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Texas State Technical College Harlingen: Another Reason to Make Texas Proud
Denise Wissing

November, 2004

TSTC President Dr. J. Gilbert Leal presents David Garza, owner and president of Gulf Aviation with a plaque of appreciation for his support of TSTC Harlingen.

Being a newcomer to Texas, the first thing I noticed is that Texans are proud to be Texans. Signs cautioning, “Don't Mess with Texas” adorn billboards and road signs and clever bumper stickers stating, “ I'm from Texas. What Country are you From?” and “ I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could” can be seen on every other car on the highway while sitting in standstill rush hour traffic. And why shouldn't they be?

Texas refines over 85% of the United States' gasoline. It is a leader in the computer industry with such major IT companies as Dell Computers, Texas Instruments, Motorola, and Intel making their headquarters here.

And it is the home of some of the top rated institutions of higher education in the nation boasting over 130 colleges and universities. These include such schools as Baylor, Rice, Texas Tech, and the University of Texas and Texas A& M, out of which has spawned one of the fiercest school rivalries in the country.

However, among these 130 colleges and universities is a diamond in the rough, where over 90% of their graduates find jobs- quite a huge feat in today's struggling economy.

And this Texas gem? The Texas State Technical College - yet another reason why Texans should be proud!

Predicted to be “ the most sophisticated technical-vocational institute in the country” by James Connelly, the Texas State Technical College was established in 1965 as the James Connelly Technical Institute of Texas A & M University located in Central Texas at the former James Connelly Air Force Base in Waco. In 1967, it expanded to include Harlingen, TX and two years later, split from Texas A & M to become the Texas State Technical Institute Independent State System with the mission:

To be a co-educational two-year institution of higher education offering courses of study in technical-vocational education for which there is a demand within the state of Texas.

Dr. J. Gilbert Leal, TSTC President, presents IBC Bank President Fred Rusteberg with an appreciation award.

“ It was initially established to meet the state of Texas's evolving needs for trained workforce, “ said TSTC Harlingen Executive Assistant, Jackie Gilles. “ It now includes four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco, and TSTC West Texas with campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, and Sweetwater. More than 10,000 students attend TSTC in credit programs alone.”

As the only state-supported technical college system in Texas, TSTC is unique. Their campuses throughout the state serve more than 200 Texas counties and work to efficiently and effectively help Texas meet the high-tech challenges of today's global economy. It has high graduation rates, success rates, and an outstanding record in graduating individuals from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds as is stated on their website. They are committed to academic excellence and in providing the resources needed for their students to succeed in creating bright, positive futures for themselves and for Texas.

TSTC at Harlingen

Since 1967, as the first offshoot of the Texas State Technical Institute, TSTC Harlingen has grown from its 24 acre humble beginnings on the Harlingen Air Base to encompassing over 125 acres that house 17 instructional buildings including a 34,000 square foot Learning Resource Center. Its student population consists of over 4,500 college credit students and 10,000 contract, apprentice, and continuing education students who participate in over 30 programs of study. These instructional programs include Dental Hygiene, Dental Assistant, Health Information Technology, Nurse Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician, Aviation Maintenance Technician, Biomedical Engineering Technology, Digital Imaging Technology, and Surgical Technology.

With small class sizes, TSTC Harlingen can provide individualized, one-on-one instruction, hands-on training, tutoring, and mentoring, as well as offer scholarships to qualifying students. Their state-of-the-art programs are designed to prepare students to meet the increasingly demanding, competitive, and intellectually challenging future through educational and personal growth, practical skill development, general academic courses, and career preparation. Their qualified staff works with the students from day one to prepare them for their future careers. TSTC Harlingen's Office of Placement Services and Cooperative Education assists students and alumni in choosing their careers and securing full-time and part-time positions in their areas of study and expertise. They also offer assistance on writing resumes, preparing for job interviews, and job survival skills that will ensure that their students succeed and prosper in their new jobs.

Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long

Gilles states, “ TSTC contributes to the educational and economic development of the State of Texas by offering occupationally oriented programs with supporting academic course work that serve the citizens of Texas and anyone interested in furthering their learning experiences.”

Other Services that Benefit Texans

Support Services

TSTC Harlingen is committed to helping everyone reach their academic potentials- this includes economically disadvantaged students and those with special needs. Working with community assistance programs throughout Texas, TSTC Harlingen is able to offer the following support services to qualified single parents, displaced homemakers, single expectant mothers, gender equity students pursuing a non-traditional program of study and qualified disabled students:

  • Lending Library;

  • Textbook Assistance;

  • Assistance with child care referrals;

  • Facilitation of Personal Development Workshops;

  • Supportive guidance;

  • Disbursement of information and referrals to outside community agencies; and,

  • Arrangement of accommodations to qualified disabled students.

College Assistance Migrant Program

This program offers pre-college transition and first-year support services to migrant and seasonal farm workers interested in pursuing higher education. TSTC Harlingen provides these students with academic assistance, cultural enrichment, career planning, academic advising, student tuition and fees, student books, tools, and supplies, and a monthly stipend for their first year of study and offers additional support throughout their remaining years (although at a reduced level).

High School Equivalency Program

This federally funded program (by the US Department of Education and the Office of Migrant Education) gives students the chance to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma. Located on the TSTC Harlingen campus, this program has been highly effective in educating its students and either placing them in jobs or entering them into an institute of higher education.


TSTC Harlingen is governed by a Board of Regents and is operated under the direction of a system wide Chancellor. The Board is comprised of people from throughout the state, offering a statewide educational perspective.

