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Ramón Humberto Dovalina, Sr. (born July 13, 1943), is the retired fifth president of Laredo Community College, a two-year institution with the main campus on the grounds of historic Fort McIntosh on the Rio Grande in his native Laredo in Webb County in South Texas.[1] With service from July 5, 1995, until August 31, 2007, Dovalina left the position with two years remaining in his contract, much to the surprise of his academic colleagues. Under Dovalina, the physical appearance of the college was upgraded, the scholarship endowment fund increased from $100,000 in 1995 to more than $1 million in 2007, the institution advanced a 10-year master plan for new technology, and a $50 million South Campus was opened.[2]

Ramón Humberto Dovalina, Sr.
Ramon H. Dovalina at LCC IMG 0697.JPG
Dovalina picture as he visits the LCC campus in 2010 for the groundbreaking cerenibt of the Rodney Lewis Education and Academic Center.
Born (1943-07-13) July 13, 1943 (age 76)
ResidenceAustin, Texas
Alma mater
OccupationPresident of Laredo Community College (1995–2007)
Political partyDemocrat
Spouse(s)Mary Louise Campos Dovalina (divorced)
Children2
RelativesVidal M. Treviño (cousin)
Don Tomás Sánchez

On September 28, 2007, Dovalina and his predecessor, Roger L. Worsley, were each named president emeritus during the sixtieth anniversary celebration of the founding of LCC, originally Laredo Junior College.[3]

Dovalina's heart, soul and intellect are devoted to the current and future mission of his beloved college. He is obviously the right person, for the right job, at the right time. -- William B. "Bill" Green, publisher of the Laredo Morning Times (2001)

Contents

BackgroundEdit

A paternal descendant of Don Tomás Sánchez, the founder of Laredo, Dovalina is the second of three sons of Fernando J. Dovalina, Sr. (1912-2005), a former semi-professional baseball player and an inductee of the Laredo Latin American Hall of Fame, an organization established in 1974.[4]

His mother, the former Anita Treviño[5] was the principal of Christopher M. MacDonnell Elementary School at 1506 Benavides Street in Laredo and the namesake of the Anita T. Dovalina Elementary School, which opened in 1983 at 1700 Anna Avenue. There is also an Anita Dovalina Head Start. Lazaro, Maria, Fernando, and Anita Dovalina are all interred at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo. Ramón Dovalina's older brother, Fernando Dovalina, Jr., is the retired assistant managing editor of the Houston Chronicle. Younger brother Carlos Hector Dovalina, Sr., is a retired educator with the Laredo Independent School District.[4]

One of Dovalina's uncles, Alfredo G. Dovalina (1915-2017), won three Bronze Star Medals and other citations with the United States Army in World War II and played professional baseball for teams in both Texas and Mexico, including Lockhart, Fort Worth, Tampico, and Monterrey. He was an inductee of the Laredo Latin American Hall Fame and the Rio Grande Valley Baseball Hall of Fame. For thirty-two years, Alfredo Dovalina was the Laredo fire marshal. Upon his death at the age of 101, he was the oldest living firefighter in Laredo.[6]

Education and military serviceEdit

In 1960, Dovalina graduated from Martin High School, an entity of the Laredo Independent School District, and enrolled thereafter at what was then Laredo Junior College, long before the name change of 1993.[7] In 2000, he hosted his Martin High School fortieth anniversary breakfast at the LCC president's home.[8] LCC began in 1947 with some eight hundred students as part of the Laredo Independent School District. In 1970, the college under president Ray A. Laird became a separate entity with its own governing board and taxing base.[9]

Dovalina left Laredo Junior College after a year of enrollment to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, in which he obtained the rank of corporal. His duty included a tour of the Mediterranean Sea aboard the USS Fremont during the time of the unrest between Greece and Cyprus.[10] In 1965, he returned to complete his studies at LJC.[7] In 2001, along with State Representative Richard Raymond and former Representative Billy Hall, Dovalina was among thirteen LCC graduates recognized as "distinguished alumni".[11]

Thereafter, Dovalina enrolled at mother's alma mater, Texas A&M University - Kingsville (then known as Texas A&I in Kingsville, Texas), at which he earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in professional education with a minor in history. He completed student teaching in Alice in Jim Wells County, then taught in Corpus Christi, where he was from 1972 to 1973 the associate registrar at the two-year Del Mar College.[7][12]

