Veronica Gonzales, vice president for the Division of University Advancement at The University of Texas-Pan American, was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame on Wednesday evening, Feb. 27 at Hidalgo's 2013 BorderFest festivities.
"I feel truly blessed to have great friends and to have been given many wonderful opportunities to serve my community. Thank you City of McAllen for nominating me to the Walk of Fame. What a special honor," Gonzales said. The Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame celebrates life, achievements and significant civic contributions of outstanding men and women in all walks of life to communities in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.
Each year nominations are received from cities and chambers of commerce across the Valley, then the inductees are recognized at the ceremony and a paver with their name and date is unveiled on the walk outside the arena and a commemorative paver is presented to the honoree. Hundreds attended the 2013 ceremony where 40 persons were inducted into the Walk of Fame.
In the City of McAllen's nomination statement, Mayor Cortez commented on her selection by the city for the recognition.
"In a relatively short time in Austin, Veronica Gonzales provided tremendous leadership for the Rio Grande Valley, particularly for the cities of McAllen, Mission and Edinburg," he said. "With her current position as vice president for University Advancement at UTPA, she continues to improve the educational opportunities for Valley citizens and that is very worthy of an honor on the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame."
A San Marcos native, Gonzales earned her bachelor's degree from Texas State University (TSU) and her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas School of Law. She moved to McAllen in 1991, where she practiced law and became a name partner in the law firm of Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzales, L.L.P.
In 2004, she was elected as the first female to represent District 41 in the Texas House Representatives.
In her first legislative session in 2005, Gonzales passed the highest percentage of bills of any Democratic legislator in the Texas House that year. Her success led to the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus naming her as "Freshman of the Year," the Texas Observer to call her "A Legislator to Watch," and the Dallas Morning News to identify her as an "Emerging Leader."
During her four terms, she passed numerous pieces of legislation to address the diverse needs of her district including alleviating the shortage of Valley health professionals, protecting families from family violence, increasing access to education by allowing students to pay their tuition in payments and giving community colleges the ability to waive tuition and fees for employees who want to continue their education, improving conditions in the colonias, creating courts for Hidalgo County, and many other laws to improve the quality of life for Valley residents and Texans statewide.
Her legislative achievements have been recognized with the following honors: "Legislative Champion Award" from the Texas Association of Community Health Centers;the "Patient Advocacy Award" from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians; "Ultimate Latina" Award from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; "Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award" from TSU; and the "Woman of Distinction Award" from the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce.
At UTPA since July 2012, Gonzales oversees fundraising, communications, marketing, creative services, special events and alumni activities that support the University's many instructional, research and public service programs. UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen said the award is a wonderful acknowledgement of Gonzales' long record of making a difference in the Valley.
"She's a proven transformer of lives through her distinguished public service in the legislature. And at Pan Am Veronica has been instrumental in fostering the relationships the University needs to continue the Valley's transformation through higher education," he said.