Chamber honors Dr. Lou Agnese, a true San Antonio visionary

The Chamber was pleased to honor Dr. Lou Agnese, President Emeritus of the University of the Incarnate Word at our “Honoring A San Antonio Visionary” breakfast on February 7 at the St. Anthony’s Hotel.

Dr. Lou Agnese served more than 30 years as the University of the Incarnate Word’s (UIW) President, transforming UIW into one of the highest-rated universities in the country. Some of San Antonio’s biggest business and community leaders joined the Chamber to pay tribute to Lou for his immeasurable impact on our city.

“I have always said that Lou is one of the most entrepreneurial university presidents I have ever met,” said Charlie Amato, Chairman and Co-founder of SWBC and 2000 Chamber Chairman. “What he accomplished at Incarnate Word is something special, going from 1,300 students in 1985 to 11,000 in 2016. With his heart and his passion, he has truly taken UIW out of the stratosphere,” Amato added.

Lowry Mays, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Clear Channel Communications and 1985 Chamber Chairman of the Board, said “nothing ever stops” Lou when he sets out to accomplish something.

“The leadership this President gave UIW is something I have never seen before,” Mays said. “Nothing ever stops Lou or the University of the Incarnate Word. The momentum is just too great. I just wish there were 20 more of Lou Agnese in San Antonio,” he added.

Henry Bonilla, former Congressman who represented Texas’s 23rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives called Agnese a “fearless” visionary. “Back in the day when Lou would say he wanted to increase enrollment and have campuses around the globe, everybody would wince. But that has all happened since he came to Incarnate Word,” Bonilla said.

Dr. Agnese told the audience that his dedication to education came from his father.

“When my dad came to the U.S., he didn’t know anybody. His first salary was $3 per week selling bananas off a truck, but he always knew that the future belonged to those that are educated. He made sure all of us were well-educated because ‘that’s the future’, he would say,” Lou confessed.

A large part of how UIW became the largest Catholic University in Texas is due to the University marketing itself to  Hispanics and first-generation college students. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, UIW has served South Texas’ diverse population since its inception in 1881.

“Everything Incarnate Word does is to develop the talent of Texans,” Lou said. “The pharmacy school, in its first two years, changed the number of Hispanics in pharmacy schools nationally. This follows the vision of the sisters, which was to not only educate students of south Texas but of northern Mexico. That vision continues today.”

Lou may originally be from Brooklyn, but he calls Texas home now and is proud of the role San Antonio plays in shaping the U.S. “I’m a proud Texan,” Dr. Agnese told the crowd as he concluded his speech. “I may have a little New York accent, but I am as much a Texas as anyone. We should be proud that we are the gateway to America today like how New York was the gateway to America in the past.

The Chamber of Commerce would like to thank everyone who attended this event, our Gold Sponsor Brooks City Base, and our Bronze sponsors Capital One, Kahlig Auto Group, and the University of the Incarnate Word for joining us in honoring Dr. Lou Agnese. He is undeniably a true San Antonio visionary. To view pictures from the event, please click here.

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