Austin Community CollegeEdit

In 1973, Dovalina joined the staff of the newly opened Austin Community College in the capital city of Austin, where he remained for twenty-two years—until his appointment as LCC president.[12] As the first ACC admissions and records officer, Dovalina personally registered the first four students at the institution.[13] He was subsequently the dean of student services and ultimately the chief development officer for ACC.[12]

At ACC, Dovalina authored "Administering Adult Education--A Community Based Approach," a report presented to a workshop in San Antonio, Texas, on May 4–5, 1981. The study involves basic adult education, continuing education programs, and business, industrial, and government training programs.[14]

In 1984, while still at ACC, Dovalina completed his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in the "Community College Leadership Program",[7] a field of study established in 1944 to train administrators for community colleges.[15] In 1997, Dovalina was named, with sixteen others, as a "Distinguished Graduate" of the CCLP at UT.[16]

In 1988, he was named president of the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education, an organization founded in Austin in 1974.[17]

One of his ACC colleagues, Margaret Spellings, later the United States Secretary of Education in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, in 2007 hosted Dovalina and a contingent of LCC students known as Martinez Scholars on an historic tour of Washington, D.C.[18] As governor of Texas, Bush on March 26, 1996, appointed Dovalina to the Texas Skills Standards Board as the representative for post-secondary education.[19]

As LCC presidentEdit

Dovalina was named president by the LCC trustees in 1995 to succeed Roger Worsley, who thereafter became the chancellor of Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden, Arkansas.[20] He had been away from Laredo for nearly thirty years at the time of his appointment. During his presidential years, many improvements were completed on the campus, including modernization of the infrastructure: repairing water, natural gas, sewerage, telephone, the cooling system, electrical lines, drainage, and landscaping.[21][22]

In 1998, Dovalina completed plans left by Worsley to build a new unheated outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts, the latter named for the grocer Howard E. Butt of H-E-B Foods.[23] Under his leadership, LCC completed the Guadalupe and Lilia G. Martinez Fine Arts Center (an auditorium with adjacent classrooms), the Joaquin Gonzalez Cigarroa, Jr., Science Building (named for a Laredo physician), the expansion of parking lots, and the repaving of streets. The Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Center, named for a Laredo philanthropist, also opened during the Dovalina years.[7]

In 2000, voters overwhelmingly approved a bond election to establish the South Campus, which houses, among other disciplines, childhood development (elementary education), criminal justice, and automotive mechanics.[24] Located off U.S. Highway 83 south in Laredo, the South Campus, which covers sixty acres, opened under-budget in cost in the spring of 2004.[25] Dovalina described how the South Campus utilizes:

the natural contours of the property to create something different from the boring, run-of-the-mill flat campuses that you see too many of nowadays. [The campus] smiles and is not sterile-looking, something that the taxpayers of Laredo and the students can be proud of and enjoy. ... We're not just building a school, but, what's more important, we're building the lives of the students we are going to educate here.[26]

LCC obtained funding in fiber optics, which led to the establishment of an Internet distance education program. Estelle Joy Sit, a Houston native who came to Laredo from Austin, where she had been director of instructional programs for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,[27] was named dean of information technology. Her duties included supervision of online courses, video conferencing, the LCC cable channel, and faculty training.[28] In 2002, LCC graduated its first fifty students who completed a teacher education program in technology applications. Sit noted that the program, first under the direction of Gloria Benacci, addressed the lack of certified teachers in parts of South Texas.[29]

LCC enrollment remained steady in the range of 7,500 to 8,000 during the Dovalina years. The state of Texas finances part of college expenses based on class enrollments. The school revenue summary as of August 31, 2007, at the conclusion of the Dovalina years, was $37.6 million, funded by a combination of state reimbursements, local ad valorem property taxes, and student-paid tuition and fees, many of those funds from federal student aid. Additional funds of nearly $23 million were in restricted accounts.[30] Some students transfer to four-year institutions outside of Webb County, such as the University of Texas at San Antonio or the University of Texas - Pan American in Edinburg in Hidalgo County.[31] Others continue their studies at the undergraduate Texas A&M International University off the Bob Bullock Expressway in northeast Laredo.[32]

