FEATURED: Gov. Ann Richards and Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, help lead the way for the creation of South Texas Community College, now known as South Texas College, in 1993. In a matter of weeks, on September 1, 2023, South Texas College will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its existence. Gutiérrez and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, carried the legislative measure, known as Senate Bill 251, which authorized the establishment of South Texas Community College, which was later renamed South Texas College. Richards signed Senate Bill 251 into law on Monday, May 31, 1993.
Photograph Courtesy ROBERTO AND CECILIA GUTIÉRREZ FAMILY
As South Texas College approaches its 30th anniversary, Gov. Abbott, Texas Legislature praised late Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, for his key role in the creation of “the Valley’s college”
In Fall 2022, Ricardo Solis, Ph.D., President, South Texas College, summarized what he believes are some of the most recent achievements and an even brighter future for the two-county higher education system, which will celebrate its 30th birthday in September 2023.
“What better way to celebrate our 30th anniversary than to work with and for the community we serve – the community that built this college and made it what it is today, with an enrollment 30,000 strong, over 2,000 employees and six robust campuses in Hidalgo and Starr counties.”
As Solis – who is only the second president in the history of South Texas College – approaches the three-decade anniversary of its creation, he is sure to praise the contributions of dozens of leaders in the early 1990s who played pivotal roles in its landmark creation.
The measure that established South Texas College, originally named South Texas Community College, went into effect on Wednesday, September 1, 1993.
One of those movers and shakers was the late Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, who was the House sponsor of Senate Bill 251, which converted the McAllen extension center of Texas State Technical College into South Texas Community College.
He passed away at his McAllen home on Saturday, December 28, 2019 at age 83, after a long and fulfilling life.
But for almost all of the three decades of South Texas College’s existence, Gutiérrez was blessed to see South Texas College become what he and dozens of other area leaders strongly believed it would become – a powerhouse in higher education, not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but at the statewide level.
South Texas College, with six campuses, three higher education centers, and one online campus, educates students from Hidalgo and Starr counties, in which it has taxing jurisdiction to help fund its operations.
Just weeks ago – on Friday, May 5, 2023, and Saturday, May 6, 2023 – South Texas College graduated 3,156 students, a number that serves as proof of the positive impact STC continues to have in higher education in deep South Texas.
Of those 3,156 people who were part of the Spring 2023 commencement, there were 161 bachelor’s degrees, 2,358 associate degrees, and 637 certificates of completion earned by many of the Valley’s best and brightest students.
It’s no wonder what Gutiérrez helped bring to life is deserving of praise and appreciation.
“The New Year heralds the 30th anniversary of South Texas College. We will be celebrating this milestone ‘en grande,’ (big, grand) as we like to say, in part because there is much to celebrate,” Solis’ continued in his public comments eight months ago.
“As we ring in this new year, we ring in a new era at South Texas College. There is a lot to look forward to as we continue implementing innovative strategies that will allow us to reach our goals in 2023 and that will afford our community, our region, the education and economic opportunities well deserved,” he promised. “We are a college for the entire Rio Grande Valley, we are ‘the Valley’s College’ and this year will cement this reality, more than ever.”
As the sponsor of Senate Bill 251, Gutiérrez was the legislator who guided the bill through the Texas House of Representatives after Senate Bill 251 – which was authored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville – had been approved by the Texas Senate.
The sponsor of a bill is a member of the opposite chamber of the one in which the bill was filed.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives and action by the governor in order to become effective.
A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.
Gutiérrez’ former colleagues in the Texas Legislature, who would go on to help secure continued state funding and other resources and advances for South Texas College after he finished his 14 years of service as a state lawmaker, did not forget his contributions to one of the more successful college systems in the state.
In Fall 2021, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, authored House Concurrent Resolution 10, which credited Gutiérrez for being the author in 1993 of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill that created South Texas Community College (later to be renamed South Texas College).
An author, also known as the primary author, is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process.
Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was the sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 10, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, October 25, 2021.
