Natalicio Lauded as 'World Leader' Ahead of Commencement Speech

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Diana Natalicio, Ph.D. (left) has been profiled by Fortune  as one of 2017's "World's Greatest Leaders" list. She will give the address to SLU's Class of 2017 during the University's Commencement May 20 at Chaifetz Arena. The University will bestow an honorary degree on Natalicio, Rich McClure (left center), Rev. Starsky Wilson (right center) and John Padberg, S.J. (right) 

Diana Natalicio, Ph.D., this year's Spring Commencement speaker, has been named a "world leader" by Fortune for her work leading the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) where she has made wider access to higher education for underrepresented students a top priority. A St. Louis native and SLU alumna, she was also named one of Time Magazine's "Most Influential People" in 2016. Natalicio will speak May 20 at Chaifetz Arena.

“Dr. Natalicio is intimately familiar with the complexities of students from marginalized groups accessing education,” SLU President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., noted following the March announcement that Natalicio would address SLU’s Class of 2017. “She has successfully undertaken the task of building meaningful, long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the surrounding communities.”

According to the March 23 Fortune profile of Natalicio, she was selected for the prestigious list because she “made wider access her priority,” even as she worked to keep tuition at UTEP low. According to Fortune, the university she has helmed since 1988 has also climbed upward in national college rankings while also seeing gains in research funding.

Natalicio earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from SLU in 1961. A graduate of Cleveland High School in St. Louis, she was a first-generation college student.

Prior to becoming president of the Texas university, she served as UTEP’s vice president for academic affairs, dean of liberal arts, chair of its modern languages department and as a professor of linguistics.

Situated in Texas’s Paso del Norte region, UTEP’s enrollment has grown to over 23,000 students, with more than 80 percent identifying as Mexican American. The school also has a significant number of students commuting from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Natalicio has previously served on numerous boards including the Rockefeller Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and American Council on Education. She has served on advisory commissions for both President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Following her commencement address, Natalicio will receive an honorary doctorate of science from SLU. The University will also award honorary doctorates on John Padberg, S.J., Rev. Starsky Wilson and Rich McClure.

For the full Fortune profile on Natalicio click here or visit SLU’s previous story announcing Natalicio’s address and the University’s honorary degree recipients here. Portions of this story originally appeared March 21, 2017 in “Higher Education Leader Selected to Speak at 2017 Commencement.”