Sara Martinez Tucker, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Education, will be the keynote speaker for a ceremony Oct. 9 at the university’s unveiling of a bronze statue of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez.
The 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. event will begin on the university’s Main Mall. The Chavez statue will be the first of a Latino on the 123-year-old campus. The ceremony, which is open to the public, will conclude with the unveiling of the statue on the West Mall, said Stacy Torres, the 2005-2007-student chair of the Cesar Chavez Statue Committee. The university’s Tower will be illuminated bright orange the evening of Oct. 9 in recognition of the statue.
Chavez, who died in 1993, fought for the rights of farm laborers and minorities. On August 8, 1994, he became the second Mexican American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. President Bill Clinton presented the posthumous award.
When discussions began on campus several years ago about the absence of Latino statues, the “We Are Texas Too” student organization proposed having a statue of Chavez. The initiative led to the formation of the Cesar Chavez Statue Committee.
As undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Education, Tucker, an alumnus of the university, oversees policies, programs and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education and federal student aid. She is responsible for helping to implement the education secretary’s Action Plan for Higher Education, which calls for expanding the accessibility, affordability and accountability of higher education for more Americans.
Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Education, Tucker worked for nine years as the chief executive officer and president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF). In her time at the helm of HSF, Tucker raised $280 million for scholarships and community outreach programs to raise college expectations in Latino families and communities.
A native of Laredo, Texas, Tucker received her undergraduate degree in journalism, with honors, from the university. She became a general assignments reporter for the San Antonio Express before returning to The University of Texas at Austin to earn a Master of Business Administration degree with high honors. She has served on the university’s Commission of 125, the Chancellor’s Council of the University of Texas System, and as a member of the advisory councils of the colleges of Natural Sciences and Communication.
The statue project was initiated and largely funded by students. It was strongly supported by student government leaders. Ideas for the statue of Chavez and also a statue of Barbara Jordan, the first African American woman from the South to serve in the U.S. Congress, came from students. The committee for the Cesar Chavez project selected artist Pablo Eduardo of Gloucester, Mass., to create the statue. The committee for the Jordan statue project has selected artist Bruce Wolfe of Piedmont, Calif., to create a statue of Jordan, the first statue on campus of a woman. It is scheduled for unveiling at the university’s Battle Oaks area in spring 2009.