Like other community colleges, LCC has grappled with the need for developmental classes, or remediation required before a student can advance to college-level work. Nearly 60 percent of first-time students at LCC are required to take at least one developmental course in either mathematics, reading, or English. The average LCC student takes ten semester hours of non-credit developmental classes. Extensive tutoring is available for those with academic deficiencies.[33]

Dovalina supported the Tech Prep program for students in technical careers. Tech Prep is a consortium that serves LCC and the neighboring public school districts. Students can earn college credits while still enrolled in high school.[34]

Dovalina sought to assist students in overcoming learning deficiencies when they enroll in college. As he explained: "For many reasons these students are not prepared for the rigors of a college or a university. At the community college, we have to provide developmental study programs to bring those students up to par."[35] Dovalina said that he was working to remedy long-range dropout problems: "This is an issue we are working on with the public and private school districts and the university through an educational consortium ..."[35]

In 1999, Dovalina and four other presidents or chancellors of colleges in central and south Texas formed a partnership to revitalize workforce development for high-tech firms located in the Interstate 35 corridor from Waco to Laredo. The program sought to assist with the training, academic, and research needs of the high-tech companies.[36]

In 2001, Dovalina named Millicent B. "Millie" Slaughter as LCC coordinator of alumni and development; she was promoted to director of donor relations and special projects. She retired in August 2014; the next year, LCC cited her impact on students and employees and named in her honor its Heritage Center, located on the second floor of the Private David B. Barkeley Cantu Veterans Memorial Chapel on the main campus.[37] A $250,000 donation in 2008 from the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation made the reconstruction of the chapel possible.[38]

Dovalina advocated affirmative action in the admission of minority students to state colleges and universities, a measure upheld by a 5-4 vote in a 2003 decision by the United States Supreme Court. The justices held that racial quotas are unconstitutional but permitted institutions of higher education to establish various means to close the race and gender gaps in admissions. Dovalina opposed a single entrance test to determine admission but favored the use of multiple criteria. Community colleges have open admission; LCC has restrictive entrance only in its honors and nursing programs.[39]

While Dovalina was LCC president, the United States Marines in 2005 built a 10-foot fence separating LCC from the Rio Grande. Not designed as a border barrier, the wall is intended to divert smugglers and illegal immigrants to places where the authorities can halt entrance onto the campus. Dovalina downplayed instances of criminal unrest on the border: "Once every ten years someone might steal some clothing from a clothesline."[40] Under Dovalina, LCC, a heavily Hispanic institution, obtained a contract to train United States Border Patrol guards to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States. [41]

In 2001, Community College Week released its annual rankings of the "100 Top Associate's Degree Producers". LCC and El Paso Community College were named the top two Texas colleges awarding associate degrees to Hispanic students in all disciplines. Nationally, LCC ranked ninth on the list. Dovalina said that the rating reaffirmed the quality of instruction and services available to students:

There are many Latino students who are first-generation college bound, and LCC has the support services to recruit, retain, and graduate these students. Our ranking reflects that we are successful serving our community, and that is our mission.[42]

Campus controversiesEdit

Confederate flagEdit

On March 22, 1997, LCC staged the reenactment of the 1864 Civil War Battle of Laredo,[43] in which Colonel Santos Benavides of Laredo, the highest ranking Mexican American in the Confederate Army, scored a stunning victory over Union forces. Only forty-two troops under Benavides turned aside some two hundred Union forces in a fight over a supply of cotton at San Agustin Plaza in downtown Laredo.[44]

Four months after the enactment, Dovalina by executive order removed the Confederate battle flag, the "Stars and Bars", from the entrance drive to LCC and replaced it with the less recognized flag of the Confederate government. Seven flags are displayed at the campus entrance: the six flags which flew over Texas -- United States, Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, and Confederacy—plus a seventh for a short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande. Dovalina said that he equates the Stars and Bars to "segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the Ku Klux Klan. ... This community college is open to everyone. We don't cater to symbols of racism or segregation. We thought it was time to do the correct thing."[45][46] Dovalina's move came nearly two decades before the matter reached a fevered pitch in 2015, when South Carolina removed the Stars and Bars from a Confederate memorial on the capitol grounds in Columbia with the expectation that organizations such as the NAACP and the National Collegiate Athletic Association would end economic boycotts against that state.[47]

