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House panel preserves option to upgrade Edinburg RAHC into UT medical school, says Rep. Martínez

A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Family members for Cano – who is featured here during ceremonies honoring him in downtown Edinburg more than 60 years ago – are among the special guests invited to participate in a special presentation on Saturday, April 25, while Peña’s measure continues through the legislative process. The April 25 gathering,  which is free and open to the public, is also being organized by the Edinburg lawmaker. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall. More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old South Texan. Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. See story on Pedro Cano later in this posting. 

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Amanda Lira, who attends Economedes High School, hugs her mother, Delma Lira Sánchez, during a ceremony earlier this month at the University of Texas at Austin, where Amanda was one of two South Texas high school students honored as Migrant Students of the Year. Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. The Liras were joined in this portrait by Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, UT’s Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education, and Dr. Felipe Alanis, UT’s Associate Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education and Director of the K-16 Education Center. See story later in this posting. 

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Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco celebrates with her mother, María Castillo, after Deyania was one of two Texas high school students honored by the University of Texas at Austin as Migrant Student of the Year. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, honored members of the Zonta Club of Brownsville on Tuesday, April 14, at the Texas Capitol with a Senate Resolution commending them for their contributions to the Brownsville community and congratulating them on their 50th anniversary. Zonta is a worldwide service organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. There are over 32,000 members in 1,255 clubs in 67 countries. Featured, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Danita Utsman, Zonta District Governor; Rosalie Gutiérrez, Brownsville Zonta President; Lee Ann Greer, Zonta Vice President; Brenda Pérez, Public Relations Chairwoman; Brunilda Villarreal and Minnie Lucio (wife of Sen. Lucio), Conference Co-Chairs, and Sen. Lucio. 

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Edinburg’s unemployment rate for December remains at 5.5 percent, again best in the Valley, better than Texas and U.S. unemployment levels

With Bucky the Bronco, the mascot for the University of Texas-Pan American, helping lead the cheers in June 2004, Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas was welcomed during a public ceremony on her first day as president by Rodolfo Arévalo, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. Citing health reasons, Cárdenas retired as president of one of the largest public universities in Texas effective Friday, January 30. Under her leadership, UT-Pan American continued its successful transformation into a research-oriented institution of higher education, with a top faculty and state-of-the-art facilities and resources. On Tuesday, January 27, Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, said he would work closely with new UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to inform and involve South Texans on the appointment, deliberations, and actions of a presidential search advisory committee which will undertake a national search for a successor to Cárdenas. "We will make sure the public is fully informed on how these major steps are taken, and how people from all walks of life from South Texas can participate in selecting the new leadership of our great university," Flores said. Charles A. Sorber, former president of UT-Permian Basin and former interim president of UT-Arlington, will serve as interim president effective February 23. See story later in this posting.

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Charles A. Sorber, former president of UT-Permian Basin and former interim president of UT- Arlington, will serve as interim president of the University of Texas-Pan American effective February 23 while a national search begins for a permanent successor to former president Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, the UT System announced on Tuesday, January 27. “Dr. Sorber’s expertise and vast background have earned him a rock-solid reputation of service in a variety of administrative positions, and we are extremely fortunate to have him help guide UT-Pan American in this important time of transition," said David B. Prior, the UT System’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. "UT-Pan American is tremendously important to the region and to the UT System. We believe that the students, faculty and staff will enjoy getting to know Dr. Sorber as your combined efforts continue to move the institution to even greater distinction. The quick action by UT System administrators is crucial to maintaining stability at the university, said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. "I am happy to see that the UT System is moving quickly to search for the best candidate to lead UT-Pan American," said Hinojosa. "Dr. Cárdenas set a high standard and I expect the presidential search advisory committee to seek out an outstanding academic and administrator to guide UT-Pan American." See story later in this posting.

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In an effort to rouse up funding and support for local projects in the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, featured left, on Monday, January 26, met with Congressman James Oberstar, D-MN, featured right, who is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Hinojosa, along with Congressman Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi (center), highlighted South Texas’ many infrastructure projects that are “shovel-ready” and needed for long-term growth. These projects include the Hidalgo County Loop, the Donna Bridge access road, North Rail Relocation project, and U.S. Highway 281 at Falfurrias and Ben Bolt. See story later in this posting.

