MCALLEN, RGV – Former U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa says he can see the one-year-old, Texas A&M Higher Education Center in McAllen growing to 30,000 students over the next few years.
Along with his wife Marty, Hinojosa donated $275,000 to start the center’s first endowment. He hopes Texas A&M alum in the Rio Grande Valley will add to that sum.
“I think we are going to start seeing dormitories and businesses and everything that goes with a college campus (at the center),” Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian, in an exclusive interview.
“It is my vision and my own projection that in five to ten years, this college will surpass the student population the deans in College Station predicted, by two or three times.”
Asked to explain, Hinojosa said: “They were saying we would be lucky to have five to ten thousand. I am saying we are going to have 20 to 30,000. There is room to grow.”
Along with his wife, Hinojosa gave remarks at the first anniversary of the center’s opening last week. The event was called Founders Day, with A&M giving plaques to those who donated time, effort and financial resources to help get the new center started.
In his remarks from the podium, Hinojosa said he remembered a visit by Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp to Washington, D.C., when the congressman chaired the Subcommittee on Higher Education. Thanks to legislation Hinojosa and other minority members had championed, a lot more federal dollars were flowing into minority-serving institutions. Hinojosa said Sharp remarked that Texas A&M’s student body had grown 38 percent as a result.
A short while after Sharp’s D.C. visit, Hinojosa made an historically significant call to the chancellor.
“I have been thinking of the discussion you and I had and I would like to make a recommendation, and that is that you give us an appointment and let me suggest who should be present and you can add anyone else,” Hinojosa said he told Sharp.
Those Congressman Hinojosa suggested were state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and businessman Alonzo Cantu, along with himself.
“We want to give you the justification for expanding in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M being one of the two flagships in our state. It needs to be in South Texas in a much bigger way,” Hinojosa said he told Sharp.
“It was amazing how things unfolded and he (Sharp) said, are you prepared to give us 50 acres of land and Jim Darling quickly said, you got it.”
Another meeting, several months later, took place with the same group of South Texas leaders and Sharp. This time possible courses were discussed. A third meeting took place with Texas A&M deans present.
“I do not think you could have had a better group represent South Texas than the names of these individuals that I mentioned. The chancellor said, I changed my mind, I need 100 acres. Jim Darling said, you got it,” Hinojosa said.
“These are gentlemen that played a big role. It takes coalitions and working together with the existing community colleges and universities and, of course, the business community to make contributions, the day will come when you walk into this big building and you will see a wall with plaques for donations.”
In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Hinojosa said he gives “great accolades” to Chancellor Sharp and his board of regents for moving so quickly on the project.
“We wanted STEM education, medical, and energy. It is amazing how quickly Chancellor Sharp moved. To see what they have achieved is amazing,” Hinojosa said.
“And this is just the beginning. I saw UT-Pan American, now UT-Rio Grande Valley, grow from three, five, ten thousand, all the way to 30,000. I know the Rio Grande Valley is following the plan of San Antonio, in having a medical school, UT and Texas A&M. Look at our airports and how fast they are growing. With USMCA, the potential of the Valley is amazing.”
Asked about his family’s endowment, Hinojosa said: “We may add to the $275,000 in a year or two, maybe increase that with other alum. Marty and I want to recruit donors, investing in the education of the Rio Grande Valley.”
In her remarks, Martha ‘Marty’ Hinojosa told how Texas A&M changed the fortunes of her family’s life. She recounted that her father had been encouraged to move to California with this three brothers to pick fruit and vegetables. However, the pesticides used in the fields caused blisters on his legs.
“He was not discouraged. He put on a clean shirt and tie, and asked, do you have a laboratory here. The company said, yes we have a lab. He said, I have been at Texas A&M for two years now and I have been a lab assistant. I could help here,” Marty Hinojosa said.
“His Aggie education changed his life. It changed not only his life but ours as well. All my siblings went to Texas A&M, my siblings married Aggies, I decided to marry a tea sipper, we now have a third generation of Aggies at Texas A&M.”
There was applause in the audience when Marty Hinojosa said her father proudly gave her daughter her Aggie Ring 57 years after he had received his. “If you are an Aggie, that is a really big thing.”
Marty Hinojosa concluded her remarks by saying she and her husband not only want to encourage their family to be part of the Texas A&M family but other Valley families also.
“It was with a lot of pride that we wanted to share this donation with this particular campus because we know that some great things are going to be coming from here. We encourage all the students to do their very best and we are here to help you in any way that we can,” she said.
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a three-part series about Founder Day at Texas A&M University Higher Education Center in McAllen. Click here to read Part Two. Click here to read Part Three.