SACNAS celebrates the life of Founding Member Paul H. Rodríguez, PhD who passed away on June 28 at the age of 81. An early contributor to the organization, Dr. Rodríguez helped pave the way for the SACNAS community and many others.
His career started in 1973 as an assistant professor at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where he would be one of the first genetics faculty members. He would later be named Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology in recognition of his substantial scholarly and training contributions (2008).
PAVING THE WAY FOR DIVERSITY AT UTSA
According to those who knew him, Dr. Rodríguez’s desire to leave an everlasting impact on students and peers was evident during his time as professor. He played a foundational role in UTSA’s first federally-funded minority research programs, served as the program director of Minority Biomedical Research Support program from 1981 to 1991, and later directed the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program. These programs played a major role in the success of many underrepresented students earning doctoral degrees and continue to do so to this day.
Fellow UTSA faculty and former SACNAS President Dr. Luis Haro recalled his first time meeting Dr. Rodríguez when he was just a graduate student attending the SACNAS National Conference in San Antonio in the late 1980’s. “He invited my mentor and me to visit his lab at UTSA and hosted us on a tour of the city after the conference,” recalled Haro. “It was apparent at that time that Paul freely gave his time to network with students and keep their interest in science!” (In Memoriam: UTSA Founding Faculty and Professor Emeritus Paul H. Rodríguez Dies At Age 81; Photo Credit; Article Link)
REMEMBERING A LEADER
Past SACNAS Presidential Service Awardee Dr. George Negrete also recalled Dr. Rodríguez’s impact on the diversity movement at UTSA. When asked in a 2017 interview if Dr. Negrete had led the charge for diversity, he responded “I wouldn’t say that I led the efforts. I’m more of a collaborative kind of person. Some of the things that were developed at UTSA were developed before we got here. We benefited from that and assumed some leadership positions because they’d already been developed. The MBRS programs that funded student training and research were developed by folks like Andy Martinez and Paul Rodríguez (and others)…. These are really leaders who pushed the institution at the time before Luis and I got here.” (Humble and Hard-Working: Dr. George R. Negrete Inspires the Next Generation of Underrepresented STEM Students and Professionals; Article Link)
In addition to being a founding member of SACNAS, Dr. Rodríguez received four Fulbright Scholar Awards in his lifetime and taught abroad in Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, and Perú. In 2005, he was named Professor Emeritus at National University of Trujillo (Trujillo, Perú) while he was a Senior Fulbright Fellow.
Dr. Rodríguez was also a poet and authored his own memoirs. He published a booklet of bilingual poems “Verses and Versitos of Love: A Book of Bilingual Poems” where he discusses love as a central theme. He dedicated the book to his “biological children and academic sons and daughters”. Dr. Rodríguez also published “ESSAYS and MEMOIRS on LIFE and PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES” to describe his personal, educational, and professional experiences.
Dr. Rodríguez is survived by his son Dr. Karl Andrew; two daughters Elena Patricia and Anna Isabel; and grandson Odin.
Recalling how Dr. Rodriguez’ would often sign his own emails, SACNAS celebrates the life and impact of founding member Dr. Rodriguez’ “con todo cariño”.