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Former McAllen Mayor Othal E. Brand Sr., featured left, was recognized on Monday, January 26, for his years of service to the community, and he was presented a proclamation from Mayor Richard Cortéz, on behalf of the city commission. In 1973, Brand was elected city commissioner and in 1977 was elected mayor, where he served continuously for 20 years until 1997. Through his leadership and vision, he was instrumental in establishing the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of McAllen and planned for McAllen’s future by acquiring land for future growth. Brand served on numerous boards and committees both on the local and state levels. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg High School graduate Aurora Casas was already a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) when she started her college career at South Texas College. At the age of 58, she didn’t let a simple number keep her from her achieving her goals. “It was always my dream to be an office worker,” she said. “I would go to renew my driver’s license or to the bank and I would see the young ladies and gentlemen behind their desks; I always dreamt that I could be in their shoes one day. I wanted it to be me as the professional helping others.” But it took a pink slip to put her back on the college path. Prior to STC, she spent 30 of her years as a seamstress with Haggar Clothing Co. She took the job to help her family make ends meet, but ultimately wasn’t doing what she really hoped with her life. And in the end, the Haggar plant closed and her long-term commitment to her employer only earned her a pink slip. Now, the South Texas College alum Aurora Casas of Edinburg uses her college knowledge to help mature adults find work in a high-tech, fast-paced, global marketplace. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office on Thursday, January 22, presented a check totaling $2,500 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of their Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign to benefit local charitable organizations. The program allows department staff to wear jeans every Friday in exchange for a $5 donation. “I am extremely proud of our staff for their support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and their willingness to give back to their community. They are extremely elated to see their efforts going towards a cause that helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Hinojosa. Featured, first row, from left: María Barrera; Mary Alonzo; Prescilla López; Ava Sandlin, area Executive Director for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; María Elva Garza; Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; and Nilda Van Hook. Back row, from left: Aída Ríos; Ángela García; Lonnie De León; Eric Rodríguez; Irene Casares; Ireneo Razo; Pedro Navarro; Josue Palomo, and Lorena De La Garza. See story later in this posting.

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Christmas inspires precious memories, divine hope for Dolia González, others who have lost loved ones

Hidalgo County leaders have joined forces recently on several projects of mutual concern, including pushing for environmental planning for the eastern portion of the Hidalgo County loop project and urging President Bush to wave any associated costs local governments incurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly. In this photograph, taken during the December 6 meeting at Mission City Hall of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia S. Handy, and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, successfully encouraged the RMA Board of Directors to speed up plans for the eastern portion of the proposed county roadway loop. See stories on Hurricane Dolly recovery requests and on a successful prescription discount card that recently went into effect in Hidalgo County.

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South Texas College has been selected to participate in the Community Colleges CAN Mentoring Program, which is a national program to link community colleges across the country in unique ways for the betterment and continued pervasiveness of higher education. Through the program, STC will work closely with El Paso Community College to develop an outreach program tying together all higher education institutions and school districts across Hidalgo and Starr counties to address the college readiness needs of all current and future students in the counties. Ultimately, STC hopes to facilitate increased college-going rates, increased college readiness rates, and increased degree attainment rates by creating a seamless system to transition students from high school to college. Featured in this shot, taken during the fall 2008 orientation at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen, are high school students from McAllen who are part of the South Texas College McAllen I.S.D. Achieve Early College High School program, one of the many initiatives the college has created with Valley school districts to create a seamless path to college. See story later in this posting.

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“I heard my song while I was watching Fox News the other day,” said Christopher Holloway, South Texas College history instructor. “Who would have known that more than 20 years later it would still be a hit? I think you can say it’s become a Christmas classic!” Holloway, a man of many talents, has not only taught history for more than half a century, but also had a prosperous career in singing and songwriting. A natural vocal talent and composer, he was signed by Playback Records. He wrote several songs, including Man From Galilee, which caught the attention of Christian singer Cristy Lane. Eight years after the song’s birth, Lane released a Christmas CD in 1985 featuring her version of the song, which sold 250,000 copies in the first year. Holloway poses with a record of his songs and the songs of Cristy Lane. See story later in this posting.

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This year will mark the 40th Christmas that Dolia González of Edinburg has spent without her only child, American war hero Freddy González. But instead of sitting alone with her memories, she reaches out and is like a star shining for those around her. That is her sense of decency, honor, and civic duty, says John Flores, author of a book about the Edinburg family. Last February, Dolia González and her son were the center of attention in Edinburg, when Gov. Rick Perry, to her left, came to the three-time All-America City to bestow Texas’ highest honor in memory on her son’s courage in battle. From left, are: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Edinburg City Councilmember Noé Garza (back row); Dolia González; Edinburg City Councilmember Alma Garza (back row); Gov. Perry; and Edinburg school board president Omar Palacios. See lead story later in this posting.

