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Centurions Profile: Chris Guinta

Having served as one of the first co-chairs of the Chancellor’s Centurions, Chris Guinta is no stranger to taking on challenges. With two degrees from UT Austin (BBA '05 and MPA '06), it was the journey that started here that changed his world.

Originally from Connecticut, Chris had never really thought about going to The University of Texas. After being accepted into the Business Honors Program at UT Austin, his first time on campus was at freshman orientation. “Needless to say, I did not know the importance this experience would have on my life.”

“I met some of my best friends in the world and most importantly, my wife at UT. I learned how to be a much better person,” Chris explains. “I met these great friends through my fraternity (Sigma Phi Epsilon) and the Texas Cowboys, and it completely altered my perspective – placing the collective over the individual, which I apply constantly to my business and family.”

Currently the Chief Financial Officer of New Fortress Energy in New York, the connection to UT remains strong. Chris’ wife, Julie Simpson Guinta (BS '05) is a third generation Longhorn and originally from Austin, so they come back as much as possible with their two children, three-year-old Hannah and one-year-old Harrison, to visit family and enjoy their season football tickets. “Our wedding party was composed of mostly Longhorns, and I stay in really close contact with my fraternity brothers and my Cowboy New Man brothers. To this day we still remain Texas proud.”


This strong bond led Chris to the Chancellor’s Centurions. “About five years ago one of my mentors, Andy Kerner who was the Chairman of the Board of the company I was working for, showed me an overview of a project the UT System was developing, ‘The Centurions,’ and asked me if I would be interested in joining. I found it exciting to get involved in something that was just beginning but I was hesitant because I had never donated and didn’t know if it was really selective.”

Those fears quickly subsided. “I went to a Chancellor’s Council Annual Meeting and Symposium, where I was so engrossed with the program and speakers, learning what was happening across UT institutions. I was blown away by the breadth of the touchpoints that the system had across the state and across the world. I knew I wanted to be a part of this.” Chris was hooked.

“Learning about the newest UT institution, UT Rio Grande Valley, I identified with the importance of increasing educational opportunities across the whole state, especially providing opportunities for students outside Austin to obtain quality education. Yes, I could be a donor to my alma mater, but also support the UT System and help advance higher education in Texas.”

Along with a founder of the Centurions, Clay Allison, Chris became the first co-chair. “We quickly became friends and worked to grow the Centurions, rolling up our sleeves with Randa Safady, trying to figure out what to do to help. We found out we could best serve by leading it. We had a great time. It was incredibly satisfying to be part of the group and to learn about the system and interact with Chancellor’s Council members, Executive Committee members, the system leadership… It was an amazing experience.”

A Generation of Leaders

After his tenure as co-chair came to an end, Chris is still actively committed and engaged. “The reason I stay involved with the UT System is that I believe it is a powerful machine that can change the face of higher education and service in the whole state of Texas. Why wouldn’t you want to be involved with this amazing powerhouse and apparatus for change in higher education, research and health care? As one of the largest public university systems in the country, what can’t the UT System do?”

Chris is grateful for the experience, “I want to give back because I feel really lucky to be a part of this greater good. It’s always surprising that I get to do this, so I want to give back to the system not only because I appreciate it, but also to expose additional people to the breadth of the UT System.”

A challenge Chris wants to conquer is enlisting other young professionals to make the most of their responsibilities in leadership. “People usually gravitate towards things that they understand and what they know how to do. And while this is a challenging time for young professionals – people are getting married, starting families, advancing their careers – it can be incredibly rewarding to support a cause like the Chancellor's Centurions.”

The Centurions is a perfect venue for molding leadership. “I think one of the initiatives of a young leadership society is to train leaders – not leaders that just tell you to get things done or that are involved for recognition’s sake, but leaders that are understanding and emoting to people around them, that can communicate effective and efficiently through any medium available to them, which in today’s world is broad. Leaders must be able to synthesize information quickly and succinctly. If you do that well, you can engender support and harness our collective power for a common goal to really make a difference.”

For this exact reason, there is a particular UT System initiative that is close to Chris’ heart, “The UT System’s K-12 initiative is so important, since it focuses on increasing the number of students entering the college pipeline for success in college and beyond. It is preparing a generation of leaders.”

Jump In

Leadership is exactly what Chris wants the younger generation to not overthink and just do it. “Jump in with both feet. Don’t wait for perfect timing or the exact fit, just get involved.”

If someone is thinking about becoming part of the Centurions, Chris advises to just do it. “I would say that if you're interested, roll up your sleeves and jump right in,” Chris urges. “The UT System representatives are incredible to work with and will do anything in their power to make the Centurions goals become a reality - it's still a blank canvas to paint a picture for the betterment of the entire system.”

Although the Centurions is a young endeavor, Chris assures that there is great help along the way. “The Centurions is still in its infancy and is still growing, but it is made up of great people. The CCEC (Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee) is warm, welcoming and provides a lot of help. They are embracing a whole new generation of UT supporters that ‘give’ with their efforts, with their time and with their talent. I applaud and advocate for the UT System in embracing and focusing on this young group, because eventually they will become important benefactors who will proudly fill the place of our CCEC mentors.”

While a challenge, this is not a lone venture. “The UT System team is unbelievable with their support,” Chris assures. “UT System Director of Development, Ashlynn Dickey, made it fun to be part of Centurions. She demanded a lot from us but she gave us everything she could to help shape and grow the organization. This is what made it fun to be a part of something new that required a lot of work, but was incredibly exciting.”

Likewise, Chris extols the support and recognition received directly from the top. “Chancellor McRaven values the Centurions. He is such a humble man and has always said that we are the experts for our generation. He values the uniqueness of our individuality and sees the Centurions as a wealth of knowledge and perspective that the older generation may not have access to. He understands the value the Centurions add to the UT System.”

Chris wants others to add value, too – and just jump in. “Being part of the younger generation, we are still in the stage of life where things change unexpectedly on a daily basis. Life is what happens when you’re making plans.” Chris continues, “Personally, we had this grand blueprint but then we had kids, a busy career and moved across the country. I’m 1500 miles away in New York City, and although I love what I’m doing, I genuinely miss Texas – the nostalgia is overwhelming. My involvement with the UT System and the Centurions connects me to things, people and experiences that I love. So speaking from experience: don’t wait, just get involved. Jump in with both feet and figure it out. You’ll thank me later.”