Prestigious distinction bestowed on only five other individuals in the past

  Saturday, May 11, 2024
  Accolades, Around Campus, Awards

By Amanda A. Taylor-Uchoa

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAY 11, 2024 - Dr. Fred Farias III, chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and president and CEO of 20/20 Vision Care, has been awarded the UTRGV President Medal of Honor, a prestigious distinction only five others have received before him.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey presented Farias with the award – the university’s highest honor, bestowed upon those whose extraordinary contributions and exemplary dedication have profoundly impacted the university – during the Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11, in Edinburg.

“Receiving this award is an immense honor, one that fills me with both humility and gratitude. To be recognized in this manner, especially considering the esteemed company of the five previous recipients, is truly humbling,” Farias said. “I am deeply grateful for the recognition and for the opportunity to contribute to our community. 

“I am proud to have grown up in the Rio Grande Valley and am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of students and families at UTRGV and across the state. I extend my gratitude to President Guy Bailey and the entire UTRGV leadership for their support and dedication to higher education excellence.”

Since his appointment to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) in 2015, and particularly during his tenure as Chairman since 2021, Dr. Farias has played a pivotal role in expanding educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley.

In presenting the medal, Bailey said Farias was selected in recognition of his exceptional leadership and his unwavering dedication to advancing higher education in Texas.

UTRGV 2024 Spring Commencement
UTRGV President Guy Bailey presents Dr. Fred Farias III, Chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, with the President’s Medal of Honor at the UTRGV Spring Commencement in Edinburg at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 11, 2024. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

“His commitment makes him a deserving recipient of UTRGV's highest honor,” Bailey said.

“Over the past eight years, we’ve added an enormous amount of degree programs. We’ve added more degree programs than any institution I’ve been a part of, and it’s made countless educational opportunities for our students.”

Bailey said these educational opportunities just don’t happen – they are the results of the hard work and dedication by people committed to the advancement of education – people like Farias. 

“His contributions to this institution helped us get to where we are today, so we want to honor him,” he said. “We’ve given very few people presidential medals at UTRGV. It’s the highest award we can give anybody. And if anyone deserves a presidential medal from UTRGV, it’s Dr. Farias.”

During Farias’ time on the THECB, UTRGV has launched 40 new degree programs, with many more in development, significantly enhancing the university's academic offerings and contributing to the region's economic competitiveness.

“I have dedicated many years to improving higher education throughout the state and expanding local opportunities for our community,” Farias said. “But I believe my greatest contributions to UTRGV have stemmed from a collaborative effort alongside Dr. Bailey and the administration. Our collective efforts have expanded quality educational opportunities for students that meet the ever-changing demands of the workforce.”

Farias said he is honored to be recognized and he hopes to leave behind a legacy of empowerment and opportunity for students at UTRGV.

“By advocating for higher education opportunities and supporting the expansion of scholarships at UTRGV, my goal is to help alleviate financial barriers and ensure every student has access to a quality education,” he said.

“Further, I aspire to set an example for students by demonstrating the profound impact of dedication, collaboration, and service. Growing up, my parents ingrained in me and my brothers the values of service and giving back, which I am wholeheartedly committed to continuing in our community,” he said.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.