House Concurrent Resolution 10 provided the following highlights of Gutiérrez’ legislative career:
WHEREAS, The life of a distinguished public servant drew to a close with the death of former state representative Roberto Gutiérrez of McAllen on December 28, 2019, at the age of 83; and
WHEREAS, Roberto Gutiérrez was born on June 11, 1936; answering his nation’s call to duty, he served in the 49th Armored Division of the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of sergeant, and he went on to serve another 10 years in the Texas National Guard; in civilian life, he earned a master’s degree in education and enjoyed a career as a secondary school teacher and counselor and as a businessman; and
WHEREAS, First elected to the State Legislature from District 41 in 1990, Representative Gutiérrez served for 14 years, and he devoted his tenure in office to expanding education in the Rio Grande Valley, promoting public safety, and improving access to health services; he was a member of the Appropriations, Public Safety, and Financial Institutions Committees, among others, and his many achievements included authoring the bill that created South Texas Community College, helping to increase funding for The University of Texas-Pan American, promoting an early diabetes detection program for children, and playing a lead role in creating the UT Regional Academic Health Center, which served as the foundation for the UTRGV School of Medicine; and
WHEREAS, Representative Gutiérrez shared a loving union with his wife, Cecilia Carmen Gutiérrez, that spanned 56 years until her death in 2017, and he was the proud father of three children, Roberto, Gilda, and Sara; with the passing years, he had the pleasure of welcoming into his family seven grandchildren, Roberto Daniel, Ana Cecilia, Iris Isabelle, Joel Roberto, Sarita Cecilia, Gabriela Marie, and Andrea Renee; and
WHEREAS, Living up to his motto “dale gas,” which is Spanish for “go forward,” Roberto Gutiérrez led a rich and purposeful life dedicated to the service of others, and he leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire all those who knew and loved him; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 87th Legislature of the State of Texas, 3rd Called Session, hereby pay tribute to the memory of the Honorable Roberto Gutiérrez and extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and many friends; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for his family and that when the Texas House of Representatives and Senate adjourn this day, they do so in memory of Roberto Gutiérrez.
Solis, South Texas College’s president, has high hopes and has high standards as part of his vision during the 30th anniversary of South Texas College.
“This 2023, in the wake of the pandemic, we find ourselves in a new world of turmoil and transition. We are facing challenges never before faced with a supply chain disruption and workforce shortages,” he said. “I keep preaching about bold solutions and global impact. South Texas College is leading the way through this new world order.”
Solis’ ambition and intentions for South Texas College, laid out in Fall 2022, follow:
“The New Year (2023) heralds the 30th anniversary of South Texas College. We will be celebrating this milestone ‘en grande,’ as we like to say, in part because there is much to celebrate.
“This 2023, in the wake of the pandemic, we find ourselves in a new world of turmoil and transition. We are facing challenges never before faced with a supply chain disruption and workforce shortages. But with those challenges come opportunities for community colleges that are willing to take risks, be innovative and daring.
“I keep preaching about bold solutions and global impact. Why? Because I firmly believe that the way in which an institution produces and distributes education and training increasingly determines both the economic competitiveness of a region and the apportionment of economic opportunity among its constituents.
“South Texas College is leading the way through this new world order. The old model of higher education, the institutionalized one that framed STC in 1992 is outdated. Traditional higher ed is often viewed as the industry most resistant to change. But change we must, if we are to stay relevant.
“A bachelor’s degree is no longer the catch all answer for everyone. Just Google and you will see countless articles on the declining value of college degrees. Many companies are even eliminating requirements to attract workers they need.
“Today the fastest growing segments of the student population are made up of non-traditional students – working adults, many of them parents seeking continuing education. By necessity, this population is seeking short-term programs that offer certificates and a quick turnaround to good jobs that pay.
“At South Texas College we are offering Competency-Based Learning where adult learners can use their life and work experience to fast-pace their education.
“STC is offering apprenticeships in numerous careers – work and get paid while you learn a trade. We are partnering with local industry to meet the region’s workforce needs.
“For example, we partnered with Trancasa, a global leader in transportation, to start Commercial Driver’s License classes.
“We partnered with Hidalgo County and the city of McAllen on a Nursing Initiative to help us fund salaries for in-demand nursing instructors. This will reinforce STC’s standing as the number one producer of nurses in the state of Texas.
“And, soon we’ll announce a new partnership with Texas A&M that will bring new and exciting opportunities for our students.
“What better way to celebrate our 30th anniversary than to work with and for the community we serve – the community that built this college and made it what it is today. With an enrollment 30,000 strong, over 2,000 employees and six robust campuses in Hidalgo and Starr Counties, South Texas College is poised to become a college district.
“As a system and with the guidance of a strong and innovative Board of Trustees, STC will continue to serve the region and bring prosperity to students, graduates and their families.
“Kudos to the leadership, the faculty and staff that made 30 years of transformation possible.
“To our community leaders and partners I say stay tuned as South Texas College is on the verge of revolutionizing higher education for the region and for the state.”
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).