National Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor
The National Hispanic Heritage Hall of Honor recognizes outstanding Hispanic leaders who have established a record of achievement and excellence in Education, Athletics, Business, Public Service, Military Service and Arts & Entertainment. The Special Recognition category has multiple uses, the most common being to honor a non-Hispanic individual who has chosen extraordinary dedication in the inspiration and support of young Hispanics.
All of our honorees present stellar role models for aspiring young Hispanics. Working with our Speaker’s Bureau and informal mentoring programs, our honorees commit to inspiring students to believe in themselves and strive for personal achievement. We emphasize that academic success is a path to leadership that should be used in service to the community. Our honorees are shining examples of the possibilities and power of success.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
ABC News Correspondent, Host of “What Would You Do?”
Video of John’s History
What would you do if you had a position with a huge and capable broadcast news operation? With roots on the south side of San Antonio and a passport full of travels to nearly every part of our planet, John Quiñones has used his position to tell stories: stories of struggle, survival, injustice and accomplishment. When the red light on a camera comes on, John Quiñones tells the truth, introduces us to people living unseen lives, asks leading questions, and the world becomes a much more comprehensible place. Read More
What He Learned
Juan Manuel Quiñones, known as “John,” was the son of Bruno Quiñones, a janitor. Juan grew up speaking Spanish, and only adopted English when he started school at age 6. When Juan was 13, his father was laid off, and the family, including John and his sisters Irma and Rosemary, traveled north to Michigan to pick cherries, then to Ohio to pick tomatoes. Wikipedia recounts a story from those days: kneeling on the cold ground of a farm near Toledo, John’s dad asked, “Do you want to do this for the rest of your life, or do you want to go to college?” It’s similar to stories we have heard from others who picked up from that moment to pursue a higher calling, and eventually bring great service to humanity. He eventually attended Brackenridge High School, where he participated in Upward Bound. “That saved my life,” he said.
What He Did
After graduating from Brackenridge, John earned a Bachelor’s in Speech Communication from St. Mary’s University and a Master’s in Communication from Columbia University in Missouri. He worked as a radio news editor, then a television reporter and anchor in Houston, eventually moving on to WBBM-TV in Chicago. In 1982, he joined ABC News as a general assignment reporter based in Miami. You have seen the rest of his career on television – reporting from countries across South America, Africa, Asia and communities throughout the planet. And you have heard of his seven Emmy Awards and the ALMA Award from the National Council of La Raza.
These days, John hosts “What Would You Do?” a show that creates moral dilemmas in public places and watches the reactions of people in the scene, using hidden cameras. When an innocent bystander steps up and gets involved, John comes out of the background with the camera crew and discusses the situation with the actors and bystanders involved in the scene. John is still building community as he steps into the lives of ordinary people and gives them a pat on the back for speaking up and – as he does with every second of airtime he has – telling the truth.
Video of John’s Acceptance
They say that sometimes when the underdog wins, we all win. This concept may not have been obvious at the time but when the San Felipe High School Mustang Golf Team won the Texas state high school golf championship in 1957, a group of Americans excluded from the mainstream by the prejudices and biases of the time gained some ground toward equality. It may have been but a ripple across the vastness of the barrier between Mexican Americans and the general population but it was nevertheless significant, even if we failed to recognize it until Mustang Miracle was published and the story of the courageous underdogs became known to all. Read More
From Caddies to Players
That they were underdogs in that era in Texas is a gross understatement. Joe Trevino, Felipe Romero, Mario Lomas, Gene Vasquez and Lupe Felan were sons of poor but proud parents growing up in an area of the City of Del Rio, Texas known as San Felipe. The area was almost exclusively occupied by poor Mexican American families struggling to make a life in an unwelcoming world. As teenagers, these five individuals became attracted to a game played only by the privileged few. Not as players initially, but as caddies who learned to serve the well-to-do white members of the San Felipe Country Club. Ironically, the place that offered them a brief respite from their poverty carried the name of their neighborhood but excluded all who were not white and did not have the financial means to avail themselves of the joy of the game that is golf.
