FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Gov. Bill Clements and Dr. Hans Mark, former Chancellor, The University of Texas System, in this image from the 1980s. Mark passed away on Saturday, December 18, 2021, at the age of 92.
Photograph Courtesy THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM
Dr. Hans Mark, UT System Chancellor who helped bring Pan American University into the University of Texas System, remembered following his death
Dr. Hans Mark, a world-renowned aerospace engineer who was in Mission Control during the first moon landing and who 20 years later, as chancellor of the powerful University of Texas System, helped Valley state lawmakers bring Pan American University in Edinburg and Brownsville into that prestigious higher education network, died on Saturday, December 18, 2021, at the age of 92.
A memorial will be held for him at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepard in Austin on Saturday, January 15, 2022.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Hans Mark Scholarship Endowment.
Mark joined the UT System as chancellor in 1984, serving in the position until 1992.
He and his family — his Jewish father, who is known as the father of polymer science, his mother and his brother — escaped the Nazi regime and came to the U.S.
The former chancellor’s father – Herman Francis Mark, (born May 3, 1895, Vienna, Austria, died April 6, 1992, Austin, Texas, U.S.), Austrian American chemist who, although not the world’s first polymer chemist, was known as the father of polymer science because of his many contributions to polymer science education and research.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was a Valley state representative and served as sponsor of legislation in 1989 that resulted in the merger of then-Pan American University into the University of Texas System.
Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
“Chancellor Mark, because of his immense reputation and achievements, was very important in helping the Valley state legislative delegation and so many other key champions of the merger get the support from the UT System Board of Regents, the rest of the 181-member Texas Legislature, and Governor Bill Clements,” Hinojosa said. “Chancellor Mark was so proud then, and later in life, of the incredible growth of Pan American University – my alma mater – into the amazing, groundbreaking, nationally-recognized University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine.”
An alma mater is the school, college, or university that one once attended.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County, also offered her recollection of Mark.
“Hans Mark’s life was as impressive as it was inspiring,” said Zaffirini. “His family escaped Nazi Germany in 1940 – an experience that motivated him to oppose fascism by studying nuclear deterrence during the Cold War. His accomplishments included helping make South Texas universities part of the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M System May he rest in peace.”
Years later after the 1989 merger, Valley lawmakers in 2013, with the help of then-UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, MD – secured the support of the Texas Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Perry to create what is now known as The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
This transformative initiative in 2013 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.
Today, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 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, Weslaco and South Padre Island.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, now 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.
On Tuesday, December 6, 1988, representatives of Pan American University’s Board of Regents agreed to merge with the University of Texas System, pending approval of the state legislature in 1989.
The UT System Board of Regents approved the merger recommendation on December 8, 1988.
In September 1989 the Texas legislature completed the merger.
In its release about Mark, the UT System provided the following background about his life:
Mark leaves a legacy of exploration and discovery, warmth and inspiration, and leadership and innovation. In addition to being a champion of research and technology, he was known for bringing a personal approach to the UT community.
“Hans Mark was a giant in our community,” said Sharon L. Wood, Executive Vice President and Provost of UT Austin. “A NASA leader and visionary, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a chancellor of The University of Texas System, and a beloved UT Austin professor — Hans had a tremendous impact on society and touched so many lives throughout his life. His legacy will live on for generations.”
During his time as chancellor, he helped establish UT as a research powerhouse, doubling the university system’s research budget and helping to bring microchip consortium SEMATECH to Austin.
After his chancellorship, Mark divided the rest of the 1990s between teaching aerospace engineering courses at UT Austin and advising in Washington, D.C., on space research and engineering.
From 2001 until his retirement in 2014, he was an integral and consistent part of the Cockrell School of Engineering community and the undergraduate aerospace engineering experience, having made teaching the program’s introductory class his main priority.
“With the passing of the unique and remarkable Hans Mark, the world lost a great leader and visionary, who steered the university and, indeed, our country toward excellence in engineering and scientific research. But also, he was a generous and beloved friend of the UT faculty and students, and especially those of us in aerospace engineering,” said J. Tinsley Oden, professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics who was a colleague of Mark’s. “Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him will miss his humor, friendship and insight into university and world affairs and will always cherish his time with us and remember his contributions to our professional, academic and personal lives.”
With a fascination for the development and creation of the atomic bomb that brought World War II to a decisive end, Mark went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in physics, followed by conducting nuclear weapons research at Lawrence Livermore Lab.
Prior to joining the UT System, Mark was essential in the development of advanced nuclear technology, government aeronautics and space exploration in the 1960s and 1970s.
He served as chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering and Administrator of the Berkeley Research Reactor from 1964 to 1969.
He directed NASA’s Ames Research Center from 1969 to 1977; served as undersecretary of the Air Force and concurrently director of the National Reconnaissance Office under President Jimmy Carter until 1979 before serving as secretary of the Air Force until 1981; and then served as deputy administrator of NASA under President Ronald Reagan until 1984.
He also later served as director of defense research and engineering.
One of his great missions of discovery during this time was the development and launch of the first manmade object to leave the solar system; the Pioneer 10, which Mark worked on with Carl Sagan, was a space probe that the NASA Ames lab designed to fly past the asteroid belt, Jupiter and Saturn to collect data and images.