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Newspaper carriers file $100 million lawsuit against flagship newspaper of Freedom Communications, Inc., owner of McAllen Monitor and others

The family of former Rep. Cullen Looney, D-Edinburg, and his wife, Carol Lynn, gathered on Thursday, September 18, for the dedication of the Will Looney Legacy Park, which is an addition to the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.  The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of a bronze sculpture entitled, “Texas Legacy.”   The sculpture depicts with great detail a young man mounted on horseback respectfully clasping the hand of an elderly woman standing next to the horse and rider. The figures represent the late Will Looney and his grandmother, the late Margaret Montgomery Looney. The sculpture is a gift from the Looney family. Featured, from left, are: Cullen Looney; Carol Lynn Looney; Cortney Looney; Forrest Runnels holding Forrest Runnels Jr.; and Lorin Looney holding William Cullen Runnels. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday, September 23, passed a balanced budget for the second year in a row. The 2009 general fund budget is roughly $162 million, an overall increase of 9.3 percent from 2008. “This is the second time in more than 20 years that Hidalgo County has had a balanced budget. The first time was last year,” said Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured here during a recent appearance at the University of Texas-Pan American. “I am extremely pleased with the leadership of the court and the understanding and carefulness with which the budget department and department heads developed this balanced budget.”  See story later in this posting.

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Gov. Rick Perry, featured in this file photo during his visit to Edinburg earlier this summer, on Friday, September 26, encouraged the continued support of research in cancer prevention and treatment during the groundbreaking of the Baylor Cancer Center in Dallas.  “Baylor’s new facility will be an essential part of our statewide effort to eradicate this indiscriminate killer,” Perry said. “The brilliant ideas in cancer research developed at this center will move us closer to discovering a cure, bringing an end to cancer’s deadly role in our society.”  The governor noted that facilities like the Baylor Cancer Center combined with funding provided by Proposition 15, will launch Texas to the forefront of biomedical research and innovation. Proposition 15 was created by the Texas Legislature at Perry’s request through House Bill 14 and approved by voters in November 2007. It established the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, enabling the issuance of $3 billion in bonds over the 10 years to fund cancer research at institutions throughout the state. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Hinojosa, County Judge Salinas seek emergency help for storm victims in western Hidalgo County

On Saturday, May 10, 40 more students celebrated their graduation from South Texas College’s Bachelor Program. This marks the second class of graduates to earn a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Technology Management from the college since the program began in 2005. Through the program, graduates are prepared for a variety of career opportunities, including office management, paralegal management, plant supervisor, loan officer and supply chain management. Some of the members of this exclusive group are featured here. Sitting, from left: Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president; Juan E. Mejia, STC vice president of Academic Affairs; Yvette González; Mary J. Sustaita; María E. Cantú; Rosalba Ramírez; and Damaris Aguirre. Standing, from left: Yvonne Gutiérrez, Dustin Tichnell; Edna Marines; Adolfo Miranda; Mónica Garza; Gil Cisneros; María Ozuna; Richard García; Juan Segura; Johnny Valladarez; Sonia Elizondo and Mónica Jiménez. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College is one of only three colleges in the state accredited to offer bachelor’s degrees and is the only college in the state to offer two bachelor’s degree options. In addition to its Bachelor of Applied Technology in Technology Management, the college was accredited to begin offering a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Computer and Information Technologies in spring 2008. Some of the 40 graduates from the groundbreaking academic program are featured here. Sitting, from left: Ricardo Garza; San Juanita Cuevas; Noriselda García; Diana Vittitoe; Elvira Alonzo; and Dr. Ali Esmaeili, STC associate dean of Bachelor Programs. Standing, from left: Alta Alaniz; Erica Villarreal; Isaac Sánchez; Sergio Cardoza; Arturo Flores; Daniel Cortéz; Lillian Silva Flores of Edinburg; Benjamin Arjona of Edinburg; Angélica Cantú; and Carlos Leal of Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College on Friday, May 9, honored Dr. Rubén Gallegos (featured right), a former superintendent with the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, as one of this year’s two Distinguished Alumnus. Gallegos is executive director of International Educational Services, an agency that provides children of illegal immigrants who have been arrested a basic education as they await deportation or reunification. See story later in this posting.

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HEB and Inter National Bank are new sponsors for the third annual Texas Cook ‘Em: High Steaks in Edinburg, a nationally-recognized competition coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Edinburg, and held on July 4 at Edinburg Municipal Park. Featured, from left, are: Evana Vleck, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director; Rey Garza, HEB Unit Director; Cris Torres, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Chairman; Letty Reyes, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Project Manager; and Bobby Rodríguez, HEB Store Director. See story later in this posting.

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