Dr. Lauro Cavazos is one of the most influential Hispanic leaders in American history. Among his many accomplishments, he has been instrumental in reforming education and health care in communities nationwide.
His story begins as a first grader in a tiny two room school house in South Texas, and reaches a pinnacle with a larger than life swearing in ceremony as Secretary of Education in Washington DC. But he spent a good deal of his life in Lubbock, as a student, teacher and administrator at Texas Tech University. He left public office in 1991. So what's Dr. Lauro Cavazos been doing since then? We answer that question in this week's edition of 'Whatever Happened to...?'
In 1980, Dr. Lauro Cavazos became the first Texas Tech graduate and the first Hispanic to ever become President of Texas Tech University and the Health Sciences Center. He shared a vision then, that is very much a reality today. "We could be the model for the nation in developing primary care and rural health care. And at the same time, we will build a medical school of excellence based on quality teaching, the best patient care available and first class basic and clinical science research," said Dr. Cavazos in 1980.
Dr. Cavazos served as president of both the University and Health Sciences Center for eight years, until 1988 when President Ronald Reagan called on him for leadership in Washington. He was appointed Secretary of Education, a position he held under both Presidents Reagan and the first George Bush until 1991.
Today, Dr. Cavazos is a professor at Tufts Medical School in Boston and is still very involved in education. He also spends time at a second home in South Texas. I met with him last week when he made a quick trip back to Lubbock and our conversation was primarily about education.
Dr. Cavazos says the public school system in this country still needs major reform especially the emphasis being put on testing. "I'm in favor of testing don't misunderstand me. You've got to measure for success. But, a test is not the only way to measure. For example, what kind of honors courses does a child take? Did they go on to college? Did they graduate? There are a host of other things," says Dr. Cavazos.
He also believes more parental involvement is needed, so students come prepared to learn. "English proficiency is an important part. My parents spoke Spanish to each other, but insisted that I speak English to my father and Spanish to my mother. When I started school in a 2-room school-house on a ranch in South Texas there were 8 students, and I was the only one who could speak English," says Cavazos.
Today, Dr. Cavazos is still consulting school districts nationwide on a regular basis. He shares his plans, ideas and concepts. He says he's made enough mistakes to know what works and what doesn't. "Sometimes I look like a genius because I just saw the same set of problems a week ago in another city. So, I'm able to come in and say, 'Do this, do that, and do this,' and it fixes the problem," says Dr. Cavazos.
He characterizes his accomplishments in life as a team effort. "It involves a lot of work by a lot of people. I had a lot of help. If it weren't for my parents, heavens knows what would have happened to me. If it had not been for excellent teachers, I don't know where I'd be," says Dr. Cavazos.
Dr. Cavazos is now writing his autobiography. He's on page 300 and hasn't even started writing about his days as Tech President. He's been married to wife Peggy for 48 years and they say they're as happy now as they've ever been. "It hasn't always been peaches and cream. Trying to raise 10 children and get them all educated wasn't easy. But we made it and I hope I can continue to work," says Dr. Cavazos.
He and his wife no longer live in Lubbock, but they do visit once or twice a year. He says they now split most of their time between their home in Massachusetts and their home in South Texas.