Throughout his esteemed career, Mark’s major scientific accomplishments include contributions to the development of X-ray astronomy, more accurate atomic wave functions and various fields of nuclear instrumentation.
“Hans Mark was an amazing mentor, an insightful engineer, a wise adviser and a good friend,” said Wallace Fowler, Aerospace Engineering Professor Emeritus and a colleague of Mark’s. “His sage advice, usually provided in his office along with strong coffee before 7 a.m., was priceless. We who worked with him have been blessed beyond measure.”
Mark was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
He is a recipient of the American Astronautical Society’s Military Astronautics Award (2006); the Space Foundation’s highest honor, the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award (2008); and the Air Force Space Command’s Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Award (2012).
He was inducted as an honorary member of UT’s aerospace engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2019.
Mark is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marion “Bun” Thorpe; two children, James Randall “Rufus” Mark and Jane Mark Jopson; as well as five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial will held for Mark at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd on Jan. 15. Memorial gifts can be made to the Hans Mark Scholarship Endowment.
View additional photos of Hans Mark from his childhood through his career.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY RANKS 8TH IN FORBES’ “2021 TOP 25 COLLEGES FOR YOUR MONEY?
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was recently named a 2021 Top Colleges for Your Money by Forbes.com, joining a prestigious list that also includes Stanford, Princeton, Georgia Tech, Harvard and MIT.
The online publication ranked the top 25 schools nationwide that deliver the best return on investment, as determined by the Price-to-Earnings Premium. UTRGV ranked eighth on the list (5th among public schools) and was the only Texas university ranked among the top 10.
Stanford, Princeton, Georgia Tech, Harvard and MIT ranked third, fourth, fifth, seventh and 13th, respectively.
President Guy Bailey said that being ranked alongside some of the most prominent universities in the country reflects UTRGV’s exceptional ability to offer a high-quality education at an affordable price.
“At UTRGV, we are committed to helping ensure that our students graduate and obtain excellent jobs, all without having to mortgage their futures,” Bailey said. “This recognition by Forbes is a testament of our faculty and staff working together for the success of our students. We have and will continue to provide many opportunities that will help our students graduate while remaining affordable.”
Earlier in 2021, to assist more students, the university announced it was expanding its Tuition Advantage programto $100,000, and revealed its newLuminary Scholars program. This December, UTRGV graduated more than 3,900 students at its in-person Fall 2021 Commencement ceremonies.
Additionally, Forbes also announced its overall 2021 America’s Top Colleges rankings, with UTRGV ranked among the Top 10 Texas Public Universities list, joining Texas Tech, Texas A&M and UT Austin.
To rank the institutions, the magazine reviews colleges and universities that educate undergraduates, based on their Carnegie Classification, a higher education framework that categorizes schools by degree offerings, research output and specialty focus.
It also reviews doctoral research universities, master’s universities and colleges and baccalaureate colleges, as well as colleges with four-year programs in engineering, business and art. Average debt, average grant assistance, graduation rate and retention rate all are considered in the methodology.
PHARR-SAN JUAN-ALAMO SCHOOL DISTRICT PARTNERS WITH UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRNDE VALLEY TO HOST MEXICAN AMERICAN STUDIES SYMPOSIUM
The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) in partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Bilingual Studies, hosted a Social Studies Through Authentic and Relevant Curriculum (SSTARC) Symposium at PSJA Southwest Early College High School on Saturday, December 4, 2021.
The event was held by PSJA ISD’s Dual Language Enrichment Department and UTRGV as part of the culmination of a grant first awarded to promote Mexican American Studies in schools.
The half-day symposium focused on the importance of Mexican American Studies in Dual Language Classrooms and featured Keynote Speaker Dr. Lilliana Saldaña, Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas San Antonio.
The event also featured presentations from elementary teachers who participated in NEH funded SSTARC workshops to develop dual language social studies lesson plans focused on Mexican American studies.
“We united our social studies teachers to learn how to incorporate Mexican American Studies into our elementary curriculum,” said PSJA Dual Language Director Olivia Martínez. “This was a great opportunity for our emerging bilinguals to get exposed to this curriculum in elementary. It’s been great to be collaborating with UTRGV for this work because our students are learning about the culture, language and why it’s all important.”
PSJA ISD teachers who presented included Hazel Salazar from César Chávez Elementary, Fernanda Sánchez from García Elementary, Eira Muñoz and Beatriz González from Kelly-Pharr Elementary, and Marilyn Herrera and Priscilla Rada from Escobar Elementary.
According to Martínez, through this work PSJA ISD and UTRGV aimed to establish a foundation to expand the curriculum to all the district’s elementary schools.
In addition to this grant, PSJA ISD is also currently collaborating with UTRGV to offer a Mexican-American Studies Dual Credit Course for high school students this fall semester.
The MASC 2301 Course is being held asynchronously in Spanish and allows 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to earn a Humanities credit and Dual Language credit simultaneously. Currently, 15 students are part of the first cohort enrolled in the course.
“Thank you to UTRGV for partnering with us as we continue this important work,” said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arrendondo. “This is part of our efforts to instill among our students love and pride in their multicultural heritage. We thank our PSJA Dual Language Enrichment team for leading these efforts.”
Amanda L. Alaniz and Claudia Lemus Campos contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).