ceiling alone,” she said. “It was Chancellor John Sharp, and the A&M System Board of Regents and the search committee who broke it. They broke it so there was a space for me to come through. But even with space in the ceiling, there was no way I could get through without standing on the shoulders of giants – women who inspired me, and mentored me, and made tremendous sacrifices.”

Quintanilla then shared her vision of continued success for the Island University, which includes an unparalleled commitment to every student’s success.

“Every student matters, every student deserves our best, every student deserves our ‘A’ game,” she told the crowd. “Nothing is more rewarding than helping students, but it is particularly rewarding to help first-generation college students succeed and then see them walk the stage at graduation. Each step they take across the stage and into their careers is helping close gaps on educational attainment. They are no longer at-risk – but college graduates – and now role models for everyone in their family and their community.”

Quintanilla also reinforced the University’s plan to become an Emerging Research University.

“What is most exciting about our research is the implementation of solutions for regional problems, with national and international significance,” she said. “Our research serves all who live, work and play in the Gulf of Mexico. Our research includes cutting-edge technology in unmanned aircraft systems, autonomous systems, cybersecurity, nursing care and innovative aging. Our research improves K-12 education, mental health shortages and provides business and policy solutions for environmental borders, national borders and cultural borders.”

Quintanilla ended her address by giving thanks for the long-standing partnerships necessary to keep A&M-Corpus Christi a thriving, first-choice university for students, faculty and staff.

“Partnerships allow for new and innovative academic programs, increased internships and enhanced research opportunities, all leading to ever-increasing economic development for our region,” she said. “Together we will build on the success of the past, knowing that because of our efforts, the best is yet to come.”

After the ceremony, guests were invited to a reception in the University Center Rotunda, where they further embraced Quintanilla in her new role.