UTEP celebrates the life of President Emerita Diana Natalicio

Members of the UTEP family and the public attended a Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on the UTEP campus Sunday, Oct. 24. 

The ceremony reflected the life of Natalicio who led UTEP for 31 years and was the University’s 10th and longest-serving president.  

The ceremony speakers such as UTEP President Heather Wilson; Bill Siedhoff, Dr. Natalicio’s brother; Doma Tshering, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Buthan to the United Nations; Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon, Consul General of Mexico;  U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, Texas Senator Cesar Blanco; Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education; Dr. Gary Edens, UTEP Vice President; Lilian Crouch, UTEP supporter and retired El Paso Independent School District human resources executive director; Sharon Croissant, Dr. Natalicio’s longtime friend; and others, remarked on the impact of Natalicio’s service. 

“Every student who is in UTEP now, and will be in UTEP in a future should know that their access to the kind of excellence education that they have is really attribute to the work that Diana Natalicio did for 31 years as President,” said Richard Pineda, Ph.D., chair of UTEP’s Department of Communication, who presided over the event. “The options that they have to succeed, the pathways to being able to do their education is just results of her work, and above all, they should embrace and take advantage of the campus because so much of the way that this campus has changed is because of Dr. Diana Natalicio.” 

Natalicio’s UTEP tenure began as a visiting assistant professor, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts before becoming Vice President for Academic Affairs and then appointed President and President Emerita by the UT Board of Regents.

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  • Richard Pineda, Ph.D., Chair of UTEP’s Department of Communication, presides over the event and shares his memories of Dr. Natalicio from when he was 12 years old through adulthood on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP Campus

  • UTEP President Heather Wilson speaks at the Celebration of Life of President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza

  • Bill Siedhoff, Dr. Natalicio’s brother, receives a Congressional Record from Congresswoman Veronica Escobar at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • Doma Tshering, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations, speaks about Dr. Natalicio’s close relation to Bhutan at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon, Consul General of Mexico, speaks about Dr. Natalicio’s fight to ensure higher education for Mexican Americans and Mexican national students at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • President of Washington D.C.-based research and policy organization of Excelencia in Education Sarita Brown speaks of Dr. Natalico’s bright vision for UTEP and the El Paso community on Sunday, Oct,24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus

  • Sharon Croissant, Dr. Natalicio’s longtime friend, speaks about her favorite memories with Dr. Natalicio from kindergarten to the last text conversation they had at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • A Bhutanese student lights a candle in honor of President Emerita Dr. Natalicio at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • Paydirt Pete lights a candle in honor of President Emerita Dr. Natalicio at the Celebration of Life for President Emerita Diana Natalicio on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

  • Bill Siedhoff, Dr. Natalicio’s brother speaks about the love Dr. Natalico had for UTEP and shares his gratitude towards the El Paso community for planning this event on Sunday, Oct. 24, at Centennial Plaza on the UTEP campus.

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“It is my hope that UTEP students who never had the opportunity to meet her understand that she pathed the way for the opportunities they have today at UTEP and that their education was important to her, their education was important to her and everything she did for this institution was for them,” Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said.  

Thanks to Natalicio’s work, UTEP went from being classified as a master’s university to a top tier R1 doctoral research university, enrollment increased 79% from 14,056 to 25,151 students, Hispanic student enrollment increased from 53% to 80%, the number of doctoral programs offered grew from 1 to 22, and annual research expenditures annually more than tripled from 1482 to 4,842. 

In 2011, Natalicio received the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca, the highest honor bestowed by Mexico on a foreign national. In 2013, she was sworn in as board of chair of the American council on Education the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In 2016, she was named to the TIME magazine 100 Most Influential people list and subsequently named among Fortune magazine’s Top 50 World Leaders in 2017. In 2019, she received the Conquistador Award, the city of El Paso’s highest honor.  

“I will say, students who never met her, to walk around campus. This campus was transformed because of her vision and you get a sense of what Dr. Natalicio was about, and most importantly is the fact that… she worked [to] bring these opportunities here in El Paso, in Juarez, in Las Cruces, in our border region,” said Texas Senator Cesar Blanco. “Be mindful of the work and the vision that she accomplished for our communities and they will get a great sense of the appreciation of her life’s work and how we benefit as a community.” 

The event featured a performance by Grammy Award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey. Attendees lit up candles at the end of the event in honor of President Emerita Dr. Natalicio.  

Maria Salette Ontiveros may be reached at [email protected]; @salette2098 on Twitter.