Courtesy of
Photos courtesy of
Paul Berry

UTSA hosted a ceremony honoring Dr. Manuel P. Berriozábal and María Antonietta Berriozábal this month for their more than 40 years of leadership in creating opportunities for minorities of all backgrounds in San Antonio.

The Berriozábals’ work has increased students’ access to higher education and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. UTSA recently created the Manuel P. Berriozábal, Ph.D. and María Antonietta Berriozábal Endowed Chair to honor the couple. The endowment will support research-related activities and educational programming designed to inspire students to consider future careers in STEM.

Berriozábal joined UTSA as a mathematics professor in 1976. Three years later, he established the Prefreshman Engineering Program (PREP) to create a pathway for Hispanic youth in San Antonio to participate in educational opportunities in STEM areas. The pre-college program continues to deliver summer enrichment opportunities to middle and high school students, encouraging them to pursue college degrees in STEM fields and contributing to the development of a diverse pipeline of STEM professionals.

Berriozábal collaborated with local university and community leaders to establish the program at UTSA and integrate it into San Antonio’s school districts. During PREP’s early days, he also sought funding from national, state, local and private sources to provide the program to youth at no cost.

Over the years, the program expanded to more than 125 school districts across Texas. Berriozábal remained director of the program for 25 years, traveling to each site throughout the city, state and country to ensure its growth, effectiveness and success. Following his administration of the program, Berriozábal included PREP scholars in his senior level math courses at UTSA, maintaining a connection to the program he created and has forever cherished.

Today, PREP has more than 50,000 Texas alumni, with over 65% of participants identifying as Hispanic and 53% as female. Equally as important, the program has become so well regarded that universities across the country have adopted the model. PREP now exists at 33 sites in 25 cities and seven states.

Berriozábal understood that science, technology, engineering and math were fields of study that could launch successful careers in industries critical to the advancement of every community across the U.S. He also recognized the value of diversity in these fields and believed that encouraging those in underserved communities to pursue STEM studies would foster creativity and equitable solutions to the challenges faced by society.

Berriozábal’s wife, María, supported his mission to create equitable opportunities for access to higher education and likewise led a life of public service. In 1981, she became the first Latina to be elected to the San Antonio City Council, where she served for a decade. In 1991, she ran a historic campaign for Mayor of San Antonio but narrowly lost. She continued collaborating with others to advocate for the DREAM Act and addressed issues of gentrification, energy, poverty, water and human and civil rights.

She founded Hispana Unidas – a women’s organization dedicated to their education and community service, served as a delegate to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference in Beijing and was appointed U.S. Representative to the Inter American Commission on Women. Maria also authored her memoir, “Maria, Daughter of Immigrants,” to tell the story of her parents, whose families fled the Mexican Revolution and settled in Lockhart, Texas.