Horacio Peña was a hard working, dedicated and loyal employee well-liked by his company and its customers. When he died at the age of 59, his employer, Lacks Valley Stores, wanted to do something to honor him. This honor was bestowed on Peña March 29 when Lacks presented The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation a check for $25,000 to establish the Horacio Peña Endowed Scholarship.
Peña's widow Elva, daughter Diane, who will be graduating in May from UTPA and his son David, a Lacks store manager, were on hand for the check presentation.
"My brother and I were adults, not just starting school, when our dad got sick. My parents had good insurance, but we saw what the depletion (of an income) can do. There are a lot of students whose parents have to pay for medical services such as chemotherapy and, as a result, there is no money for them to go to school. But if the students have the desire for a higher education, it shouldn't be a punishment because somebody got sick. There should be an opportunity for them," Diane Peña said.
Dr. John Price, director of human resources for Lacks, said Peña, a 13- year employee and credit manager at Lacks, was a valued and respected employee. He said the company decided that a memorial scholarship would be a living testimony to the company's appreciation of him and of all their employees.
Price said this was the first memorial scholarship established by Lacks, but the support for the University has existed since Sam Lack came to the Rio Grande Valley and founded the forerunner of Lacks Valley Stores. The next owners, the Aaronson family, have continued the recognition of UTPA's importance to the Valley. A Lacks scholarship has been available for a number of years at the University.
Besides wanting to recognize Peña as an exemplary employee, Price said Lacks wanted to show its appreciation to the people in the communities that have made the company successful.
"They support us. They have made us what we are. And we wish to return something to those communities and one of the best ways we can possibly do so is by supporting efforts of students to continue their education. Lacks values and respects the people - both employees and customers - that have made it a great company," Price said.
Peña's family noted that they were honored and the memorial scholarship was fitting to Horacio's character.
"He always said never quit, always finish what you start and it is never too late to get an education," said Elva Peña.