Personnel mattersEdit

In 2002, eight students in the LCC licensed vocational nursing program requested an investigation of an administrator and claimed harassment, favoritism, and possible test tampering in the department.[48]

Dovalina's administration was characterized by numerous appeals and legal maneuvers taken by faculty and staff who alleged wrongful termination or demotion by the college. He attempted to place Rosaura Palacios "Wawi" Tijerina, a criminal justice instructor, into adjunct or part-time status after she was elected in 2006 to the Precinct 2 seat on the Webb County Commissioners Court, a body on which she still serves. Tijerina instead remained a full-time LCC instructor as well as a part-time county commissioner but not long thereafter she left the college. From 1998 to 2002, she had been a part-time municipal judge while also serving full-time on the LCC faculty. She retained the Laredo attorney Carlos Zaffirini, Sr., husband of State Senator Judith Zaffirini, to represent her interests.[49]

Nora Stewart caseEdit

Shortly before his departure as president, Dovalina was engaged in a dispute with internal auditor Nora Stewart, who accused him, along with retiring chief financial officer Daniel Flores, Jr., of "retaliation, verbal abuse, harassment, mental anguish, creation of a hostile work environment, and excessive stress and harm to her professional reputation." Dovalina announced his pending departure within a month of Stewart's allegations.[50] Stewart continued in her position under the new president, Juan L. Maldonado, previously the LCC executive vice president.[51] Seven years later, Stewart brought other allegations against Maldonado regarding access to a "confidential document" which she claimed was needed in her work. In 2015, the trustees voted 5-3 to renew Stewart's contract for another year. Her attorney, George Altgelt, elected in 2015 as a member of the Laredo City Council, had threatened to sue the members individually had they not done so.[52]

Dispute with Hector FariasEdit

President Dovalina was frequently at odds with Laredo businessman and former LCC instructor Hector J. Farias, the head of a local watchdog group called Voices in Democratic Action. In 2002, Farias complained about the use of the LCC human resources office as a precinct for early voting, rather than the more accessible Student Union, which is normally utilized in such instances. Human resources was the locale for board of trustees elections only. Farias said that the location could be intimidating to potential voters because LCC officials would be in the room while voting is underway. Farias also questioned what he viewed as the lack of encouragement for public input at the beginning of each LCC board meeting. Citizens must give 24-hour notice of their intent to speak and are limited to a three-minute monologue. Dovalina said that Farias "is always upset with everything. He seems to dedicate his life to antagonizing public servants and causing turmoil in public institutions."[53]

Libel suitEdit

In 2004, Dovalina and two paternal cousins, then Laredo City manager Lazaro "Larry" Dovalina, subsequently city manager in Cotulla,[54] and then Police Chief Augustin Dovalina, III, filed a $6 million libel suit against the Laredo Morning Times and then reporter Tricia Cortez[55] after the newspaper on June 14 carried a story about property tax appraisals. The newspaper quoted an outraged citizen, Patricio Gerardo Canavati (born c. 1958), the owner of Quality Motors of Laredo, who called the Dovalinas "Robalinas", a term interpreted as an attack on the cousins' trustworthiness.[56]

The Dovalinas retained the high-powered Laredo lawyer Julio A. Garcia, a former Webb County district attorney. The Laredo Morning Times itself did not question the integrity of the Dovalinas but quoted Canavati's remarks in a public meeting. The suit was ultimately dropped in 2007, after Ramón Dovalina had already withdrawn from the case. Rebuffed in both the 49th Judicial District Court in Laredo and in the Texas Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio, the plaintiffs could not prove that the newspaper had engaged in both malice and a reckless disregard for the truth, as required for public figures to prove libel.[56] Though a defendant in the libel suit, Tricia Cortez was later hired as executive director of LCC's Rio Grande International Study Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Rio Grande and its environment.[57][58] LCC also houses the related Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center, which was established in 1998 with a gift from the Vergara charitable trust.[59]

Civic and charitable activitiesEdit

In 1998, Dovalina and his then wife, the former Mary Louise Campos, were named joint Paul Harris Fellows by the Laredo Under Seven Flags chapter of Rotary International.[60] On January 1, 2001, three years before the libel claim surfaced, the Laredo Morning Times named Dovalina "Laredoan of the Year".[61][62] William B. "Bill" Green, the publisher of the Laredo Morning Times, described Dovalina, accordingly:

