Joaquin Cigarroa

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Joaquin González Cigarroa, Jr.​

(Texas physician and civic and educational leader)​


Born May 5, 1924​
San Antonio, Texas, USA​

Resident of Laredo,
Texas (1937​-2019)

Died March 20, 2019 (aged 94)​
Laredo, Texas​

Resting place:
Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo
Alma mater:
Martin High School (Laredo)
University of Texas at Austin Harvard Medical School

Spouse Barbara Judith Raymond Flores 'Bobbie" Cigarroa (married 1954-2019, his death)​

Ten children
Relatives:
Ray Keck (son-in-law)
Henry B. González (cousin)

Religion Roman Catholic

Joaquin González Cigarroa, Jr. (May 5, 1924 – March 20, 2019), was a prominent physician of Hispanic ethnicity from Laredo, Texas, who was the first graduates of Harvard Medical School from the Texas-Mexico border country.[1]

Background

Born in San Antonio to a physician-father, Joaquin Cigarroa, Sr. (1895-1964), and the former Josefina Luisa González de la Vega (1903-1996),[2] Cigarroa moved to Laredo in 1937 with his parents and two siblings, physician-brother Leonidas "Leo" Cigarroa (1922-1973), and a sister, Rebeca G. Uribe (1925-2012). By the age of eight, he began to accompany his father on house calls and knew from boyhood that he was driven to pursue a career in medicine.[3] He graduated in 1941 as the valedictorian of Martin High School. In 1943, he began a five-semester stint as a pre-medical student at the University of Texas at Austin.[1]

The senior Cigarroa died of an apparent second heart attack at the age of sixty-nine while on a hunting trip near Anchorage, Alaska. He was an uncle of former U.S. Representative Henry B. González, hence Joaquin Cigarroa's cousin,[4] a Democrat for whom the downtown convention center in San Antonio is named.

Medical career

In 1947, Cigarroa graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School and began his residency in internal medicine at Harvard and Boston City Hospital in Massachusetts. Subsequently, a first lieutenant in the United States Army Medical Corps, he treated soldiers and conducted hepatitis research while stationed in Japan during the Korean War. In 1954, he returned to Laredo to practice medicine at the former Mercy Hospital, since Laredo Medical Center. There he met Barbara Judith Raymond "Bobbie" Flores (born December 4. 1936), whom he wed four months later. The couple had ten children: Patricia, Barbara, Francisco, Ricardo, Jorge, Carlos, Gabriella, Joaquin, Maria-Elena and Marisa, who earned more than twenty degrees from Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Cigarroa was a member of the original Texas Commission on Higher Education and served on the Laredo Independent School District board of trustees for twenty-three years.[1] Dr. Dennis Cantu, who served on the LISD school board with Cigarroa, called his colleague "a man for the ages in our community," who was "forward focused, caring, and always concerned about health care in Laredo. He was truly a brilliant father figure and a grandparent that grew a brilliant garden. He and his brother, Dr. Leonides Cigarroa, brought ideas and propositions that were not known at those times. Certainly not without opposition, but time proved them right. History usually does."[1]

Cigarroa was instrumental in obtaining the approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for construction of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and its dental school in San Antonio. At Mercy Health Center in Laredo, he was an active medical staff member for more than fifty years. He was chief of staff in 1962 and 1977 and sat on the Mercy board of trustees from 1982 to 1992 and again from 1995 to 2001. In 1981, he was named during the George Washington Birthday Celebration as "Mr. South Texas", an honor also procured by his brother. In 1992 and 1994, he was named "Man of the Year" by The Laredo Morning Times. In 1996, he received the "Life Achievement Laureate" from the League of United Latin American Citizens. He was also honored as "Humanitarian of the Year" in 1999. In 2002, the University of Texas named him a distinguished alumnus. During his dozen years on the Coordinating Board of Texas Colleges and Universities, he worked successfully to bring to Laredo Texas A&M International University, an outgrowth of the former Laredo State University. Laredo Medical Center is the home of the Cigarroa Heart and Vascular Institute, which promotes the latest technology for the prevention, detection, and treatment of heart disease.[1][3] The J.G. Cigarroa Middle School in Laredo is named for Dr. Cigarroa.

Cigarroa was an advocate for "diversity in education." In 1997, he spoke out against statements made by UT law professor Lino Graglia, regarding the racial makeup of university students. Graglia said that African American and Mexican Americans are "not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions. They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement.” Cigarroa replied to Graglia at the State Capitol in Austin:
Our voices have been muted by some, and our presence sometimes rejected. If we do not do what is within our power to respond to the likes of Professor Graglia, and if we do not responsibly assure for the continuation of vibrant diversity and the excellence that it fosters, we must bear in part responsibility for the decline of our great institutions, of general education and of Texas society. ... All of us involved in education should encourage Texans of every background to attain the highest level of education possible."[3]

Cigarroa died at the age of ninety-four. He was an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a parishioner in Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, where his funeral was held. He is interred in his family plot at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo.[3]

Francisco González Cigarroa, the third of the ten children of Joaquin and Barbara Cigarroa born in Laredo on December 12, 1957, is a transplant surgeon and a former chancellor of the University of Texas System. He is also the first Hispanic to have served as president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.[5]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Laredo trailblazer Dr. Joaquin Cigarroa, Jr., dies at 94. Laredo Morning Times (March 21, 2019). Retrieved on March 23, 2019.
  2. Josefina Cigarroa. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on March 23, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez Cigarroa, Jr.. Laredo Morning Times (March 20, 2019). Retrieved on March 23, 2019.
  4. Laredo Man, Dr. Cigarroa, Dies at 69. Corpus Christi Times in Ancestry.com (May 24, 1964). Retrieved on March 30, 2019.
  5. Marquis Who's Who on the Web.
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