By RENE ESCOBAR
Gustavo Chavez, a retired Pima Community College Hispanics history instructor, has dedicated his life to his heritage and human rights.
Chavez recently won the Faculty Emeritus Award from PCC’s governing board. The award is given to longtime retired instructors who have made outstanding contributions to PCC.
Chavez’s list of accomplishments is many. He established the orientation and advising program for new students at East Campus. He also served as the Cadre Academic Advising Coordinator and participated in development of the first Cadre Advising Center at the College.
Later, Chavez became a history faculty member and taught Chicano Studies at the Desert Vista Campus and served as the advisor to the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan.
Chavez said he created MEChA for Chicanos because they are isolated from their Hispanic roots.
In 2010, Chavez won the Faculty Standards Teaching award at PCC.
As his teaching career evolved, it took a hit when an Arizona legislator passed a bill to repeal Mexican-American study programs from high schools.
The bill passed while Chavez was at Pima. He said he watched the legislator “destroy this beautiful program.”
At one point, Chavez was one of 15 Mexican-American administrators chosen nationwide to participate in the leadership training program of the National Community College Hispanic Council of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
Chavez has come a long way since he attended Mesa High School. Because he wasn’t pushed to pursue an education after high school, he did what many high school graduates did: He signed his name on a U.S. Marine Corps application during the Vietnam War.
When Chavez gave his father the application to sign, he already had two brothers in combat in Vietnam. His father refused to sign it, saying his mother couldn’t bear to have all three of her children in combat.
Looking for other opportunities, Chavez started attending Mesa Community College. There he understood the importance of education, and when he moved on to Arizona State University, he found his destiny: activism. After graduating from ASU, he decided to continue activism as a career.
Not only does Chavez share the last name of the great Mexican-American activist Cesar Chavez, they shared the same passion for causes.
One of his first crusades was against Bill 2142, which Chavez said had “language in it that prohibited the union from having strikes and boycotts.”
Chavez’s hard work paid off as he introduced Cesar Chavez in 1986 at a rally in Tucson.
In retirement, Chavez has retained his activist ways. He serves on a number of boards and organizations, including Mexican American Studies – University of Arizona; Tucson International Mariachi Conference; and Amigos de Cesar Chavez.