Alum joins Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame

Coming to TCU from South Texas on a football and baseball scholarship was like dropping in by parachute, said the 1960 alumnus inducted into the National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame on Friday.In the classroom, Rodemiro Gonzales said he developed a deep appreciation for education. He began to realize the potential he never thought he had growing up in Hebbronville, where the median income is less than $25,000 and the population is 90 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2000 census report.

Gonzales has been an inspiration to children in the San Antonio area for the past 60 years serving as a school principal, football coach and human resources administrator, said Joe Cortez, President of the Hispanic Sports Foundation for Education, Inc.

Committed to educational development, Gonzales has made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless children, Cortez said, and his association with the foundation will help many students break the financial and social barriers they face.

The foundation inducted six athletes, including Gonzales, into the hall of fame at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Omni Hotel. Eight students were also awarded $1000 scholarships each during the ceremony to be used toward college tuition.

Gonzales is quick to remember the names of his most influential professors at TCU.

“They instilled in me the belief that I wasn’t going to fail, that failure wasn’t an option,” Gonzales said. “The academics were challenging but also enlightening.”

Although Gonzales was one of the few Hispanic students at TCU during the 1950s, he recalls being treated like everyone else on and off the field.

“The integrity and character of the school made me feel like I was a member of one big family,” he said. “The professors knew who I was and cared about my education.”

Gonzales’ devotion to making college a reality for underprivileged teens has earned him respect from the entire community, Cortez said.

In 1960, Gonzales received a Bachelor of Science in biology and a job offer from a Fort Worth oil company. He refused the job because of a “call to education” he said he could not ignore, and in 1967 earned a master’s degree in education from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

“Economics plays a big part in whether or not kids are able to go to school,” Gonzales said. “I want students to be aware that they can attend.”

Students in low-income areas need inspiration and it is usually “long over due,” Cortez said.

“Scholarship winners will call to thank us and you can just tell in their voices they never expected it, that they’re trying to climb a mountain,” he said.

Mel Feldman, a member of the Hispanic Sports Foundation for Education, Inc., said the scholarship recipients are among the most outstanding students involved with Project Stay, a non-profit organization designed to help students pursue a higher education.

In addition to Gonzales, the hall of fame’s class of 2007 includes two life-time achievement award winners, John Hines and Robert Romo.

“Members will serve as an umbrella group over the national Hispanic community,” Feldman said.