After more than 33 years of tireless service as an educator in public schools and higher education institutions culminating with Texas A&M International University, Dr. Juan R. Lira (photo), professor of education, has received one of the highest honors in academe with his selection as Regents Professor by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
The prestigious award is presented to the A&M System's top faculty who have made a lifetime commitment to public service, and Dr. Lira was one of nine recipients this year.
Regents Professor Service Awards are among the highest honors given by the A&M System board of Regents. With the nine new award recipients, the regents have awarded a total of 56 such awards since 1996.
The Regents Service awards were designed to honor professors and senior-level researchers and service delivery professionals who have provided exemplary service not only to their university or agency, but also to the community, the state, the nation and the world.
Eligibility requires a minimum of five years employment at an A&M System university or agency or at the System's health science center; a distinguished record of public service, research, teaching and creative or scholarly activity; recognition within his or her field; and a demonstrated commitment to his or her institution.
Each recipient designated a "Regents Professor" is given a $9,000 monetary award, an A&M medallion for academic regalia and a commemorative certificate.
"I feel very, very honored," Lira said, "It's something very special for me, my wife and family. At the same time, I feel privileged to work not only at TAMIU but also with my other colleagues throughout the System. I know that the teaching experiences, services that I've provided and the research that I've been able to do have come out of the interests that I've been able to develop here at the University."
College of Education Dean Dr. Rosa Maria Vida said the College is proud to have Dr. Lira as a faculty member.
"He's an inspiration to us all and his personal commitment has helped to insure that hundreds of students have become the educators they dream of being. We are thrilled that his efforts are being recognized," she said.
Lira holds his doctorate in curriculum and instruction with emphasis in reading from the University of Texas at Austin. His master's degree in reading and bachelor's degree were earned at Texas A&I University at Laredo.
Lira, who has seen the University grow from Texas A&I University at Laredo to Laredo State University and then to TAMIU, has been a part of the TAMIU faculty for the past 25 years. After starting as an instructor at LSU in the 1970's, Lira has occupied numerous positions including chair of the division of education and psychology, certification officer for the division of education, and dean of the College of Education. He was also one of the six authors of the Lectura Spanish Reading Series published by the McGraw-Hill School Division.
His main research areas are in reading instruction as well as the education of students in the areas of math and science and helping teachers improve instruction in those areas. With his colleagues throughout the System, Lira is involved in the Texas Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation, aimed at reforming math and sciences courses throughout the state, recruiting and supporting future educators ready to teach those subjects and coordinating efforts with agencies throughout the state to increase the initiative's impact.
Lira, who was selected as TAMIU's Scholar of the year for 1999-2000, said he is glad he has continued in his profession for as long as he has.
"As I see the University and Laredo growing and the diversity of children coming to the school system and the University, I feel that I'm in the right place. Given the type of work that I'm doing, I feel that I'm in a good position to help children become better readers and I know that I can help bring that about by working with teachers," he said.
Active in the community, he has served as president for the Laredo and Webb County area of the State Employee Charitable Campaign and regularly reads to children in the local school districts. He serves as judge in science fairs and University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions. In addition, he provides staff development for local schools, is a member of the Marine Corp League and is a lector at St. John Newman Church.
He is married to Juanita R. Lira.
Previous TAMIU Regents Professor recipients include Dr. Jerry Thompson, professor of history, and Dr. Jim Giermanski, former professor of management.
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