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Scholarship fund honors pioneering AgriLife Extension director Bertha Garza


A scholarship fund has been established by Texas AgriLife Extension Service in honor of Bertha A. Garza, a longtime AgriLife Extension administrator who passed away Aug. 2 after a year-long battle with cancer.

Funeral services for Garza, who worked for 36 years with Texas AgriLife Extension Service throughout South Texas before retiring in 2006, were held Aug. 6 in Brownsville.

"Prior to the funeral, the family requested that in lieu of flowers, people donate to the newly established Bertha Garza Scholarship Fund," said Dr. Ruben Saldana, an AgriLife Extension administrator who succeeded Garza when she retired.

"This scholarship honors a fine lady who was a trailblazer and legendary in her efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged of South Texas," he said. "Her life before, during and after her Extension career was dedicated to education."

Garza spent her entire professional career in South Texas, the last 21 years as an AgriLife Extension district administrator at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

"Bertha Garza was an icon here in South Texas," said Yolanda Morado, an AgriLife Extension agent in Starr County who worked under Garza for many years.

"She was one of Extension's first Hispanic employees in the state," Morado said. "Bertha worked wonders. She was so innovative. She tailored Extension's programs to fit the needs of the people of South Texas, especially in colonias where they were so badly needed."

Garza created teaching techniques, including the Master Volunteer program that trained volunteers to teach life skills to others, that were later adopted by AgriLife Extension agents throughout Texas and other states as their Hispanic populations grew, Morado said.

Another friend and colleague, Dr. Joan Jacobson, the AgriLife Extension urban program director in College Station, said the scholarship will help promote Garza's ideals and philosophies.

"Her leadership will live on as her commitment and service continues to inspire Extension agents and administrators," she said. "Her gentle, strong leadership will be felt for generations to come through the thousands of Texas families who have made better lives for themselves through the quality of Extension educational programming she spread throughout South Texas and beyond. The Bertha Garza scholarship established in her honor will help perpetuate her legacy."

Donations can be made to the Bertha Garza Scholarship Fund, c/o Texas AgriLife Extension Service, District 12, 2401 E. Business Highway 83, Weslaco, Texas 78596.

For more information on the fund, contact Dr. Ruben Saldana at 956-968-5581 or visit the Weslaco AgriLife Extension website at http://southtexas.tamu.edu.

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