Mr. Ismael Talavera
Most people never heard of Uvalde, Texas, and even more don’t know where it is located. For those who have trekked to the southwestern part of this great state, probably on your way to Del Rio or to the border town of Acuna, Mexico, you likely would have had to drive through Uvalde. And, had you made the time to stop in at the Financial Aid Office of Southwest Texas Junior College, you would have been greeted with a warm smile, a heart-felt “hello”, and an offer to stay and visit a few minutes or advice on where to eat and which speed traps to watch out for. The person who occupied a place in that office for just over 31 years was Ismael Talavera. A friend to lots of us, a colleague to many more, and a genuinely nice guy to all, Mr. Talavera certainly had his own style and left his mark, in his own way, among thousands of students, co-workers, and industry friends. Here are some commentaries about this wonderful gentleman.
Dr. Ismael Sosa, President of Southwest Texas Jr. College – “He (Ismael) was a true professional who worked long hours but never complained. He was very intelligent, witty, and a tremendous competitor. He cared deeply about our students. One of the best tributes to him occurred when the Feds came out to audit our financial aid office. They had not audited our office for 15 years. They thought they found a $45.00 discrepancy, but when they returned to Washington, they wrote us to disregard the item. We raised our families together and remained very close. Before he passed on, he told me what a special friend I had been. We miss him but he will never be forgotten.”
Henry Garcia, Director, Del Mar College – “’Mr. T’. For those of us over 30 years of age, when we hear the name, “Mr. T,” we automatically think of that very flamboyant character on the “A Team”—big, loud and lots of gold jewelry. On the opposite end of this continuum was Ismael Talavera, affectionately known as “Mr. T” by his closest colleagues. Ismael was one of the nicest guys around—always willing to help, always thinking about others. While he was sick, I dropped him a few lines in the mail. Shortly thereafter, I received a thank you note for my note! Many times he offered me rides back to the hotel after beating me in a round of golf. Ismael was a lover of golf and was quite an accomplished player, and he was always willing to help me improve my golf game. We were each other’s sounding board as we often times called each other to discuss community college issues. Underneath that quiet demeanor was a party animal as evidenced by the South Texas Pachanga hosted by Ismael. Suffice it to say that the time spent down by the Frio River was a memorable one and one all the attendees will cherish. Ismael was one of the good guys and we in South Texas will miss him.”
Micki Roemer, Former District Director, Tarrant County Jr. Colleges – “What stood out was Ismael’s overriding interest in helping students. His commitment to helping needy students was the primary motivator in his chosen career. Another notable characteristic was his willingness to ALWAYS help out; he was ready to be a part of whatever project that needed his assistance. He was called upon numerous times to serve as the representative for South Texas and he did so willingly over and over and over. He took pride in being one of the voices for the Hispanic community and his words were well-respected. Ismael was pleasant, unassuming and quiet; he was a humble man. However, he did not hesitate to speak up when he felt the need to do so, but he did so in a most professional manner and more often in a private venue. Ismael was a true gentleman; we lost a good friend and colleague.”
Diego Bernal, Director, St. Phillip’s College –“I have (had) known Ismael for over 20 years. During this time he always expressed a genuine dedication to his office and office staff members. He maintained a keen observation for its operation and services to students. He was a dedicated and loyal friend. His passing was a severe loss to the profession.”
Tom Campos, Director, San Antonio College – “Ismael was always a good friend to me and I shared his fondness for sarcastic humor. One thing I really liked about Ismael was that he lived his conviction. He stayed involved in our organizations and processes to ensure fairness and to improve the processes to reduce the confusion and problems that our students encounter.”
Mariko Gomez, Director, Texas State University – “Inevitably whenever I walked into the ballroom at a TASFAA conference or into a hospitality suite, there was the “usual crowd” holding up the back wall. Throughout the years, the group’s composition changed somewhat but continued to include folks like Henry Garcia, Richard Silva, Richard Hernandez, Lupe Valdez, Tomas Campos, Noe Ortiz, Richard Rodriguez and Ismael Talavera. The greetings from this group were normally exuberant with the exception of Ismael. He was the quiet one. Nonetheless, his shy smile spoke volumes to those of us lucky to be on the receiving end. As I watched Ismael over the years, I often envied his demeanor as he conducted himself with such grace and humility. Though soft-spoken, his words commanded attention though he never sought attention for himself. Without doubt, Ismael was “Buena Gente.”
Terry Bazan, Director, Austin Community College District – “Ismael was a very warm and kind-hearted GENTLEMAN who was very passionate and dedicated to his profession. We have missed his involvement in TASFAA the last few years and will always remember his SMILE.....”
Joe Wilcox, Scholarship Coordinator, UT Austin – “I really don't remember the exact time or place I met Ismael. It might have been on a golf course, it might have been over drinks at some local restaurant, or it might have been at some conference. But one thing I do remember for sure—every time after that first time, he always took the time to say hello. He was always friendly, a good conversationalist, a professional and a friend. I often saw him around the 'San Antonio crowd', a lively, humorous group of gentlemen, and he fit right in there with the guys. I had the pleasure of serving on the TASFAA Board with him on more than one occasion and the even greater pleasure of sharing conversation with him over dinner on more than one occasion. To me, he is one of those people whom you do not have in your closest inner circle of friends, but he is someone who will leave a lasting impression nonetheless. To Ismael, I say, 'Vaya Con Dios Amigo'.
Robert Hogeda, Jr. – “I first met Mr. T when I was a college recruiter on the South Texas circuit. Uvalde was a stop on the tour, and I remember him welcoming me to his campus as we munched on pimento sandwiches and punch, standard fare for the College Night events. We ran into each other several times during my Admission career, and he always made it a point to come up and greet me. I even got to know his daughters a little, Nancy and Brenda, while they attended UT Austin, where Brenda held a work-study job in my office. When I moved over to the lending side, Mr. T was one of the first to contact me and ask when I would be by to visit, though he graciously admitted that his school’s volume was probably ‘too low for you to come all the way out here’. Because of my connection with him and his family, I made it a point to go to his school, probably more times than my boss liked! He was the one who introduced me to many different folks in this industry, and his insights and shared wisdom were and continue to be greatly appreciated by me. One can pull out the thesaurus and attribute every descriptor under the words “nice”, “well-mannered”, “humble”, and the list goes on. He treated people the same way no matter your position professionally or personally, and his respectfulness was second to none. Thanks for the memories and for making me a better person, Mr. T.”
Richard Silva, District Director, Alamo Community College District
– "Ismael was a very kind man. I like Tom's description of
"Tal's fondness for sarcastic humor." An example of this was
Tal's response to my jokingly saying to him once, that I would like
to be considered for the Directorship at SWTJC when he left. Tal just
quietly took a breath and said, "Well...you're just gonna have
to take a number!"