As caddies they earned a few cents to buy the things their parents could not afford but, more importantly, they fell in love with the game. This love led them to learn how to play. They paid close attention to how the better players attacked the little golf ball with their strange looking sticks. They quickly picked up on what they saw as the essence of the game. Though they did not have their own equipment, they improvised by retrieving clubs discarded by their owners. They shared the one or two clubs by taking turns swinging them as they imitated the golfers whose bags they carted for several hours around the course. When they were denied access to the actual course, they made their own out of vacant land in their neighborhood. Soon they were hitting the ball just as well as their bosses, and perhaps even better.
From Players to Champions
The talents exhibited by the five did not go unnoticed. Two men with vision, J.B. Pena and Hiram Valdes, invited the group to form the golf team for San Felipe High School. As the name indicates, the school was also situated in the poor south side of the city. With help by school officials, but primarily with the financial assistance of these two men, the team began participating in high school tournaments across south Texas in 1956. The recognition of their talent by Messrs. Pena and Valdes was validated when the team placed second in the state tournament that year.
Determined to do better, the team began their 1957 season with a vengeance. They won most of the tournaments they played in and again qualified to play in the state tournament. This time, the team did what was unthinkable in that era. They beat the all-white teams from the other schools that qualified by 35 strokes. Joe Trevino won the gold medal for coming in first individually. Felipe received the silver medal for second place and Mario took the bronze for third. It was a clean sweep of the 1957 State Championship.
However, as quickly as they made it into the history books, the accomplishment was soured by the fact that the state failed to give the team the recognition they earned and deserved. The team was quietly given their prizes and the team just as quietly left Austin for home. The school honored the team at a humble banquet and gave them a parade through the streets of San Felipe, but outside of the boundaries of the city nary a word was uttered about the remarkable accomplishment of the Mustang golfers. Until Mustang Miracle came out, few people outside the team members, their families and close friends were ever aware that the underdog had triumphed that day in 1957.
Against all odds, with old and inferior equipment, no professional instructions or training, minimal resources but with the talent and “ganas” to succeed, a group of young Mexican American men sent a message to the world that no matter what obstacles are created by men, the heart of a champion can never be suppressed.
The Honorable Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez
Bexar County Commissioner
Ciro D. Rodriguez was born in late 1946 in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, but was raised and educated in San Antonio. He has supported education at the local, state, and federal levels. His daughter, Xochil, has graduated from the University of Texas Law School.
When Ciro was a teenager, his mother died suddenly and he dropped out of school to take care of his younger siblings (although “Chico” lived for a while with aunts in Mexico). After a year, he went back to school and attended two different summer schools to catch up. He graduated in 1966 with his entering class from Harlandale High School. He had dodged gangs (“by out- running them,” he says), and now wanted to do more than just survive on the south side. He briefly attended San Antonio College and then St. Mary’s University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1973. He received his Master of Social Work from Our Lady of the Lake University in 1978. Read More
Private Citizen and Public Servant
From 1975 to 1987, he served as a board member of the Harlandale Independent School District, while also working as an educational consultant for the Intercultural Development Research Association and serving as a case worker with the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. He worked for alternatives to student expulsions. During this period he also married Carolina Pena, an elementary school teacher and a librarian.
From 1987 to 1996, he taught at OLLU’s Worden School of Social Service. During this period he also served the 118th District in the Texas House of Representatives. He drafted legislation to allow students to earn college credit while they were still in high school and the law that guaranteed the top 10% of graduating students a place at a Texas four-year university.
Full Time Public Servant
In 1997, Ciro won a special election to the 28th Congressional District, stretching his beloved south side all the way to El Paso; he served in that capacity until 2005. Key bills included creation of Brooks City-Base and transforming the former Kelly Air Force Base to Kelly USA. And he led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as chairman from 2003 to 2004.
