Gonzalo and Mary Rodriguez, who came to Richmond, Texas from Ecuador, have been named Texas A&M University’s Parents of the Year for 2013. The announcement was made Sunday (April 14) as part of the All University Awards presentations at the close of the annual Parents’ Weekend activities.
Good parents always make sacrifices for their children, but few would uproot their lives and give up their home and their country the way Gonzalo and Mary Rodriguez did when their daughter, Belen, decided she wanted to be an Aggie.
Belen Rodriguez, Texas A&M Class of 2012, and her sister Carol, Class of 2013, heard about Texas A&M from their uncle and cousin who are Aggies. They say when their parents were sure their children were set on attending Texas A&M, they gave up their lives in Ecuador and moved to Richmond near Houston.
“They left it all for us,” their daughters say.
“Our parents have always made it clear how important it is that family sticks together through thick and thin. We knew that letting us come [to America] by ourselves was going to be tough for them, but as always, they found a way.”
The girls, and their brother Gonzalo Jr. and sister Katy, say things were difficult in the beginning, especially because they didn’t speak English. They remember their dad getting up at 3 a.m. daily to go to work because, he said, that would be the only way to figure out how the business system works here.
Their mother, who gave up her medical practice to be close to her children, would have sticky notes in the front panel of the car with directions to the supermarket, the mall and the dry cleaners. “They had changed their entire lifestyle and it was all for us.”
Belen says during Aggie football season her parents have season passes and learned all the yells. They would all go to Midnight Yell and attended every single game as a family and yelled for the Aggies. They arrive in an RV and tailgate for every home game. In a relatively short period of time, they say their parents have come to love Texas A&M as their own, and implant Aggie values not only in their children but in everyone they meet.
As an example of this, the daughters say their mom teaches her class of 3-5 year-olds at church to say “Howdy” and their dad, who now owns a trucking company, has one of his trucks painted with Aggie symbols.
Wanting to give back to Texas A&M and the community, the couple hosted a dinner for some of the Aggies who do community service for Big Event. Last Christmas, they not only donated to the Houston area charities such as Salvation Army, but also made donations to charities in the Bryan/College Station community.
“Dad would send text messages saying ‘learning how to text so we can talk more,’” Belen and Carol say, adding that just typing that short message would take him 30 minutes. “They were constantly showing us and giving us proof that the one who perseveres gets places, that hard work pays off and that ‘I love you’ is never said enough.”
Sara Bates, chair of the Parents of the Year selection committee, says her favorite excerpt from a letter of recommendation really shows why the committee decided Gonzalo and Mary deserved to win. It said, “These parents left the comfort of their own country and a semi-retired status, to face various obstacles to help their daughters live their dream. Language was one of the main barriers, as well as getting used to a totally different lifestyle. Nevertheless, it is my understanding that this frustrating change never stopped them from providing not only financially but also morally and spiritually for their children.”
The couple’s two younger children are currently studying at Blinn College but plan to transfer to Texas A&M because, they say, it has become a family tradition.
The newest Aggie Parents of the year say they already have plans to retire in College Station.