The 2003-2004 Board of Regents:

  • Mr. C. “Connie” de la Garza: Board Chair; from Harlingen, TX

  • Mr. Don Elliott: Vice Chair, from Wharton, TX

  • Mrs. Barbara Rusling: Executive Committee Place 1, from China Spring, TX

  • Mr. Terry W. Preuniger: Executive Committee Place 2, from Waco, TX

  • Mr. Mike Northcut: Board Member, from Longview, TX

  • Dr. Jerilyn K. Pfeifer: Board Member, from Abilene, TX

  • Mrs. Linda Routh: Board Member, from Corpus Christi, TX


Dr. Usha Soni, center, Manager of Analytical Services at the Shell Westhollow Technical Services Center, presents TSTC President Dr.
J. Gilbert Leal, left, and Al Guillen, Division Director for the Manufacturing/Industrial Technology Division, with a check for TSTC's
Chemical-Environmental Technology Department.

Like everything, being the only state-funded technical college system in Texas has its pros and its cons. Its great having state support, but at the same time, state funding is oftentimes stretched to its limits and finding funding from other sources becomes even more difficult due to the mentality, “ They get funds from the state, so they don't need our money too. Let the state take care of it!”

Gilles echoes this problem. “ Our most significant funding challenge is being state funded where resources are limited. We seek outside grants from individuals and businesses, as well as contracts and federal monies. The key is to research all available funding options and make personal relationships with those in a position to support your purpose.”

Their internal development and fundraising staff along with their program advisory committees work tirelessly to solicit funding from local foundations, while developing relationships with community leaders and business executives. Thus far, they have succeeded in developing a base of supporters that include:

The Long Foundation – Joe and Teresa Long thoroughly understand the need for good solid education for youth. As national and state funding is decreasing across the country, the people of Harlingen are coming forward to educate their own children.

Longtime supporters of the Texas State Technical College in Harlingen (TSTC), Joe and Teresa Long attended their Scholarship Donor Appreciation Dinner in August. “More than 300 students at TSTC Harlingen gain financial assistance form scholarship funds,” said college President Dr. J Gilbert Leal. The Longs have donated and contributed matching funds toward the $360,000 over the last 5 years. Area residents and businesses have joined in to creating this successful scholarship program that has created 136 scholarships for Harlingen students.

Dr. J. Gilbert Leal, TSTC President, presents Tim Gilles, President of Texas State Bank for the Harlingen central region, with a plaque of appreciation.

At the banquet, Joe Long said, “ that the Lozano Long Promise Opportunity Scholarship "is one of the most successful things that we have done in our philanthropy. It's true that we planted the seed money, but it's the community that responded to the challenge. It's the community that really made this scholarship program a success."

In parting Joe Long announced to Dr. Leal, “You've got another $100,000 if you can match it."

"We'll go out and find it," Dr. Leal replied.

Shell – Shell's Manager of Analytical Services at the Shell Westhollow Technical Services Center, Usha Soni, said that Shell has been very supportive of TSTC's Chemical and Environment Technology program for over 20 years.

"Shell has not only donated many dollars to fund scholarships to encourage
students to stay in school, but we have also hired many technicians whao are
graduates of the program. We are very pleased with these graduates beacuse
they are well trained, motivated, display good ethics, are eager to learn.
We are able to train them quickly because of their great basic training,"
said Soni. "We especially recognize the dedicated teachers of this program
including the Director, Al Guillen as well as Mr. Flores and Mr. Hernandez.
They care about the success of their students"

Texas State Bank - “ TSTC provides a service that no one else in Texas can, in the form of technical training” said Tim Gilles, President of Texas State Bank for the Harlingen central region. “This is a major reason why companies like General Dynamics and the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC – Lower Rio Grande Valley extension campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio have relocated to the valley.”

Other donors include:

  • Gulf Aviation

  • American Electric Power

  • South Texas Academic Rising Scholars

  • The Kennedy Foundation

  • Valley Baptist Medical Center

  • International Bank of Commerce

  • The 3M Foundation

“ Some of these supporters we work with in our programs; some are businesses in our communities; and others are foundations where we applied for funds. They all believe in our mission, in our passion for education, and in the success we have had in educating a minority population,” said Gilles.

They also apply for a series of government grants such as the COPS Grant, Engineering Technology Scholarships, and Carl D. Perkins Grant, which require long work hours, a ton of research and dedication, as well as conduct their annual State Employee Charitable Campaign to raise money for scholarships.

TSTC Harlingen shows their appreciation to their donors each year by holding a donor appreciation dinner and sending letters from students who were able to attend TSTC on scholarship because of others' generosity.

Volunteers and In-Kind Donations

TSTC Harlingen is a wonderful, innovative educational institution that is creating the leaders of tomorrow. They provide one-of-a-kind technical instruction in over 30 programs of study that fit almost anyone's career and academic goals. They are dedicated to providing higher educational opportunities to everyone, including migrant workers and minority populations and offer a wide variety of support services to help them along their journey. If you would like to help this institution and its students continue on their path to academic excellence, there are many ways you can contribute. They are always in need of volunteers to promote technical education and provide new contacts for scholarship donation, as well as in need of several in-kind items to supplement their programs. These items include:

  • Automobiles

  • Aviation Equipment

  • Airplanes

  • Building Supplies

  • Chemical/Environmental equipment

  • Computers

  • Dental equipment and supplies

  • Medical equipment

  • Farm-related materials

  • Welding supplies

Please, do your part to maintain this age-old tradition of excellent education in Texas that makes all Texans PROUD TO BE A TEXAN.

Please contact Jackie Gilles, Executive Assistant to President, at . if you are interested in participating and visit their website for additional information.


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