Gerrymandering kept Ciro out of Congress for two years, but he returned in 2007 in the 23rd Congressional District, serving there until 2011. He led as a champion of veterans (New GI Bill, Wounded Warrior Act), farmers, law enforcement, border security, and education (UTSA’s renowned cyber security curriculum).
He continues his public service as Bexar County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 2.
Mary Rose Cardenas
Former Trustee: Texas Southmost College
Mary Rose Cardenas was born to do business. Her family came from Mercedes, Texas, but soon moved to Brownsville where her father managed a hardware store and sold insurance. World War II began, and an aunt introduced Mary Rose to Avon. At age 14, Mary Rose became a businesswoman. “The products sold very well,” Ms. Cardenas told us. “The men were off to war, so the young women would go to Mexico to dance and find boyfriends. They wanted to dress up real pretty, and I brought them all kinds of cosmetics and fragrances to help them prepare.”
When Mary Rose was 17, her father became ill. As the eldest child, she became the breadwinner for the family. While working, she graduated from Brownsville High School in 1948.
Mary Rose started working as an office worker and bookkeeper at Cisneros Oil. From there, she moved on to work at a local supermarket and then served the Credit Bureau of Brownsville for 16 years. In 1955, she married her teenage crush, Renato. They have been husband and wife and business partners for more than five decades. Read More
The Cardenas business started with a gas station, where Renato also sold used cars. Mary Rose went from the Credit Bureau to Gulf Mart in 1966, where she worked as credit manager and assistant manager. Meanwhile, she was actively involved in Renato’s growing automotive business. In 1971, they acquired the Buick and American Motors dealership in Brownsville, and thereafter added GMC and Isuzu to the Brownsville dealership, and a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Harlingen. The Cardenas Auto Group sells and services cars throughout deep South Texas. The Texas Automobile Dealers Association named her a Texas Dealer Legend, and the National Automotive Dealers Association awarded her the Time Magazine Award for Outstanding Dealers involved in Education.
To Help Others
On their days off, Renato and Mary Rose used to drive around Texas and look at property. “We were always looking for investments,” Mary Rose said. Those recreational cruises became Cardenas Development, building communities and resources they used to support healthcare and especially education. The Cardenas family has been a powerful force for good throughout the region. Mary Rose has served on many boards and committees. She has made a major difference in education, serving on the board of Texas Southmost College for more than 25 years. She was instrumental in increasing the quality and quantity of its facilities and in establishing the partnership with UT-Brownsville known as the “UTB-TSC Agreement.”
Mary Rose Cardenas counts as one of her most significant accomplishments the appointment of Dr. Juliet Garcia as president of UT Brownsville in 1991. Other board members were reluctant to support a young Latina as leader of the university, but Mary Rose insisted, and Texas education benefited greatly.
From a teenage Avon representative to charismatic businesswoman beloved by Hispanics worldwide, Mary Rose Cardenas demonstrates the power of hard work, believing in yourself, and having “crazy ideas that turned out to be very beneficial.”
Our Lady of the Lake University: Vice President of Student Life–Athletic Director
Voted “most likely to never attend college” at his high school in Crawford, Nebraska, Jack Hank has served several universities as a school life officer, helping shape programs that engage students in meaningful and character-building activities. He has worked for over 24 years at universities serving a largely Hispanic student population. Read More
In high school, Jack participated in student government, the drama club and athletics: football, basketball and baseball in the summer, where he excelled. After graduation in 1973, Jack volunteered for active duty in the Army during the Vietnam War. Jack completed basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, earning the distinction of Outstanding Trainee of the Cycle after he scored the highest marks out of 800 other trainees. He received Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Ft. Bliss, Texas, with the Improved Hawk Air Missile Defense System. He served in the 69th Air Defense Group in Giebelstadt, Germany and completed six years of service, from 1973-1979; the first three years were active duty and the last three inactive.
