|Dr. Alfredo de los Santos|
|Give a person a fish, and that person will be fed for a day. Teach a person to fish, and that person will be fed for the rest of his life.|
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|With five campuses across the county and over a million students served, it’s hard to imagine when El Paso Community College wasn’t a cornerstone of educational attainment and professional advancement in the borderland.
But, that was the case almost 50 years ago when Dr. Alfredo de los Santos was hired as the first college President.
El Paso County voters approved the formation of a junior college district in 1969, but a proposal to tax citizens to support the Community College and to build facilities was narrowly defeated. Dr. de los Santos could form the college, but his most immediate challenge was how to do so without funding.
In 1971, EPCC’s Board and El Paso County citizens requested financial assistance from the state of Texas to establish the college. The state approved that assistance 901 students enrolled in late afternoon and evening classes held in various facilities all around the city. During the summer of 1972, EPCC reached an agreement with the U.S. Army to lease facilities from the Logan Heights section of Fort Bliss.
David Henry, long-time EPCC English Faculty, described the impact that Dr. de los Santos had on the college. “Through his great force of character, Dr. de los Santos directed every aspect of the birth and infancy of the college. He interviewed all new administrators and faculty, looking to see if they shared his vision,” Henry said.
In a 1974 special election, the board of trustees proposed a tax on property owners for the junior college district. Henry explained, “Dr. de los Santos’s speeches through this process galvanized everyone involved to do what they could to get the bond approved.” The bond was approved by a majority of voters, but because only property owners’ votes counted, it was narrowly defeated. A Texas Supreme Court overruled this and the bond passed.
From its beginning, EPCC has responded to the needs of the region. Dr. de los Santos said, “When I first got to El Paso, the administrators of the different hospitals and clinics asked to meet with me. They told me … we should offer programs to prepare as many different types of allied health technicians as possible.” Through a grant from Project Hopes, EPCC purchased a group of buildings owned by the El Paso Independent School District and established the Rio Grande Campus to fulfill this need. Dr. de los Santos continued, “This is an example of how the institution responded to the needs of specific segments of the community and found the resources and facilities to house them.” The Rio Grande campus, dedicated to increasing health care professionals in the region, continues to serve that role today.
In 1978, the Valle Verde campus was established, and the next year, the Transmountain campus opened. Finally, in 1994, the Northwest campus was created. El Paso Community College has grown tremendously from its humble beginnings in Logan Heights but stayed true to the core beliefs established by de los Santos and embodied by a poster that hung on his office wall; “Give a person a fish, and that person will be fed for a day. Teach a person to fish, and that person will be fed for the rest of his life.”
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Created at 2/7/2019 12:56 PM by Elliott, Lisa M.
Last modified at 2/7/2019 3:41 PM by Cullen, Kris S.