Superintendent of Virginia’s largest school district to give UHV commencement speech

Karen Garza, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, will deliver the keynote address and receive the UHV Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award May 14 during the University of Houston-Victoria’s spring commencement ceremonies.

Karen Garza

A former Victoria resident, Garza holds two degrees from UHV. As Fairfax superintendent, she oversees the learning of about 187,000 students in nearly 200 schools. The school district is the largest in Virginia and the 10th biggest in the country.

“We are thrilled to welcome back Dr. Garza to address our graduates at commencement,” UHV President Vic Morgan said. “Since Dr. Garza was a UHV alumna and lived in several Coastal Bend communities, I think a lot of students can relate to her. Her rise to becoming leader of one of the largest school districts in the nation is an inspirational story and one that will be motivating to hear as many of our graduates launch their careers.”

UHV will hold two graduation ceremonies in Victoria. Both will take place in Faith Family Church, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane, the largest indoor facility available in Victoria. The 9 a.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the schools of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be for graduates of the School of Business Administration.

Vic Morgan

“I am honored to receive this distinguished award from this great institution, and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the 2016 commencement exercises,” Garza said.

Situated in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Fairfax County is home to more than 1 million people. Garza became the first woman to lead Fairfax County Public Schools when she became superintendent in July 2013. The district has more than 24,000 employees and an operating budget of $2.6 billion.

Armed with research that demonstrates adolescents benefit from later school start times, Garza led the implementation of later start times in Fairfax schools. She also launched Project Momentum, an improvement initiative focused on schools with the most intensive academic needs. In addition, she altered the principal selection process to allow for moving proven principals into underperforming schools to raise academic standards and student achievement.

A native of Canyon, Garza’s family moved to Victoria when her father took a job as an English professor at Victoria College. Garza graduated in 1981 from Victoria High School. In 1986, she earned a bachelor’s degree from UHV. In 1994, she added a Master of Education from UHV. She also earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

“My experiences at UHV both as an undergraduate and graduate student provided a great foundation for my career as an educator,” Garza said.

After teaching elementary school in Yoakum from 1986 to 1991, Garza spent the next three years working as an education specialist for the Region III Education Service Center in Victoria. She then became the principal at East Side Elementary School in Palacios before taking a job in 1996 as the El Campo Independent School District curriculum supervisor. She later worked for the Katy, Corpus Christi and Houston school districts. Garza served as superintendent of Lubbock Independent School District from 2009 to 2013.

UHV holds graduation ceremonies in two different locations each year. Spring commencement is in Victoria, while the fall ceremony is held in Katy to better accommodate UHV students who take classes in Greater Houston.

For more information about commencement, contact special events coordinator Nancy Moffett at 361-570-4351 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro