As head of the Edinburg Housing Authority (EHA) for 39 years, Estella Lane Treviño became known as "Mrs. T." and a widely recognized and beloved advocate for the poor and senior citizens locally and statewide.
"Back then, I thought 'she is no grandma, she doesn't spoil us,'" said Robert, who recalled how he benefitted from Treviño's committed watch over her residents and her mentorship.
Robert went on to graduate in 2002 with a degree in finance from The University of Texas-Pan American and is now a loan officer with First National Bank.
Robert and his brothers also got financial assistance to attend college from housing authority programs that Trevino helped establish for qualified students living in public housing in Edinburg. Jorge is a 2001 graduate of UT Pan American in mechanical engineering and now works for Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. Juan earned an accounting degree in 2010 from the University and works for International Bank of Commerce.
"It is incredible what one woman can do for a community, to affect so many families. It's a lifetime effect that has rippled out to me, my family and my kids," Robert said.
That legacy of bettering the lives of those less fortunate will live on with the Estella Lane Treviño Endowed Scholarship at UT Pan American, which was recently established by her colleagues and friends to honor her years of public service and impact on the community. The scholarship was announced Sept. 23 at an event held to honor Treviño, now 89, at the Edinburg Municipal Center.
The scholarship is planned to assist students who live in Edinburg public housing to attend UT Pan American in any field of study.
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, who spoke via video at the event, called it marvelous what Treviño has done for the University, Edinburg and to help students have opportunities to obtain an education.
"Now we have an endowed scholarship in your name, a scholarship that is going to allow young students to come to the University, Edinburg students, students who are in public housing. This scholarship is dedicated to them. It will be a wonderful opportunity, something they will always remember and something that will change their lives," Nelsen said.
Nearly 100 well wishers, including State Representatives Veronica Gonzales and Aaron Pena, County Judge Ramon Garcia, and other local government and HUD officials, as well as recent and past residents in Edinburg's public housing, family members and friends attended the event where they praised her lifetime of impact on the community.
Born in Red Gate, Texas, Treviño graduated from Edinburg High School at age 16. At age 17 she became owner of her first beauty salon which she operated for 21 years. She and her husband, who owned a barber shop, came to know everyone, which, along with her many community volunteer activities, helped her to later be elected as Edinburg's Justice of the Peace, the first woman ever elected to that office in Hidalgo County. She held that position for six years.
As EHA director, a position she assumed in 1972, Treviño assisted generations of low income families to secure, safe and affordable housing. The EHA, one of the largest low income housing programs in South Texas, includes six campuses with 467 units, including the Edinburg Tower for the elderly. During her tenure, she supervised more than 900 Section 8 housing units and successfully steered more than 70 qualified low income families toward home ownership in the Family Self Sufficiency Program.
"She had a passion and belief that everyone deserves to have a place to call home," said Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, who, by proclamation, declared Sept. 23 Estella Lane Treviño Day in Edinburg.
EHA Board member Sissy Slaton said Treviño has always touted education among EHA residents and had raised funds over the years for a housing residence program that provided scholarships to more than 50 students to attend UTPA on scholarships.
"She had after-school programs for students. She was real interested in education and kept after them. Like the Villarreal boys, she would check in with them weekly and say," how are you doing, are you going to school, and how are your grades,'" she said.
The EHA board thought the endowed scholarship was an appropriate way to honor Treviño and hoped that others in the community will support this way of continuing her legacy of helping the less fortunate, Slaton said.
"The endowed scholarship is for life, in perpetuity. She has such spirit and that needs to live on and it will with this endowed scholarship," Slaton said.
To make a gift or receive more information about the Estella Lane Treviño Endowed Scholarship, contact the UT Pan American Office of Development at (956) 665-5301.