Two years later … Del Mar College “officially” dedicates Heritage Campus complex plaza to honor late Professor Emeritus of English Mike Anzaldúa (Feature with Video)
April 21 event also celebrated completion of largest project from 2014 bond referendum
Article by Melinda Eddleman
Two large aluminum plaques each stand sentinel at the north and south entryways into the plaza. The same quote is etched on their outfacing side that reads, “Here before you lies a sumptuous buffet—rich, succulent, and delicious. I leave it to you, to indulge yourself and to enjoy.”
The words characterize one man’s passion for education and his students’ success … a man whom colleagues, administrators and pupils considered Del Mar College’s (DMC) Plato or Socrates, the late Mike M. Anzaldúa, Jr. –– an educator, leader, advisor and friend.
Today, April 21, College leadership and the DMC Board of Regents officially dedicated the Mike Anzaldúa Plaza during a ceremony recognizing the new General Academic and Music Building Phase II (GAMB II) on the Heritage Campus. Anzaldúa family members––including brother Jack and sister-in-law Alma Anzaldúa—friends, former colleagues and students and community leaders attended the event, which included tours within the 141,129 square foot complex after the plaza dedication.
“This ceremony is a long time coming […] due to the pandemic; nevertheless, it was important for us to dedicate and share a glimpse of this facility with the community as soon as we could safely do so,” said Del Mar College President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Escamilla, Ph.D., during the event opening. “If you haven’t been to this campus in a few years, you may not even recognize it [because] we’re going through an unprecedented period of growth and renewal. You may even call it a Renaissance of sorts.”
Today’s event was originally planned for April 2, 2020.
Construction of the nearly $46 million facility began in 2017, and it’s the largest project of the
College’s $157 million bond referendum that Del Mar College District voters approved in 2014 to fund capital improvements on the Heritage and Windward Campuses. The facility consists of four interconnected buildings, each with three floors, and opened in January 2020 for spring semester classes before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. (A downloadable GAMB II factsheet is provided in upper right-hand corner as a PDF file.)
Project architects were Richter Architects and BRW Architects while contracting was handled by Bartlett Cocke & Beecroft, JV.
After pointing out some of the features and technology GAMB II offers, including the Virtual Acoustic Environment in practice rooms that Music students now use, DMC Board of Regents Chairwoman Carol A. Scott said, “Del Mar College is on the move, just like this city and region are on the move. Growth and modernization don’t happen without the support of the community. This facility and other recent capital improvement projects on our campuses wouldn’t be possible without the community voting their approval for the 2014 bond referendum, and the Del Mar College Board of Regents is grateful to all of our stakeholders for sharing our vision for the future.”
“Most importantly, we thank the community for investing in the next generations of Del Mar College students.
The key focus of the celebration was the Mike Anzaldúa Plaza dedication. As an outdoor pedestrian walk-through in the center of GAMB II, the plaza features 37 plaques highlighting favorite quotes of the late Professor Emeritus of English, including his own inspirational words. Green spaces include gardens, loggias and courtyards for informal and formal gatherings, such as studying and outdoor instruction.
Retired Professor of English and Anzaldúa’s former colleague John Crisp noted, “One thing that I know that Mike believed emphatically: teaching English at Del Mar College is the best job in the world.” Crisp noted his own thoughts about what his “modest, self-effacing” friend would think of the dedication and the plaza’s purpose for students, employees and the community, “If Mike were here today I think I know what he would say, something like, ‘I’m slightly embarrassed by all this attention, but I’m very proud of the College. Enjoy the plaza. Keep tending your garden. Keep planting your cabbages.’”
Anzaldúa passed away in December 2012. That following April, Del Mar College received more than $400,000 from the Mike M. Anzaldúa, Jr. Estate for endowed scholarships covering studies in English, Music and Mexican American Studies and to the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) . The gift was “Mike’s way” of continuing to support the success of DMC students and the subjects and professional organization that he so loved.
During the plaza dedication, College officials presented the Anzaldúa family with a framed memento. On their behalf, family friend The Honorable Hilda G. Tagle, Senior U.S. District Judge of the Southern District of Texas, said, “Mike was scholarly, but passionate: passionate about his work, his students, his colleagues, his friends and most especially, his family. Even if you weren’t related to Mike by blood, you were related to him by love.”
During his 43-year career at Del Mar College, Anzaldúa served in several roles beyond instructing English composition and literature, including Assistant Director of the Stone Writing Center, Chair of the Department of English and Philosophy, Director of the Title V Learning Communities Program, Interim Dean of the Arts and Sciences Division and President of the DMC Chapter of TACHE.
The Robstown High School graduate led a number of innovations at the College, including the DMC Developmental Education Council, the Music Department’s Mariachi Del Mar ensemble initiative (he was an accomplished clarinetist as well) and the development of the College’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) Associate in Arts degree program, which was the first ethnic studies program at the College.
Anzaldúa’s many credits include becoming the third recipient of the College’s prestigious Dr. Aileen Creighton Award for Teaching Excellence in 2004, an honor that had special meaning for him since the late Dean Emeritus Dr. Creighton hired the DMC alumnus as a teaching assistant in 1969. The Association of Community College Trustees also recognized Anzaldúa with their 2004 Western Region Faculty Member Award for teaching excellence and leadership, citing he was “probably the most respected and influential person on the Del Mar College campus […] students admire and trust him, faculty seek him out for guidance, and administrators value his perspective and request his input.”
Among those who admired and respected “Mike” is one of his former students Bret Anthony Johnston, a 1994 DMC graduate, best-selling novelist and current Director of the James A. Michener Center for Writers in the English Department at The University of Texas at Austin. Click on the video Johnston provided for the dedication, which covers his thoughts about his former professor's influence on him and others.
Mike left a profound impact on the students he taught and the people he worked with. His passion for his students and the College inspired the creation of this plaza in his honor. The quotes, the gardens and the many shaded spaces in the plaza were carefully designed to inspire our students and provide places for them to gather, read or just contemplate. We think Mike would approve.
And, among those 37 inspirational plaques, pedestrians will find a second “Anzaldúa quote” that he often used, “We are the lucky ones.”
As a humble man who created his own legacy as a beloved educator, mentor and leader to all who sought his wisdom, company and passion for teaching and who always insisted on being addressed as “Mike,” we were the “lucky ones” to have known him.
Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.