The editors and I agreed quickly and unanimously that Dovalina has earned the title of "Laredoan of the Year." His heart, soul and intellect are devoted to the current and future mission of his beloved college. He is obviously the right person, for the right job, at the right time. The board [of trustees] chose wisely five years ago.[63]

In 2003, Dovalina was named chairman of the March of Dimes Walk.[64] In 2004, he conducted the annual United Way drive at LCC and convinced more than three hundred LCC employees to contribute to the fund.[65] He is a former member of the Laredo advisory committee of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. He worked closely with the Laredo Manufacturers Association and the Art Has Heart Foundation. He was honored in a resolution on the floor of the Texas House by Representative Richard Raymond.[12]

In October 2004, Dovalina chaired the American Heart Association's annual three-mile "Heart Walk". "We constantly hear how people are affected by heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases. But when it hits close to home, it takes on a new meaning," said Dovalina, who noted that his father, then ninety-one, was facing congestive heart failure.[66]

On February 3, 2007, the interest group, the League of United Latin American Citizens, honored Dovalina with its "Noche de Cabaret" celebration.[7]

A Democrat, Dovalina in 2002 contributed $600 to the campaign of Henry Cuellar, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, for Texas's 23rd congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives. Cuellar lost that year to the Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla of San Antonio.[67][68]

Personal lifeEdit

Dovalina's maternal cousin, Vidal M. Treviño of Laredo,[69] was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1961 to 1963 and thereafter a long-term superintendent of the Laredo Independent School District. In August 2015, a new structure to house the Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts, named in his honor, opened at J. W. Nixon High School.[70]

Ramón and Mary Louise Dovalina were married on June 19, 1971 in St. Antonio Marie Claret Catholic Church in Kyle in Hays County in Central Texas.[71] They obtained their license in Nueces County, where both were employed as teachers.[72] She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fidel Joe Campos of Kyle. Since divorced, the Dovalinas have two children, Ramón, Jr. (born 1972), of Austin and Patricia Anita Dovalina Evans (born 1975)[73] of Kyle,[4] also an educator, and the wife of Michael Dale Evans (born c. 1974).[74]

One of Dovalina's hobbies is his collection of postcards and images of historic Laredo, including military photographs: "I am from Laredo, and I'm very proud of the community and its rich history. Therefore, I also enjoy sharing my collection with friends and fellow collectors."[75]

On July 13, 2007, prior to his official departure from LCC, faculty and administrators feted him with a retirement party at a Laredo hotel.[76] He thereafter returned to Austin.[77]

Dovalina attributed his sudden retirement as LCC president to good timing for a change in leadership at the institution. He indicated that he would thereafter be available to testify before the state legislature on behalf of future funding needs for LCC and all community colleges.[78] In 2015, Dovalina was listed as a member of the strategic planning committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which in its website cites him as a "resourceful and creative individual who can think out of the box yet ... is pragmatic and fiscally prudent in his approach to higher education issues."[79]

ReferencesEdit

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  67. ^ "2002 Election Cycle Political Campaign Donor/Contributor List". campaignmoney.com. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  68. ^ Henry Cuellar lost his race for Texas's 23rd congressional district seat in 2002 to the Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla of San Antonio, but he rebounded in 2004 to win the 28th congressional district position, which he still holds. Bonilla, however, was unseated in District 23 in 2006. That seat, now held by the Republican Will Hurd (elected 2014), is considered the most competitive U. S. House district in Texas.
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  72. ^ "The marriage of Ramón Dovalina and Mary Campos". texasmarriagerecords.org. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  73. ^ "Dovalinas have new daughter". San Marcos, Texas: The Citizen. June 19, 1975. p. 12. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  74. ^ "Michael D. Evans". intelius.com. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  75. ^ "LCC president's postcards displayed" (PDF). Laredo Morning Times. August 26, 2002. p. 2A. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  76. ^ Laredo Morning Times, July 14, 2007
  77. ^ "Ramón Dovalina". intelius.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  78. ^ Ashley Richards (April 1, 2007). "LCC greets Maldonado". Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  79. ^ "Texas Higher Education Strategic Planning Committee". Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
Preceded by
Roger L. Worsley
President of Laredo Community College in Laredo, Texas

Ramón Humberto Dovalina, Sr.
1995–2007

Succeeded by
Juan L. Maldonado