Island University Engineering Building named in Honor of President Emeritus Robert R. Furgason

Published: December 07, 2018

Island University Engineering Building named in Honor of President Emeritus Robert R. Furgason

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – More than 200 Islander faculty, staff, students, and local dignitaries joined together on Dec. 7 for the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Dedication Ceremony of the Dr. Robert R. Furgason Engineering Building. President Emeritus Furgason joined the Island University in 1990 as its ninth president, serving the institution with dedication and leadership for 14 years.

“Today is a celebration and recognition of all Dr. Furgason has accomplished throughout his career, all he has given and still gives to this University, and of his work as it relates to engineering,” said Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, president and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “I could think of no greater honor for this campus than having his name permanently affixed to our engineering building.”

Dr. Furgason earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Idaho, and a doctorate from Northwestern University in Illinois. Long before he was chosen as University president, he was a dedicated professor, earning an outstanding teaching award from the University of Idaho and later, an Honorary Doctorate from that same institution. Additionally, he was awarded fellow status from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

“In the world of higher education, receiving accreditation from ABET is a mark of quality and a stamp of excellence,” said Quintanilla. “Dr. Furgason was not only part of ABET-accredited programs, but he received the ABET Grinter Award. This is the highest honor given by the prestigious organization, with only one person being awarded annually. It is not surprising that he was also elected President of ABET.”

The significance of his contributions to engineering may best be represented in an honor he received from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). In celebration of its 100th anniversary, ASEE named Furgason a Centennial Medalist, one of the top 100 engineering educators in the country.

“Dr. Furgason’s tenacity, vision, and dedication during his presidency through today helped ensure the Island University would become a place where quality engineering is a hallmark," said Quintanilla.

Before the unveiling of the building’s new name, Furgason expressed gratitude for the tribute with special thanks to his wife Gloria, his children and their families, along with those he worked alongside for more than a decade.  

“This has been the highlight of my career, and it wouldn’t have been possible without my family, friends, and team,” said Furgason. “I think of my team like a Swiss watch. I may be the face, but you take off the back to see how it really works. It has little hands, big hands, little gears, and big gears and in reflecting in this honor, I’d like to share it with the people who I’ve worked with over the years.”

During the ceremony, Furgason made a special presentation to State Representative Todd Hunter for his long-standing dedication to the University, including authoring HB2102 in 1991, which authorized the issuance of tuition revenue bonds, leading to massive expansion and capital improvements for what was then Corpus Christi State University.

During his presidency, Furgason ushered in a wave of growth that included not only increased enrollments and new academic programs, but new classroom space, labs, offices, operations, and buildings – including the building that now bears his name. It was arguably one of the most successful eras in the University’s history – an era that saw the University join the Texas A&M system and downwardly expand from a two-year institution to into a comprehensive four-year institution. Over Furgason’s 14-year tenure, student enrollment grew from 3,400 to about 9,000 students and included $250 million in capital improvements. Furgason was also the first Executive Director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at A&M-Corpus Christi, which was established through a $46,000,000 endowment he obtained from Mr. Ed Harte, former publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Furgason continues to expand his legacy with the Robert and Gloria Furgason Endowment, which benefits engineering students at A&M-Corpus Christi.

“I see nothing ahead but blue skies for the engineering programs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi,” said Furgason.