Never thinking that he would or could afford to attend college Jack soon found out that with his GI Bill benefits he could go to school at no cost. In 1977 he started attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) on the GI Bill, pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Education through the Teachers College in Lincoln. The first semester was a struggle, and his 1.9 GPA showed that holding down a fulltime job and attending school would not work. So Jack gave up his full time job and focused on school. Each year he improved his GPA and worked toward graduation. The task was completed in 4 ½ years and he graduated in 1981. After that he went on to pursue his master’s degree at Indiana University (IU) on a full scholarship, working as a graduate assistant in Recreational Sports and graduating in 1983.
In addition to UNL and IU, Jack has worked at four other Universities: South Dakota, National American, St. Thomas and now at Our Lady of the Lake. At each university, Jack held different positions which afforded him the opportunity to grow professionally with increasing responsibilities with titles ranging from Director to Vice President.
Mentors for most others are sports or political figures. For Jack the best mentors and champions are his family. Throughout his life family has remained a constant source of support. To know that you have love and support of parents, siblings, spouse and children can get you through any difficult time.
Jack met Nancy in 1980 at a gathering he was hosting at his apartment. Two years later in 1982, they were married while he attended graduate school at IU. They have three beautiful daughters: Samantha, Patricia and Kristina, who are married to sons-in-law: Michael, Brad and Andrew. Jack and Nancy have four grandkids: Morgan, Shane, Miles and Isla. All three daughters obtained their undergraduate degrees while the husbands earned PhDs. Although the girls were born in South Dakota, they and their families all live in Texas.
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU)
In the words of the Congregation of Divine Providence Sisters, coming to the “Lake” was “Providential” and afforded Jack the opportunity to not only work as the Vice President for Student Life but also to create an athletic program from scratch – the OLLU Saints. At the Lake, every student athlete is expected to graduate and be competitive at the regional and national level. Jack is responsible for operating an efficient and cost-effective support system for the athletic program. His game plan sets out to hire great coaches who in turn recruit strong academically qualified students who compete in their respective sports. This simple formula has resulted in the program expanding from zero to 13 programs since 2007 while gaining national recognition across all sports.
Seven out of the 13 Saints sports captured conference championships titles this year. The last three years the Saints have been awarded the All-Sport Award. In 2009-2010 OLLU student athletes were awarded the RRAC Grade Point Average Award and ran a very close second last year. This year, OLLU is proud of its first-ever top-ranked team in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The women’s basketball team earned the No. 1 ranking out of more than 90 other schools. These successes have rewarded Jack with two Red River Athletic Conference Athletic Director Awards and one NAIA National Under Armour’s Athletic Director award. OLLU has been a 5 Star Champions of Character Program since its inception. 64 students have graduated with GPA of 4.0 and 523 with a GPA of 3.0-3.9. The Saints’ athletic program is on the right path thanks to all the hard work of the student-athletes, coaches and the university community—and Jack’s leadership!
The Saints’ success has contributed to overall enrollment growth, added diversity to the campus, increased the University’s visibility, and instilled school pride among the student body and alumni.
OLLU’s partnership with HSFE began in 2009, offering scholarships to San Antonio area students attending OLLU. HSFE has donated $74,000 in scholarships and OLLU has matched that gift with an additional $214,000. These scholarships have been distributed to 65 student-athletes—half of them Hispanic–over the last seven years.
OLLU is among the top 25 universities nationally for awarding MBAs to Hispanics according to rankings from The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine and OLLU has one of the highest percentages of Hispanic enrollment of all U.S. Catholic colleges and universities. Additionally, OLLU was named a “Top 100 Degree Producer” for Hispanics earning master’s degrees by Diverse magazine.
Jack Hank hereby receives Special Recognition as a non-Hispanic who has shown extraordinary dedication in the inspiration and support of young Hispanics.