Dr. Louis J. Agnese., Jr. is the second president in the history of Texas Health and Science University (THSU) in Austin, Texas. He succeeded Lisa Lin, who founded THSU in 1990 and retired in 2019. Dr. Agnese previously served as the eighth president of the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), a private university in San Antonio. Upon his retirement from UIW in 2016, he was named President Emeritus and Emeritus member of the UIW Board of Trustees in honor of his historic 32-year tenure as president.
His career as a teaching professional and higher education leader began at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. As director of the student personnel program at Gannon from 1976 to 1979, Dr. Agnese carried both advising responsibilities and a graduate teaching workload. From 1976 to 1981, he also reported directly to two vice presidents as the director of student living, with budgetary responsibility for Gannon’s security, maintenance, conference coordination, and food services areas.
He moved to Sioux City, Iowa in 1981 to become vice president of Briar Cliff University. He managed 16 administrative units at Briar Cliff, served as a university spokesperson, liaised between the institution and its stakeholders, and assumed overall management duties in the president’s absence.
Dr. Agnese relocated to San Antonio in 1985 when he was named UIW president. At the time, UIW faced dwindling student enrollment, was limited to one location, had an $8 million annual budget, a $3 million endowment and was the 19th largest private university in Texas. By his retirement in 2016, UIW had grown into Texas’ largest Catholic university and the state’s third largest private university, with global enrollment increasing from 1,296 students to 11,422. Its annual budget had increased to nearly $220 million and its endowment to more than $125 million. Today, Incarnate Word has nearly 40,000 living alumni, compared to 8,000 in 1985.
Under Dr. Agnese’s watch, UIW expanded to nine San Antonio locations; sites in Corpus Christi and Killeen, Texas; European Study Centers in Heidelberg, Germany, and Strasbourg, France; and two full campuses in Mexico where students can earn UIW degrees. Incarnate Word also created the first two Ph.D. degree programs as well as professional doctoral programs in several fields of study, including pharmacy, optometry, nursing practice, physical therapy and business administration. In addition, UIW established a school of medicine that began offering classes in 2017, becoming the first private medical school in San Antonio and just the sixth in the U.S. at a Catholic university.
Dr. Agnese’s also spearheaded the development of UIW’s international profile. By 2016, it had sister school agreements for reciprocal education with more than 140 institutions of higher learning in over 40 countries. Meanwhile, international students comprised more than ten percent of the student body and represented over 70 countries.
With a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion that mirrored UIW’s South Texas origins, the student body in 2016 was 60 percent Hispanic and African American, many of them first-generation college attendees. By his retirement, UIW conferred the most bachelor degrees to Hispanics among all private, not-for-profit universities in the U.S.
Dr. Agnese is the recipient of many professional and civic honors. They include honorary doctoral degrees from UIW and Woosong University in South Korea. Also, the Legacy Leaders Award from the San Antonio Business Journal; the Governor Dolph Briscoe Salute to Excellence Award; the Ford Salute to Education Lifetime Achievement Award; and the International Achievement Award from the San Antonio Council for International Visitors. In 2018, the Hispanic Sports Foundation honored Dr. Agnese by inducting him into the National Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor for his service to education.
Dr. Agnese holds the Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Pittsburgh; an Education Specialist degree and a Master of Education in Counseling degree from Gannon University; and a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary of the Plains College. Originally from New York City, Dr. Agnese is married and has two grown children.