Diana Natalicio

Diana Natalicio

Diana Natalicio

Senior Fellow

Diana Natalicio, President Emerita University of Texas at El Paso and Senior Fellow, Excelencia in Education, passed on Friday, September 23, 2021.


Excelencia in Education continues to be inspired by the leadership and trendsetting example Diana set from the first time we met her. In her we found an ally, a colleague, a partner, a co-conspirator, and a genuine friend. She was unafraid to take the first step, even if it was initially alone, to advocate and show that another way, a more constructive and positive way, could be created that built on the strengths and animo of the community of her adopted home of the Paseo del Norte. She affirmed the possible and sought the best, adapting to meet the moment while focused on the bigger goal and larger mission-- to serve students. We collaborated with her to advance Latino student success over many years, and recognize her lasting impact, which includes:

  • Partnering with Excelencia for our very first project and seminal release in 2004 of “Latino Student Success at HSIs: a Demonstration Project” with a FIPSE grant UTEP received.
  • Hosting a national convening at UTEP on the future of HSIs from which Excelencia first publicly posited the framework for the Seal of Excelencia.
  • Engaging in foundational and iterative discussions about framing and persuading higher education to rethink measures, expectations, institutional effort, investment, and opportunities to advance talent (she believed, as we do, that talent is everywhere).
  • Speaking at numerous Excelencia national meetings, workshops, and institutes, and interacting with all who approached her with questions, comments, and their own ideas.

In the El Paso news story about Diana’s passing. UTEP President Heather Wilson shared, “Dr. Natalicio will be remembered by many as a pioneer in higher education. She defied the critics who said it wasn’t possible to open access to higher education to everyone and still offer a top tier educational experience. During Dr. Natalicio’s 31-year presidency – the longest of any sitting president of a public research university at the time – UTEP’s student body began to more closely reflect the demographics of the region.”

Excelencia in Education is immensely grateful to have known and worked with Diana Natalicio for many years. During her time as Senior Fellow, we developed a project to tell the story of how UTEP, a small regional public institution transformed into a local, regional, national, and international powerhouse advancing students and the community. It is an impressive story of one institution that improved Latino student outcomes while raising institutional recognition and prestige.

We mourn her passing and express our condolences to her family and those she loved. We will celebrate her life and legacy moving forward with this project and our common cause of accelerating Latino student success in higher education.