By Luisa Buttler, Sydney Spangler | Published: August 30, 2019
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – An American hero, medical doctor, civil rights activist, and distinguished humanitarian, Dr. Hector P. Garcia (1914-1996) ranks among the most prolific figures in Mexican American history. To celebrate and remember his life, the Mary and Jeff Bell Library Special Collections and Archives at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, along with support from the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation, created the inaugural Dr. Hector P. Garcia Fellowship.
The $1,000 award was designed to ensure that Dr. Garcia’s work for justice and equality is remembered by encouraging scholarly research using the physical and digitalized elements of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers. Coming in at almost 360 linear feet – the length of a football field – the materials in the collection, housed on the second floor of the Bell Library, span the years 1910-2015, and include personal files such as military service, correspondence, medical records, activism, along with photos, audiovisual materials, and other artifacts.
“My father left a collection at an educational institution for students and researchers to learn how he achieved success despite facing many obstacles that are relevant today – a lack of ability to get education, barriers to healthcare, and how we treat our veterans,” said Cecilia Garcia-Akers, Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation President and Chair.
In spring 2019, Rosana Gomez, a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi graduate student studying communication, became the first recipient of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Fellowship. Her research titled, “Dr. Hector P. Garcia: A study in cross-cultural leadership,” will highlight Dr. Garcia’s contributions and achievements in the United States as well as the different cross-cultural leadership traits and communicational behaviors that led to his recognition as an outstanding national leader.
“Dr. Garcia was a pioneer in the integration of cultural diversity between Hispanics and North Americans,” said Gomez, an international student from Colombia who will use this research for her graduate thesis. “I identify with him because he comes from another country. He broke the paradigms in a non-inclusive society and worked to break the barriers for a better education and lifestyle for Hispanic and Latino communities.”
Along with studying both the physical and digitized portions of the vast collection, Gomez read scholarly books on communicational leadership, along with Garcia-Akers’ book titled, “The Inspiring Life of Texan Hector P. Garcia.”
“I loved her book – it was so interesting,” said Gomez. “Her book talks about everything – his work as a doctor, his medical center, his family, his leadership traits. You could tell he was a disciplined person, a hard worker, a good listener, a person who wanted to work for the community.”
On Aug. 27, the Special Collections and Archives team hosted a meeting between Gomez and Garcia-Akers. Surrounded by a display of items of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, the two discussed the impact of Gomez’ research.
“My father wanted people to be able to achieve the highest educational level possible. He did not want education to be a barrier to anyone,” said Garcia-Akers. “Anytime the Foundation can assist others with their educational goals makes me proud.”
Gomez will defend her thesis on Nov. 12 and is expected to graduate in December 2019. She thanks her thesis committee, Drs. Michelle Maresh-Fuehrer and Dr. Anantha Babbili, for encouraging her to apply for the fellowship. She also thanks Bell Library staff, especially Kimberly Gianfrancesco, for assistance accessing the Garcia Papers.
“Dr. Garcia’s life is not just about the great achievements he received when he was alive. They are important, but it goes beyond that,” said Gomez. “What confirms that he is a good example of leadership is that his legacy is still alive and benefiting students, just like me.”