Sub Menu Toggle

UTRGV COBE honors local business leaders at annual luncheon

Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)

Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), and an alum of UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American, was keynote speaker for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Leaders Lunch, held Friday at the Rancho Viejo Convention Center. Palomarez spoke to the large group of Valleywide business leaders about the Hispanic population’s growth and potential in the business arena across the region and the country. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

By Vicky Brito

BROWNSVILLE, TEXASOCT. 27, 2017 – Three local business leaders were recognized Friday for their contributions to business and commerce, during The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Leaders Lunch.

A large crowd of attendees and sponsors gathered at the Rancho Viejo Convention Center to acknowledge this year’s honorees:

  • JoAnn Gonzales Gama.
  • Don Emigdio Manuel Garcia.
  • Nick Serafy Jr.

JOANN GONZALES GAMA

Gonzales Gama, co-founder of IDEA Academy, was born and raised in Houston. A graduate of Boston University, she joined Teach for America and earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American. Her passion for education was a driving force in her professional pursuits and, in 1998, she cofounded the IDEA Academy Charter School with fellow Teach for America member Tom Torkelson.

Today, there are more than 36,000 students in 61 IDEA schools across the Rio Grande Valley, Austin and San Antonio.

“Every morning at 6 o’clock, I am up and getting ready to go to work, and I love my job. I do not imagine myself working for another organization or doing anything outside of education for the rest of my life,” she said. “I’d like to thank the UTRGV COBE for this recognition.”

DON EMIGDIO MANUEL GARCIA

Garcia, born in Matamoros, Tamp., Mexico, identifies as a self-made man whose calling to commerce led him to discover the potential for tourism in Matamoros. His first small business, the Mercado Juarez, led to the creation of the Garcia Group. He has been an advocate for many years for tourism and relations between cites along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“I feel so honored to receive this accolade,” Garcia said. “On behalf of myself and my family, I am truly grateful. I am particularly glad to accept this from the university. This university has produced numbers and numbers of professionals to this region.”

NICK SERAFY JR.

Serafy, a native of Brownville, is president and CEO of Proficiency Testing Services, which specializes in providing quality management testing programs used by clinical laboratories and healthcare organizations to evaluate, monitor and improve the accuracy and reliability of diagnostic test results.

Serafy is a 1978 graduate of UT Austin with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. He is the treasurer of SMC BioSolutions, a board member of the American Associate of Bioanalysts, director of AAB-Proficiency Testing Services, chairman of the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corporation, and serves on the board of directors of International Bank of Commerce-Brownsville, among other business involvements.

“I appreciate everything UTRGV does for Brownville,” he said.

He thanked his father, Nick Serafy Sr., for supporting his efforts “every step of the way.”

“The other person I want to thank is my best friend and wife, Viveca. I wouldn’t be able to do this without her,” he said.

Serafy closed his remarks with, “Go, Vaqueros! And tonight, Go Astros!”

KEYNOTE SPEAKER JAVIER PALOMAREZ

Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), and an alumus of UT Pan American, addressed the large group of Valleywide business leaders with a positive message about the Hispanic population’s growth and potential in the business arena.

The USHCC is the largest Hispanic business association in the United States, and Palomarez noted that the chamber actively promotes the economic growth and interests of 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses, which contribute more than $668 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

“The Hispanic community has become a defining feature in the changing face of our America,” Palomarez said, “but with that, we all have a responsibility. As the total U.S. Hispanic population

grows, so does the ability to determine the course of our nation’s economic, social and political future.”

In the last decade alone, more than 53 percent of the overall population growth in this country came from the Hispanic community, he said, and it is projected that, in the next decade, the trend will keep pace.

“Today, our community represents the largest community group, with more than 57 million Hispanics living in the U.S.,” he said.

Hispanic-owned businesses are starting up at a 3-to-1 ratio, in comparison to the general population, he said.

“Hispanic-owned businesses have become a national treasure. A proud chapter in America that was built, pursued and renewed by immigrants and pioneers – that is our real history,” he said.

Three Rio Grande Valley business leaders were recognized Friday for their contributions to business and commerce, during the annual Business Leaders Lunch, hosted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship. A large crowd of attendees and sponsors gathered at the Rancho Viejo Convention Center to acknowledge this year’s honorees (from left), JoAnn Gonzales Gama, co-founder of IDEA Academy; Don Emigdio Manuel Garcia, creator of the Garcia Group based in Matamoros, Mexico; and Nick Serafy Jr., president and CEO of Proficiency Testing Services. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Three Rio Grande Valley business leaders were recognized Friday for their contributions to business and commerce, during the annual Business Leaders Lunch, hosted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship. A large crowd of attendees and sponsors gathered at the Rancho Viejo Convention Center to acknowledge this year’s honorees (from left), JoAnn Gonzales Gama, co-founder of IDEA Academy; Don Emigdio Manuel Garcia, creator of the Garcia Group based in Matamoros, Mexico; and Nick Serafy Jr., president and CEO of Proficiency Testing Services. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

(From left) Dr. Mark Kroll, dean of the UTRGV Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Jay Zambrano, senior director of development for the UTRGV COBE and the College of Education and P-16 Integration; and Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and an alum of UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American, took a moment to chat before the COBE’s annual Business Leaders Lunch on Friday at Rancho Viejo. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

(From left) Dr. Mark Kroll, dean of the UTRGV Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Jay Zambrano, senior director of development for the UTRGV COBE and the College of Education and P-16 Integration; and Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and an alum of UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American, took a moment to chat before the COBE’s annual Business Leaders Lunch on Friday at Rancho Viejo. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

ABOUT UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

PHOTO GALLERY

https://utrgv-umc.photoshelter.com/galleries/C0000OxOMyzQL3z4/G0000lkm7JWfnjyk/20171027-VCOBE-Business-Luncheon

Password: vcobe (case sensitive)

UTRGV VIDEOS

JoAnn Gonzales Gama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7Fj7LdPP3I

Don Emigdio Manuel Garcia: https://youtu.be/_oBDFG85YGE

Nick Serafy Jr.: https://youtu.be/fQHygEeqRxs

MEDIA CONTACTS

Victoria.Brito @UTRGV.edu

UTRGV Informational Writer / 956-882-4330

Marci.Caltabiano@UTRGV.edu

UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications / 956-665-2742