On Saturday we buried a great man.
Rodrigo "Rod" Garcia was laid to rest surrounded by his family, wife, kids, grandkids, and his SHPE family. He was eulogized in the House, his career was recorded in the Senate, the California Congress recognized him, and President Biden sent a condolence letter.
Why? Because he changed the face of our nation, the composition of our society, the state of professional Hispanic engineers, and he did it forever.
We all know what he did. It was celebrated yesterday and has been celebrated in many circles. It will be celebrated this fall in Charlotte and will be celebrated again in 2024 in Anaheim.
We all know what he did. So I want to illustrate what he DID NOT do.
Rod saw a need. A critically important need, for himself and for his friends. Specifically, he saw a lack of Hispanic engineers in the city of Los Angeles in 1974. At that point, however, he did NOT storm city hall, he did not organize a city wide walk out. He did not block the interstates, called for a boycott, or a strike, or sued the city, or started a petition, or got layers involved, or even picketed city hall. He did not do ANY of those things, things that everyone does these days for the slightest reason.
Instead, he created (along with 4 other friends), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. And in the process, he changed the world.
Rod’s personal work changed the lives of hundreds of thousands across the nation who in turn changed the lives of hundreds of thousands more. He truly changed our nation, our society.
I asked him many years ago how come he wasn’t more military at the time, like everyone these days does. His response spoke volumes of his intelligence and character. He said (paraphrasing), “if I had forced the city to hire Hispanic engineers and they tried but not found them, we would have lost all credibility, and the effort would have failed. We had to create the pipeline of talent before they could be hired.” Brilliant!
Rod served as the first president, executive director and many other positions including Board member on the recently created appointed professional board. His contributions continued to be significant, his wisdom very valuable, and he continued to dedicate a great part of his life to making SHPE successful.
Sadly, today SHPE enters a new phase. Today SHPE starts life without Rod. He is no longer present. However, his legacy will continue forever, and the next 50 yeas will be amazing. In everything we do, we will see Rod and his love for the SHPE family.
His only regret? He didn’t think he would make it to the 50th celebration. We told him he would, of course. But he knew better. But I tell you all, Rod will be with us in everything we do for the rest of time. SHPE is Rod’s legacy.
Remember Rod with love and admiration. He changed the world without any conflict, drama, battle, or negative words, he did it in the most productive way.
Rest In Peace dear friend.
Past Board Chair, Lifetime Member
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers