1999 DAA Recipients
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Ph.D.
Ellen Clayton Garwood Professor of English, The University of Texas at Austin
"When I walked out of here, I knew I was ready for UT Austin."
A native of Mercedes, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith attended TSC in 1951. He went on to become the Ellen Garwood Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as the internationally noted author of the Klail City Death Trip series of novels.
The former director of the Texas Center for Writers and a distinguished visiting professor at UCLA and the University of Kansas, Hinojosa-Smith was honored in 1998 with an Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois, where he earned his doctorate.
He is perhaps best known, however, as a master storyteller, for the series of novels he based in and around the mythical border community of Klail City. Hinojosa-Smith writes about what is closest to his heart, and after years as an educator and writer at work across the United States, South Texas still holds that place of honor.
Often described as the dean of Mexican-American letters, Hinojosa-Smith, 70, is praised for the authentic voice and detail he brings to his examination of Mexican-American life.
Hinojosa-Smith began his teaching career in Brownsville, teaching English to high school students. He later taught at Texas A&I University and the University of Minnesota before rejoining his alma mater, UT Austin, as a professor in 1981.
Miguel Angel Mendez, J.D.
Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law, Stanford University
"I am very proud of attending TSC. I feel like I got a good education with a lot of individualized attention. I’m grateful to the teachers who helped me along the way."
A distinguished attorney whose 30-year career has placed him in the crucible of civil rights debate, Miguel Angel Méndez now teaches criminal law, evidence and trial advocacy as the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at prestigious Stanford University.
Salutatorian of his TSC class in the early 1960s, Méndez went on to work as legislative assistant to the U.S. Senate during the heyday of civil rights debate in the 1960s and 1970s. He joined the Stanford Law School faculty in 1977 and also has worked as a public defender, as deputy director of California Rural Legal Assistance and as a staff attorney to the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
An area of current interest is the issue of providing language interpretation to defendants and witnesses in court cases. In his writings on this cutting-edge topic, Méndez notes that judges must make the call on whether or not to provide interpreters with little or no linguist training. Meanwhile, their decisions can tip the scales of justice for a defendant whose grasp of English is less than complete.
It was a TSC professor who encouraged his study of the law and helped him make important contacts when he moved to the Washington D.C. area to attend school. "That kind of individual counseling is very rare anywhere, and I got that kind of attention from the faculty at TSC. It was invaluable."
Over the years, as an aide to the U.S. Senate, Méndez’ work has involved him in many important public policy debates, such as those involving the proposed Equal Rights Amendment and public school desegregation. An amendment he drafted for Senator Allen Cranston would have given the amendment teeth by granting Congress the power to enact legislation banning discrimination against women.
Méndez, who has lectured on the need to protect affirmative action and other civil rights remedies, has been recognized by the California Assembly for his contributions to the Latino community and to his students.
Méndez joined the Stanford Law School faculty in 1977. He was the first Latino to be hired at the law school at Stanford and the first Latino to be promoted. He is the only Latino on the faculty of the top three law schools in the country: Harvard, Yale and Stanford. He has also taught at Santa Clara University Law School, and has worked as a public defender, as deputy director of California Rural Legal Assistance, and as a staff attorney to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
He has been named by Hispanic magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos.
Méndez advised graduates to support UTB/TSC – as committee or board members, as mentors to students, as well as financially. Education is very expensive, he noted, and state support does not always provide for the high quality programs UTB/TSC wants to provide.